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November 30, 2012

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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, NOVEMBER 30, 2012 PAGE 15A ByDasee Berkowitz (circumcision, Shabbat cel- But they also lead us to ral desires and exercising ebration and kashrut) were deeper questions about the personal restraint is another NEW YORK (JTA)--My turned into capital offenses, nature of courage. Are there kind of heroism. This is a kind 4-year-old s~)n is obsessed their acts of courage formed values and beliefs for which of everyday courage. with superheroes, dressing the basis of a central narrative we are willing to make great When we are present in a up at every opportunity as oftheChanukahstorythathas sacrifices, and if any of these difficult conversation with the superhero du jour to do been passed down through the values or beliefs were to be someone we care about even battle with the bad guys lurk- generations, violated, Would we be stirred thoughourimpulseistoleave, ing around the corner. (My Consider Judah Macabee,to action? we are a hero. When we resist 2-year-old daughter is just as whose army with a bunch of While these figures present the urge to say something that enthusiastic, but at her age Jewish soldiers used guerrilla us with one narrative of the we know will offend another all she can really muster is a tactics and religious zeal to Chanukah story--of heroism person, even if we think it is "meanie" face.) defeat the stronger Assyrian in battle and martyrdom--a warranted, we are courageous. From a developmental per- Greek army. He forced the As- second narrative is favored by When we have vowed not to spective, I know this fantasy syrian Greeks to rescind the the ancient Rabbis. The story feed a habit that is destructive play is his way of exercising policies that forbade Jewish begins with the rededication to us, and when tempted and control over a world he is practice, andin 164 BCE liber- of the Temple in Jerusalem resist (a smoke, an extra piece learning is increasingly out ated the Temple in Jerusalem and the faith that the Jews had ofchocolatecake),wearebeing of his control. But I also see and rededicated it to a place of thatthesmallcruseofoilwhich our own heroes. other qualities--his desire to Jewish worship, should have lasted for one day ThisChanukah, celebrate all be strong, to stand up for the Consider Judith, who did only could last for eight. (in Of the dimensions of courage good guys--in short, to be her parttopreventthesiege of time for others to travel and by dedicating each night to courageous. Jerusalem in her hometown of get more oil.) one of them: , . Becoming courageous BethuliabyseducingHolfenes, The second narrative down- Candle 1 to the classic doesn't happen overnight. It the Assyrian Greek army gen- plays the military victory won chanukah heroes of Judah develops when children have eral, and then decapitating by human hands and elevates Maccabee, Judithan~dHannah. opportunities to stand up him. Her bravery is so highly the story to one in which our Candle 2 to the courageous for what's right and to take esteemed by the Rabbis that it faithinGodand God's miracles acts of our children who wel- responsible risks. Through is because of her act of cour- are kindled. It reminds us" come anewkid to the school, experiences my husband and age that Jewish women are that courage is born when speak out against bullying or I provide, and the stories we obligated to light Chanukah we continue to have faith and have faith that the next day at tell them, we can lay some candles, hope even in our darkest time. school might be a little better groundwork. AndconsiderHannahandherHaving faith in itself is an im- than today. As I think about a central seven sons, who refused to bow portant kind of courage. Candle 3 to someone in messageoftheChanukahstory down to Zeus and Antiochus While the call to be coura- your community who took and theway Iwant toportray it and eat non-kosher meat. The geous is central to the Cha- up a cause you believe in and to my kids, models of courage Book of Maccabees relates that nukah story--spiritually or fought for it. abound. From Judah Mac- each of her sons and then her physically--itisalsodaunting. Candle 4 to someone in cabee, to Judith and Hannah mother were tortured to death. ButtheRabbisofferedanother your family--perhaps a par- and her seven sons, heroes and These acts of courage seem way for us to understand how ent or grandparent--and a heroines fought for the right extreme and even unpalatable to live a courageous life and be courageousacttheyperformed to be different, to be Jews who to our modern ear-what our own heroes, during their lives. refused to assimilate into the woman would sacrifice her "Who is a hero?" the Rab- Candle 5 to American and prevailing Hellenistic culture, son, not to mention all seven? bis ask. "One who overcomes Israelisoldierswhoarefighting WhenAntiochusEpiphanes And aren't we a peace-loving his urges?" (Mishna, Pirkei toprotectvaluesandidealsthat cametopower, and observance people who should not extol Avot4:l) are sacred to us. of the most basic mitzvot brute force? Overcomingourmostnatu- Candle 6 to the courage Courtesy Dasee Berkowitz Writer Dasee Berkowitz's 4-year-old son, Tamir, preparing to battle the bad guys--his way of showing courage, which we celebrate at Chanukah. that you have exercised by Candle 8 to that quality restraint--with a co-workeL