Hanukkah for Gentiles

An ecumenical moment with a 3-year-old.

Me: Do you know what happens at Hanukkah?

Tom (3 years old): You light a menorah!

Me: That’s right! Very good! And do you know why Jewish people light a menorah?

Tom: Because it’s Hanukkah!

Me: Well, yes, but do you know why Jewish people light a menorah at Hanukkah?

Tom: Hm.

Me: Well, a long time ago, the Jewish people came back to their Temple, which is kind of like church, but much bigger. And other people had, uh, messed it up. And there was only a little bit of oil — instead of candles, they burned oil in lamps — and that little bit of oil lasted eight days! And, uh, that oil lasted long enough for them to clean up the temple and make new oil. And you know how it’s dark now in winter? Well, Hanukkah also reminds us about lights shining in darkness …

Tom: [had run off to play with Batman]

Soon after that exchange last night, my wife and I packed up our two boys for a brief eighth-night-of-Hanukkah visit with some Jewish friends who keep kosher. We watched and listened as the family chanted in Hebrew while lighting menorahs in the front window; together we ate latkes and applesauce.

And, of course, we joined them in eating the traditional Hanukkah sausage pizza, accompanied by the traditional Hanukkah salad with bacon bits. Because, frankly, the way soybeans can be transformed into all sorts of fake pork products these days is pretty miraculous, too.

Article © 2008 by Michael Duck