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Posts Tagged ‘Hanukkah’

Hanukkah, Coney Island, Knockout and Iran

Monday, November 25th, 2013

Years ago, on a perfect Hanukkah day, my brother and I were getting off the Coney Island bumper cars on the way to kosher country, when we heard “Dirty Jews!”

Before having a chance to react in anger or fear, two boys were running full speed away from us.

Knowing they were not running from a 7-year-old in a plaid shirt or his slow moving 11-year-old brother, I imagined that the hand of God had descended from the cyclone. But, spotting a speeding Judah Maccabee chasing down those thugs, to my amazement and some chagrin, the Maccabee was none other than my usually passive intellectual of a dad. He held the boys hard by the collars against the screaming protestations of their own bigger and way meaner looking dad, who was screaming “Let my boys go or else!”

My dad did not budge, finally releasing the two to cops who happened to be walking by.

I learned perseverance and Jewish pride at that moment, but confidence was the day’s greatest lesson. Not the confidence of physical strength, which my dad took no pride in, not confidence in the 1970s NYPD, which did not exist. It was the simple, undeniable yet taken for granted confidence of a proud Jew. We are your equals, we are here, we have a state of our own, so, in NYC parlance, F*** you.

Rewind to a Coney Island before the establishment of the State of Israel, and I’m sure a very different story would have been told: our own collars held by a timid father forcing an apology from his own sons. “We are so sorry for wearing our kippot on the bumper cars thank you for calling us dirty Jews please, feel free to do it again at the Ferris wheel”

Which brings us to the double knockout weekend.

Knockout #1 took place last Friday in Crown Heights, when a religious photo intern got knocked down. “A 100 lb little Jew” as Israel Blizovsky described himself, punched for the fun of it… Ha ha. City Government’s nonchalant response was pretty close to What’s the big deal, you Jews worry too much.

Knockout # 2 took place on the other side of the globe, in the Genteel city of Geneva, where diplomats, not thugs, knocked down Israel a peg or two while dismissing the Jewish State’s existential threat with the same What’s the big deal, you Jews worry too much.

Over thanksgiving and Christmas, let us hope that the nations of the world will continue to support the idea of an independent and secure Jewish nation, a nation that will sometimes be battered, sometimes bruised but with its own pride and the means to always get back up.

As we put our faith in these nations, especially our greatest friend the United States of America, we must remember the central lesson of Hanukkah; never rely on others or on miracles, but when our very existence is in the balance, we must be prepared to fight a lonely battle to victory.

Latest Thanksgivukkah Shtick: Turkey-Filled Doughnuts

Monday, November 11th, 2013

This year’s coincidence of Thanksgiving and Hanukkah is one of those events that no one outside of the United States feels he is lacking, and the latest gimmick of turkey and cranberry-filled doughnuts raises the question of how many American Jews are so thrilled about it.

Since 1888, 1899 and 1918, the two holidays never have occurred at the same time until this year, and after that, it won’t happen again until 2070 and 2165.

Because of quirks in the system of calculating the calendars, the two holidays will not occur until the year 79811, give or take a day.

New York’s Zucker’s Bakery probably won’t be around then, and it is questionable whether Thanksgiving will still be in existence, so the bakery this year is outdoing Baskin-Robbins’ weirdo flavors and has come up with all sorts of doughnuts for those who religiously observe the customs of eating turkey on Thanksgiving and doughnuts on Hanukkah.

Zucker’s, based in Manhattan, has four twin-holiday menu items, take them or leave them.

First, there are spiced pumpkin doughnuts, complete with turkey and gravy filling.

If that doesn’t suit your fancy, try the same doughnuts with turkey and cranberry filling for a more Thanksgiving-style taste.

Two more options are spiced pumpkin doughnuts with cranberry sauce filling and sweet potato doughnuts with toasted marshmallow cream filling.

Coming up with the delicacies was “fun” event for the bakery’s co-owner and baker Melissa Feit, whose company is selling the Thanksgivukkah doughnuts for the fun price of  $3.50 to $5 a piece, meaning the bakery does not pay you to eat them but you have to pay the bakery.

Now, what would happen if Thanksgiving coincided with Passover?

Unleavened doughnuts with horseradish anyone?

Rosh Chodesh Kislev, Getting Ready for Hanukkah

Monday, November 4th, 2013

Today is the first day of Kislev and the second day of this year’s Rosh Chodesh Kislev.  The Holiday of Hanukkah takes place at the end of the month, when the moon is fading from the sky and its light has gotten dimmer.

On the eight days of Chanukah, not only do we light the chanukiyah, Chanukah menorah, but we add a short prayer to all of our prayers which is called “Al Hanissim,” “For the Miracles.”