of courage in ourselves that spouse, child, friendorparent, enables us to bring light into Candle 7 to aperson in your dark places and for the energy life who exemplifies courage tocontinuetostoketheembers the most. of our own sense of courage. By Stephen Whitfieid How's this for international influence? In 2004 a seminar was offered on American Jew- ish culture at the University of Munich; the students were required to present their research on a representative Jewish figure who has made a significant contribution to the arts or to thought in the United States. As the instruc- tor, I asked the first Bavarian- based studentwho came to my office to indicate her choice of a topic, and was stunned by her selection: "Adam Sandier." The comic actor is ahnost certainly better known for "The Chanukah Song" than for any of the three-dozen movies in which he has starred. It premiered on a December 1994 show of Sat- urday Night Live and thus drew popular attention to a holiday that, only a decade earlier, had inspired President Ronald Reagan to tell religious broadcasters of his pleasure in looking out at Lafayette Park and seeing "the huge menorah, celebrating the Passover season." Sandler's initial version generated such enthusiasm that he did two sequels. In 2002 the concept of "The Chanukah Song" was expanded into an animated film, Sony Pictures' Eight Crazy Nights, which may be the only Hollywood film dedicated to this holiday. In 1999, when a chapter of the Hillel Foundation was inaugurated at West Point, the Jewish cadets celebrated the occasion by singing "The EPA/MIKE NELSON Adam Sandier has come a long way since releasing his ballad of young Jewish angst in 1994. Chanukah Song." It had Jewish politics would give way evidently displaced "I Have a to satire, when Tom Lehrer Little Dreidel." invoked Chanukah in southern The popularity of Sandler's California, "wearing sandals, / song can be gauged by setting Lighting candles/By the sea." it off against two other recent Luckily for him, the holiday it- musicalefforts to pump mean- selfrhymedwithSantaMonica, ing into the festival. In 1983 just as the demographic shift folksingerPeterYarrowdecided to the Sunbelt ensured that to tap into his own secular fewer and fewer Jews would be Jewish heritage When Peter, celebrating "Shavuos in East Paul and Mary were scheduled St. Louis." The comforts of to perform a"Hotiday Celebra- California even led Lehrer to tion'atCarnegieHall. In"Light wonder at the imaginary reac- One Candle" Yarrow asked tion of"JudasMaccabeus/Boy, listeners to light a taper "for if he could see Us." the~terrible sacrifice/Justice But" compared to "The andfreedomdemand/Butlight Chanukah Song," Yarrow's one candle for the wisdom to denunciation of persecution know/When the peacemaker's and injustice came across as time is at hand." too earnest for popular taste, But seven years later the an echo of the 60s out ofsync idealism marking much of with the administration of Ronald Reagan. Comparedhowever. But when moviethe divinityofChrist, Sandler to the moral fervor of "Light and television stars are more offers a comic affirmation in- One Candle,"Sandler's songis familiar than any author or tended--quitehonorably--to downright silly. Compared to almost anypolitician, celebri- assuage the psychic pain of the cleverness and wit of"I'm ties are recognizable in a way feelingexcluded. IrvingBerlin Spending Chanukah in Santa that no religious authority, had the inspired idea of turn Monica," Sandler's list song is no rabbi or sage, can hope to ing Christmas into a holiday amateurishandtrite.Noinspi- match."TheChanukahSong"that is more meteorological ration or persPiration was re- is tfierefore the soundtrack than theological, that recalls quired to concoct the rhymes, to the historian Daniel J. the excitement of snow but The names of the celebrities Bcorstin's famous definition neglects to mention the birth are so easy to substitute that of ame,which is bestowed on " of mankind's savior. "White they violate the central rule pople well-known for their Christmas"(1942)becamethe of the lyricist's craft, which is wl-knownness. Boorstin mostrecordedsonginhistory. to make the climactic words cotrasted them with the SandleriMcharacteristically) bothsurprisingandinevitable, he~es whose great deeds the less subtle in confronting "The Chanukah Song" bats once recorded, adistinc- what membership in a reli- nevertheless caught on. It's a tio lost upon the students of gious minority imposes. But reasonableguessthatSandler Mahattan day school who, he did know how to touch a wasn't trying to emulate Cole whnpollsters asked them in tender place inthe heart of the Porter anyway, and preferred 196tonametheirheroes, put American Jewish family, at a to reach out to adolescents JerySeinfeldfirst. Finishing seasonofspecialvulnerability. and pre-adolescents--and of seond was Adam Sandler. Stephen J. Whitfield holds course to the young at heart, n taking for granted the the Max Richter Chair in (The second, 1999 version auhority of celebrity, "The American Civilization at was recorded live at Brandeis Cl-anukah Song" addresses Brandeis University and is University.) The popularity of tht emotional need for Yule- the author of In Search of "The Chanukah Song" isn't tid~ solace. For children feel- American Jewish Culture entirely explainable in terms int estranged during the sea- (University Press of New of the degradation of taste, sm, because the parents deny England, 1999).