Fear and Loathing at the National Menorah

National Menorah
Two nights ago, I attended the lighting of the National Menorah.

First, let me say thank you to the President and the First Lady for allowing us to use their lawn.

Second, the menorah was GIANT. I guess everything is bigger when it’s NATIONAL. Apparently, in fact, it couldn’t have been any bigger and still qualify as a good Hanukkiah, because if it’s too big, the average person wouldn’t be able to recognize it. Yeah, I don’t get it. Maybe it’s one of those ancient-logic-that-we-still-go-along-with-because-it’s-tradition type of things.

Now the good stuff. Mukasey, our new Attorney General and an Orthodox Jew, used the word “lighted.” I thought the correct word was lit, but he’s probably right, since I’m a Democrat and he’s a Republican. Also because he’s Attorney General and I’m not.

Apparently Chabad holds a National Menorah Essay Contest every year. The essays are judged in two age categories, something like 2nd-4th grade and 5th-6th grade. From the winner of the latter category, I learned that as long as you believe, all the bad things go away. The world is melting because of global warming, but I believe, so it’s okay. I forgot to pay attention to the winner of the younger category as soon as I realized that she didn’t include “presents!!” in her list of “what Hanukkah means.”

The evening was actually quite political. First, one of the rabbis praised the religious freedom that allows Jews/Jewish people to flourish in their own ways here. Amen to that, brother. Then, another rabbi (or it may have been the same one. Sometimes I get them all confused. Maybe they should wear numbers on their jerseys, I mean, suits) praised No Child Left Behind, which is too bad because it has actually allowed religious groups to receive money from the government for ejumacating the children, in public schools. Also because it’s actually about No Child Left UNTESTED. The National Education Association uses about the least critical language possible, while still being critical (“You’re not bad, you just behave badly”) of the NCLB legislation. American 15 year olds now rank fifteenth for average reading scores in industrialized countries. We’re behind Korea, Canada, and Poland, among others. Way to go, kids.

Also, oil. The winner of the essay contest in the older category talked a lot about how since the Maccabees believed, the oil lasted. So now I’m thinking that we don’t really have to find a way over our dependence on oil; we just need to believe that it will last as long as we need it to. And while we’re at it, we should use more! because using more will demonstrate that we have complete faith. Maybe what happened during Hanukkah was a foreshadowing of today…and that time I was driving from San Diego to LA and drove through a HUGE military base where there were, needless to say, no gas stations for miles and miles. My oil lasted 25 miles on empty. I thought I was going to be stranded for hours and hours in the hot desert sun on the side of the freeway in the middle of a military base in SoCal. But the oil lasted…a modern day miracle.

But seriously, thank you, Chabad. The first time I moved away from home was just before Purim, several years ago. When I didn’t know anyone in this city, the first thing I did was go to a Purim party on the Hill, where I met some new friends…and WON PRIZES!! I went to Chabad for Pesach that year, when I didn’t have anywhere else to go. This year, Chabad gave me a hanukkiah to light at home, and delicious food for the rest of the week (strategy when you work for really, really cheap on a campaign or in a Congressional office or at a non-profit: take empty tupperware to every party where there’ll be food, which are really the only parties worth going to anyway, and fill ‘em up). But most importantly, this summer, when I found myself all alone and stranded in Croatia, with the knowledge that my grandmother had just died and that I couldn’t get home in time for the funeral, two random Chabadniks showed up next to me, literally, while I sat just staring at the sea. When I found out they were MOtT, I told them how alone I felt, and they pulled out their tzitzit and siddurim from their backpacks and dragged me to the ancient synagogue in Dubrovnik, where they helped me pray. After that, I didn’t feel so alone. So thank you.

Happy hanukkah.

Oh, by the way, there were Roman soldiers standing by the stage the whole evening. Ha.

6 Comments

  1. Sarah

    12/6/2007 at 11:30 pm

    ‘lighted’ and ‘lit’ both are permissible Past Tense and Past Participle forms of “to light”; the regular form “lighted” has been gaining more popularity in American English while “lit” still is preferred in British English. It’s the same as with “dreamed / dreamt”, “spilled / spilt” etc.

  2. 6tonsloth

    12/6/2007 at 11:37 pm

    Thanks for that! I usually am a grammar geek, but I clearly have a lot to learn. Also, please excuse any grammar or punctuation mistakes that I made/will make in the future: I’m so busy and important now that 1) I’ll be writing from my fancy shmancy blackberry device and 2) I don’t even have time for spell check.

    cheers

  3. Rabbi von Sydow

    12/7/2007 at 12:45 am

    …is Tek Caution, Nobadda Tek Abortion. ;-)

  4. Tovitim

    12/7/2007 at 10:59 am

    Yeah-didn’t go to National Menorah Lighting for the same reason I don’t go to the National Xmas Tree Lighting. Um-there shouldn’t be one. We’ll ignore the whole, trying to make me feel better about the December holiday thing by plopping a GIANT chanukiyah in the middle of the Elipse. More importantly, why the hell are either of them there, sponsored by-really or even tacitly-the gov’t? Creepy and inappropriate if you ask me. I won’t even get into the whole CHABAD part of it, or AG “I sort of hate torture but I won’t say so on the record” Mukasey being the one to light it.
    I AM glad you had a nice time, though!

  5. chillul Who?

    12/7/2007 at 11:50 am

    Sounds like a nice evening. Sucks that someone had to make it partisan and political. Were there non-Chabad rabbis running it also?

  6. 6tonsloth

    12/7/2007 at 1:42 pm

    Tovitim, I agree with you completely, there should be no “national” menorah or national tree. I tried to make it clear that I was really only at the event for the free food, but I guess I got distracted by other issues as I wrote. Oh and the first part of the post, thanking the First Family for allowing this whole shindig, 100 percent sarcastic.

    chillul who?: It was definitely a Chabad event. There were a few Roman soldiers, but I’m fairly certain they were just Lubuvitchers dressed up…

    By the way, forgot to mention in the original post, but apparently Chabad mints coins. Uh, wow. Reminds me of a certain Rav Shmuel song.

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