healing the chanuka myth

chanuka is known for its “story”. the “chanuka story”. it is also known for its lights, and miracles. I love the lights. all of them, call them Christmas or chanuka light or fajalitos…they are beautiful in this dark season.

for years, I have been teaching: let’s bring light to the chanuka story.  for it is another jewish remembrance time, festival, that rests on layers of blame and victimization. though we always offer deserving compassion to the victim, we also want to love it in a way towards its healing. at some point the story, especially of our oppression and victories becomes a trap. what kind of trap? simply in that story repeating over again, with “us” on either side of the “us” and “them” line.

and what we want is peace, don’t we? so lets tell of peace. no, better yet. lets make it. not in a future plan, when finally all the politicians will be kind and gracious and intelligent (ha!), but here now. lets make peace by the light of the candles. in our homes, in our breath, in our hearts and minds. now. we all speak of the here and now, but becoming it is much more of a practice. lets take chanuka, joining its lights with all the lovely lights of the season, as part of this practice.

this year, at the omanaya chanuka gathering, I again told the (once shocking to me) story as max dimont recounts in his book “jews, god and history”: that the very victory story we, as kids, learned for chanuka began its chaos and destruction by the initiation of the pious, hasidean jews. according to his take on history, they took an opportunity of the rumor of king antiochus’ death, to massacre the hellenized priests and many of that sect of jews simply because they were not being “pure jews”. I have not yet checked other sources, and this year, I realized: it doesn’t much matter. I would rather not tell any story. I would rather teach, be and practice the peace. and participate in the current beauty of lights.

rather than chanuka being a “re-dedication” (literal meaning of “chanuka”) of the temple story, let it be a re-dedication of our hearts. simple, quiet and sweet. to clear seeing. to freedom from the oppression of stories, especially the ones that exclude and make rifts, blame and shame.  amen.


~keren khaya

dec 6, 2010


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