Is there a reason Chanukah is often at the same time as Christmas? Or in other words the ‘December Dilemma'
Shabbat, Festivals & The Year
Growing up on the East Coast of America was delightful in many ways. The weather was fantastic; come summer the sun was shining and in the winter we had snow. As for food, you could have named any style, variety or flavour and found a host of certified kosher restaurants to choose from. Yes, the New York lifestyle certainly had a lot to be admired, but not entirely. As a boy, I found that having too much of a good thing led to certain challenges and the ‘December Dilemma’ was one of them.
Precision is a most sought-after quality. With precision comes accuracy and insight. Rabbi Yehoshua Leib Diskin (d. 1898) was once preparing a get (divorce bill) at his home, when all of a sudden, he stopped writing. The next day, people realised that the woman asking for the divorce had lied. She had brought another man, who had pretended to be her husband. Rabbi Diskin explained, “the couple that came to me had a young dog. When I was writing, I saw that the dog was going back and forth from the man to the woman. This surprised me, for was it possible that the dog was familiar with both of them? Before they had decided to divorce, they had surely separated because they could not get along, and so the dog must have remained with only one of them. If the dog had remained with her, why would it run to him? And if the dog was his, why would it go to her? I therefore understood that it was not her husband, and that the dog was familiar with both of them. That is why I stopped writing the get. Later on my suspicions were proved well-founded”.
Each holiday in the Jewish calendar presents its own unique opportunity and task, related to the theme of the festival. On Chanukah, we have a wonderful time singing after candle-lighting and enjoying tasty donuts. Yet what spiritual challenges are emphasised at this time and what opportunities are open to us to enrich our experience?