And [we thank You] for the miracles, for the redemption, for the mighty deeds, for the saving acts, and for the wonders which You have wrought for our ancestors in those days, at this time.

In the days of Matityahu, the son of Yochanan the High Priest, the Hasmonean and his sons, when the wicked Hellenic government rose up against Your people Israel to make them forget Your Torah and violate the decrees of Your will. But You, in Your abounding mercies, stood by them in the time of their distress. You waged their battles, defended their rights, and avenged the wrong done to them. You delivered the mighty into the hands of the weak, the many into the hands of the few, the impure into the hands of the pure, the wicked into the hands of the righteous, and the wanton sinners into the hands of those who occupy themselves with Your Torah. You made a great and holy name for Yourself in Your world, and effected a great deliverance and redemption for Your people Israel to this very day. Then Your children entered the shrine of Your House, cleansed Your Temple, purified Your Sanctuary, kindled lights in Your holy courtyards, and instituted these eight days of Chanukah to give thanks and praise to Your great Name.

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I consider this the perfect summary of the Chanukah story and also a lesson for today.  It’s an “against all odds” type of story.  It’s the type of story that repeats itself in Jewish Biblical history and until this very day.

Our redemption, our victory depends on our reliance on and obedience to G-d and not on foreign nations or leaders.  Just like the Chanukiyah won’t light itself, we must take on the responsibility and work hard to live safely and securely.

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I’ve written many times that I believe that the key is to extend Israeli sovereignty over the Land of Israel, starting with what Israel holds today, from the Temple Mount, to the Golan, the Jordan Valley, Judea, Samaria until the border with Egypt.

“We have the power to demand peace by refusing to negotiate with our enemies.  There won’t be peace until they come to us begging.  The more we beg the further we are from peace.”

Visit Shiloh Musings.

On Turkey with Latkes and Metzitza B’Peh

Thursday, October 31st, 2013

There is an e-mail which has been circulating and is no doubt now the talk of Shabbos tables everywhere:

“Chanukah and Thanksgiving… turkey and latkes… what a great combination! Chanukah will be on Thanksgiving this year, for the first time ever, and never again. We will be celebrating the first night of Chanukah on Thanksgiving, so expect turkey and latkes on the table. This is the only time it will ever happen. Thanksgiving is set as the fourth Thursday in November, meaning the latest it can be is 11/28. 11/28 is also the earliest Chanukah can be.

The Jewish calendar repeats on a 19 year cycle, and Thanksgiving repeats on a 7 year cycle. You would therefore expect them to coincide roughly every 19×7 = 133 years. Looking back, this is approximately correct – the last time it would have happened is 1861. However, Thanksgiving was only formally established by President Lincoln in 1863. So, it has never happened before. Why won’t it ever happen again? The reason is because the Jewish calendar is very slowly getting out of sync with the solar calendar, at a rate of 4 days per 1,000 years. This means that while presently Chanukah can be as early as 11/28, over the years the calendar will drift forward, such that the earliest Chanukah can be is 11/29. The next time Chanukah falls on 11/28 is 2146, which is a Monday. Therefore, 2013 is the only time Chanukah will ever overlap with Thanksgiving.

Of course, if the Jewish calendar is never modified in any way, then it will slowly move forward through the Gregorian calendar, until it loops all the way back to where it is now. So, Chanukah would again fall on Thursday, 11/28…in the year 79,811. So on November 28th, 2013, enjoy your turkey and your latkes. It has never happened before, and it will never happen again.”

This is all very interesting, except for one “minor” detail—the first night of Chanukah is not on Thanksgiving, but the evening before, Wednesday, November 27th.Eating turkey and latkes together after having eaten latkes by themselves the night before may be a one-time event, but I think one has to take the author of the e-mail literally about wanting to eat turkey and latkes together, which means that a Friday as the first day of Chanukah also works since the first night is then Thanksgiving. This was the case in 1918 and will be again in 2070, and this year also qualifies being that the second night of Chanukah is Thanksgiving. A couple of other errors: Thanksgiving cycles through its November 22- 28 date range every 5.8 years, not every 7 years, due to leap year. And November 28th is not the earliest possible first day of Chanukah—November 27th is (as it was in 1899, although that year it was on a Monday and would not have coincided with Thanksgiving.)

