4 Sons & Sons

A discussion of Pesah/Passover generally and the Hagadah specifically. Please comment and contribute!

Monday, December 19, 2005

Bah Humbug! or Why Pesach is a Better Holiday Than Hanukah

Ok, I'll ignore the non-existant war on Christmas being waged elsewhere and focus on what's really important: Why I don't like Hanukah and why Pesach is far superior. We'll take this point by point:

The songs: Pesach has Had Gadya, Ehad mi yodea, Avadim Hayinu, Dayenu, the list goes on and on. What does Hanukah have? The Dreidel song. Idiotic drivel! Mi yimalel is a great song, but it's odd to hear religious folks singing such an anti-religious song so joyously. A while ago I heard someone explain that the song takes various verses from Tanakh that praise G-d and changes the words around so it praises the Jewish people instead. Very neat idea in the abstract, but as a religious guy myself I'm uncomfortable with that.

The food: Sufganiyot, latkes, cheese vs. going insane getting rid of all your hamets. I'll let Hanukah win that one.

The focus: On Pesach, the focus is on G-d. So much so, that Mosheh is barely mentioned in the Haggadah and the Angel of Death gets short shrift. On Hanukah, the focus is on the Maccabees. Ok, point taken, you might say, but aren't the Maccabees great? Didn't they kick some Seleucid butt and establish an independant Jewish state? Yes, that's true, but it wasn't just 'happily ever after' after that. The Hasmoneans (or Maccabees) set up a new non-Davidic monarchy. Now, I've always thought of First Temple times as having a system of checks and balances. (Let's ignore for the time being whether or not that's historically true and just work with me here.) You have the monarchy, stemming from David, the priesthood, from the tribe of Levi and the prophets who could potentially be any man woman or child, Jew or non-Jew. This all went into the wastecan when Simeon crowned himself king. In Vienna, this aggravated Beethoven to such a degree that he ripped up the title page to his 3rd symphony ... Ok, ok. Scratch that last bit, but with prophecy having died out, the Hasmoneans now have 2 branches of government as well as the military. Simeon started expanding his kingdom and his son John Hyrkanus started forcibly converting the Idumeans to Judaism. Let's let that last bit sink in. Forcibly convert. To my way of thinking that's as un-Jewish as pigs feet on Wonderbread with mayo. That's what really bugs me about the holiday. Not the miracles and the victory, but the happily ever after. Pesach is about freedom. To my jaded glass-half-empty mind, Hanukah is about taking freedom away. Any thoughts anyone?


At 1:34 PM, Anonymous ervinke said...

um, not sure about the mayo part. many fine mayonnaises are kosher and served at delis worldwide.

as far as the focus on the maccabees, well...the way we celebrate it around here, the maccabees are downplayed, and the triumph of Jews over adversity with the addition of a supernatural miracle are the big winners. oh, and sufganiyot. always with the sufganiyot.


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