John Howard's Christmas Reflections
As I sat listening to the piped-in Christmas music, I began to experience the same quiet happiness that creeps into me every December 25.
I could not have felt more Jewish.
To me, Christmas is almost like a Jewish holiday, because I am so rarely aware of who I am and how I hold on to my identity in the face of an essentially Christian society.
Christmas reminds me that I'm different from most people I know - but not in a sad left-out way. It's more in a way which underlines the fact that being Jewish is part of my identity, my soul, - who I am.
I love the lights, the wreaths, the decorated shop windows, the laughter of children and the peace which seems to settle on Christmas Eve. What's not to like?
We all have milestone celebrations in our life and around this time each year Jews celebrate Hanukkah, the Festival of Light, for eight days to commemorate the victory of the Jews over the Hellenist Syrians in 165 BCE.
Following their victory, the Maccabees entered the Holy Temple in Jerusalem which had been defiled by the Syrian invaders. They cleansed it and dedicated it anew to the service of God. Then, in memory of their victory, the Maccabees celebrated their first Hanukkah.
The Talmud, the body of Jewish oral law, relates how the Judean heroes, led by Judah Maccabbee, were making ready to rededicate the Temple and were unable to find enough undefiled oil to light the lamps. However, in one of the temple chambers, they came upon a small cruse of oil which, under normal circumstances, would have lasted only one evening. Miraculously, this small amount of oil kept the Temple lights burning, not for one night, but for all eight nights until new oil fit for use in the Temple could be obtained.
This is the miracle celebrated by the kindling of the Hunukkah lights.
Hannukkah is Hebrew for rededication. It seems to me that the meaning of the celebrations surrounding the Christmas festival are all about rededication and renewing. - but most of all about love and peace and goodwill towards your fellow human being.
My wish in this holiday season is that in the 21st Century wars will be gone, hatred will be gone, frontier boundaries will be gone, and dogmas will be gone.
For the future, I hope our leaders consider that people will not look forward to posterity who never look backward to their ancestors.
Like the Iroquois indians do when making decisions, I want our politicians to ask themselves the same simple question; How will this affect seven generations in the future?
That is my wish for us all in this festive season. Happy holiday.