One sees from this that people will often make a proclamation about a rare event without sufficiently checking their calculations. In 2006, while assisting Rabbi David Niederman with the Metzitza B’Peh (MBP) case, a former mathematics professor of mine, John Paulos (a Greek- Jewish American), pointed out a 1997 case in England in which a mother was accused of murder after the second of two consecutive crib deaths. The prosecution claimed that the odds of such an event were 73 million to one, for an occurrence of once in a century. Based on this, the jury found the mother guilty of murder. A mathematical analysis by others who sought to exonerate the woman showed that the correct odds are about 100,000 to 1 and that in fact several documented cases of consecutive crib deaths occur in England every year (see here.) The author proceeds to demonstrate that, since murders of children are even rarer than crib deaths, the probability of the two babies having died by natural causes is greater than 2/3.

Similarly, when I analyzed the MBP data, I found that the odds of one mohel being associated merely by coincidence with three cases of herpes simplex virus (HSV) are 15 to 1, not the 6.9 million to one that the New York City Department of Health & Mental Health claimed. In addition, I determined that the 7 cases of HSV out of approximately 62,000 MBP circumcisions between 1988 and 2005, for a rate of 0.011%, was lower than the 0.028% perinatal HSV rate for the general population and thus has no statistical significance. I also pointed out that an indiscriminant, reckless person who is HIV+, for example, will infect several others rather quickly. If the mohel in question were really HSV infectious, wouldn’t he, who circumcises one or two babies every day, have infected 3 babies very quickly and dozens of babies by what turned out to be the third case? (The odds of their having been 500 clean circumcisions between the first and third cases of HSV are 300,000 to 1.) Wouldn’t the same apply to the mohels connected to the other cases? The statistical analysis shows that all of these mohels, including the one in question, do not fit the pattern of serial infectors. As with the “turkey with latkes” e-mail cited at the beginning of this article, one needs to have one’s facts straight before making proclamations about rare events.

Is Hanukkah a Minor Holiday?

Wednesday, October 30th, 2013

Originally published at Chabad.org.

Question:

My friend told me that Hanukkah is a minor holiday, unlike Rosh Hashanah and Passover, and so we shouldn’t make such a big deal out of it. He said that the only reason it became so big was because of the season.

Answer:

Unlike Rosh Hashanah, Passover and other “major” holidays, which are prescribed by the Torah as days of rest, we go to work on Hanukkah. Even on Purim, going to work is not recommended. Also, on Jewish holidays we wear special clothes. But the days of Hanukkah are regular workdays in regular clothes.

Yet Hanukkah is a hardly a “minor” holiday. Read what Maimonides writes in his Laws of Hanukkah:

The mitzvah of kindling Hanukkah lamps is a very precious mitzvah. A person should be very careful in its observance, to publicize the miracle and thus increase our praise of God and our expression of thanks for the miracles which He wrought on our behalf. Even if a person has no resources for food except what he receives from charity, he should pawn or sell his garments and purchase oil and lamps to kindle them.

Maimonides continues by instructing that if one has only enough money to afford either a cup of wine for Shabbat kiddush or oil for his Hanukkah lamp, the mitzvah of Hanukkah takes precedence. Doesn’t sound too minor to me.

Especially when you take into account that this is what Hanukkah is all about: to “light up the darkness” (which is why we light it at night, at the door or window). So, even though it’s a regular workday—well, that’s really the whole idea: to light up the regular workday. And that takes a very special light.

At any rate, since when do we look for excuses not to celebrate? On the contrary, in the words of wise King Solomon, “A good heart always celebrates.”

Rabbi Tzvi Freeman, senior editor at Chabad.org

Pass the Cranberry Latkes for Thanksgivukkah Holiday (Video)

Tuesday, October 29th, 2013

If the Pilgrims are lighting menorahs and the Maccabees are chasing turkeys, it must be Thanksgivukkah, as some have come to call the confluence of Thanksgiving and Chanukah that will happen this year on Nov. 28.

It’s a rare event, one that won’t occur again until 2070 and then in 2165. Beyond that, because the Jewish lunisolar (lunar with solar adjustments) calendar is very slowly getting out of sync with the solar calendar, the Chanukah-Thanksgiving confluence won’t happen again by one calculation until the year 79811 — when turkeys presumably will be smart enough to read calendars and vacation in space that month.

How do we celebrate this rare holiday alignment? Do we stick candles in the turkey and stuff the horns of plenty with gelt? Put payos on the Pilgrims? What about starting by wishing each other “gobble tov” and then changing the words to a favorite Chanukah melody:

“I cooked a little turkey, Just like I’m Bobby Flay, And when it’s sliced and ready, I’ll fress the day away.”

The holiday mash-up has its limits. We know the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade will not end with a float carrying a Maccabee. But it has created opportunities as well: Raise your hand if you plan to wait until the post-Thanksgiving Day sales for your Chanukah shopping.

