Rabbinic Reflections: Issue 42

Light Enough for Chanukah

December 4, 2020

Dear Holy Friends,

One of the longest running sitcoms on TV, which I grew up with, is no doubt familiar to you.

Seinfeld was an American sitcom television series created by Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld. It aired on NBC from July 5, 1989, to May 14, 1998; over nine seasons and 180 episodes. The show starred Seinfeld as a fictionalized version of himself and the main titular protagonist. The episodes focused on his personal life with a handful of friends and acquaintances. It was often described as being "a show about nothing."

As a Jew, I took a “naches” in knowing that not only were the co-creators of the show Jewish (Seinfeld and Larry David), but also, so were many of the main characters including Jason Alexander (George Constanza) and Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Elaine Benes). [Dreyfus’ father is Jewish.]

One of the funniest episodes that I often recall at this time of year introduces, in place of Hanukkah and Christmas, the holiday of Festivus.

Festivus is a Constanza-created holiday gathering that includes the following customs: The airing of grievances during the holiday meal (those who speak begin with the statement, “I have a lot of problems with you people…”); feats of strength performed after the collation, and finally, the recognition of Festivus miracles, which, of course, were not really miracles.

Ironically, as a diatribe against the commercialism often associated with American winter holidays, Festivus has become well known. During the 1990s, one could buy a Festivus Kippah and more recently, Martin Bodek published, The Festivus Haggadah. It is funny how things catch on!

While it is true that sometimes Hanukkah holiday gatherings do result in the airing of grievances (should we have the latkes with sour cream or apple sauce) and contests involving feats of strength (manifested as heated debates pertaining to political and social issues), more importantly, the recognition of miracles remains the meta-narrative of this holiday season.

So, in conclusion, whether you are observing Hanukkah and / or Festivus (hey, it’s America, so I guess it’s your choice!), may you be blessed to acknowledge the miracles of your family, the joys of your loved ones, the opportunities which abound, and the peace that is ultimately in our hands.

Chag Urim Sameach and Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Eric L. Wasser, EdD
201 562 5277

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