Ritually, just as we’ve figured out that we add candles to our menorahs from right to left and light them from left to right, a new question looms this year: Should we slice the turkey before or after?

“I think it’s wonderful,” said Dr. Ron Wolfson, whose book “Relational Judaism” (Jewish Lights Publishing) speaks to how our communal relationships — how we listen and welcome — can make our Jewish communities more meaningful. “This year is about bringing friends and family together.”

Wolfson, also the author of “The Chanukah Family Guide to Spiritual Celebration,” said in a recent interview that this year’s calendrical collision was a way to enhance “Thanksgiving beyond football and a big meal.”

In the American land of commercial plenty, the confluence certainly has served up a feast of merchandise. There are T-shirts saying “8 Days of Light, Liberty & Latkes” and a coffee mug picturing a turkey with nine burning tail feathers. And then there’s the ceramic menorah in the shape of a turkey — a Menurkey, created by 9-year-old Asher Weintraub of New York.

But being more of a do-it-yourselfer, this writer recycled an old sukkah decoration to create a Thankgivukkkah centerpiece — the cornukiyah.

For the holiday cook trying to blend the two holidays’ flavors, there’s a recipe that calls for turkeys brined in Manischewitz, and another for cranberry latkes. But what about a replacement for the now infamous Frankenstein of Thanksgiving cuisine, the turducken? How about a “turchitke,” a latke inside of a chicken inside of a turkey?

For Wolfson, who has largely ignored the merch and wordplay, this year simply is an opportunity to change the script. At his Thanksgiving dinner, he is going combine Chanukah ritual with holiday elements found on FreedomsFeast.us, a website that uses American holidays to pass on “stories, values and behaviors.”

Wolfson, a Fingerhut professor of education at American Jewish University, wants us to consider the similarities of the stories at the heart of each holiday.

“The Pilgrims were escaping religious persecution in Europe. They did not want to be assimilated,” Wolfson said, adding that “the Maccabees were fighting against Hellenization,” another form of assimilation.

Counter to the usual “December dilemma” for the intermarried — whose numbers have increased to 58 percent since 2005, according to the recent Pew study — Wolfson noted the “opportunities and challenges” presented this year by Chanukah and Christmas not coinciding.

“We usually feel the tension between the two holidays,” he said. “This year we can feel the compatibility of the two.”

The early Chanukah will help people to appreciate its “cultural integrity,” said Wolfson, adding that he “would not be surprised by a spike in candle lighting this year.”

But for others in the Jewish community, the pushing together of the Festival of Lights with Turkey Day has forced other changes, some unwanted.

Rabbi Steven Silver of Temple Menorah in Redondo Beach, Calif., is canceling his temple’s traditional Friday night Chanukah dinner. “That holiday weekend will be vacation time, people will be out visiting family and friends,” he said. “The rabbis won’t have anyone in front of them that weekend, and that’s a problem.”

‘Jew in the City’ Announces Top 10 Orthodox Jewish All Stars

Wednesday, October 16th, 2013

U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew and Nobel Laureate Robert Aumann are among ten individuals who have been named 2013 Orthodox Jewish All Stars by Jew in the City, the organization dedicated to re-branding Orthodox Jews and Judaism to the world through digital media.

The awards will be presented on November 24 in New York City. The date coincides with the Thanksgiving and the Festival Hanukkah.

This year’s All Stars are a diverse group that also includes Sarah Hofstetter, who was promoted last week to CEO of leading advertising firm 360i in the United States; Ari Pinchot, co-executive producer of the new film,  Lee Daniels’ The Butler; Na’ama Shafir, the first Orthodox female professional basketball player; and Joseph Shenker, chairman of Sullivan and Cromwell, one of the leading U.S. law firms.

Rounding out the list are  Rama Burshtein, writer, director and producer of the awarding-winning film  Fill the Void and the first Hasidic woman to make a film for general audiences; Anne Neuberger, the Director of the National Security Agency’s Commercial Solutions Center; Issamar Ginzberg, a marketing guru who was named one of Inc. Magazine’s Top 10 Entrepreneurs and who is the grandson of prominent Hasidic rabbis; and Dr. Laurel Steinherz, Director of Pediatric Cardiology at Memorial Sloan Kettering and co-founder of Camp Simcha, a camp for Jewish children with cancer.

“There is a common misconception that being an Orthodox Jew means you don’t have many career options,” said  author Allison Josephs, who founded Jew in the City six years ago to break down myths and misconceptions about religious Jews and observant Judaism.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/jew-in-the-city-announces-top-10-orthodox-jewish-all-stars/2013/10/16/

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