My wife and I celebrated Hanukkah for the first time last night with our two-year-old twin daughters. Sure, the last two years we lit the candles and gave them some presents. And a few weeks ago my family assembled for Thanksgiving and followed our (brilliant!) tradition of having an early Hanukkah celebration. The kids love it because they get all their gifts from their paternal grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins in one night. We love it because it reduces the stress of December in America.
But last night we had a real Hanukkah celebration, went to a neighbor's house and lit tons of menorahs, sang songs, ate latkes and jelly doughnuts, the whole thing. It was great. And when one of my daughters came over and asked me to spin the dreidel, and the other tried to rip open a bag of Hanukkah gelt, I knew the rituals were starting to penetrate. Awesome!
But wait! I come home to find that net-roots-Jews are spreading the word that Hanukkah candles are causing global warming. They've even hired a PR agent! Maybe that's what the Maccabee boys needed against those evil Assyrians -- a spin machine.
Why stop there? I say. Maybe we should all light one of those funky new bulbs everyone is selling -- after all, they would last more than eight days! Or maybe we should add Al Gore's name to some of the Hanukkah songs -- "Gore" is pretty easy to rhyme. I mean, think of all the olive trees that are felled to make the oil to fry latkes! Think of the pesticides that flood those strawberry fields that produce the jelly for all those doughnutes! Come on, people, where is the anger!?! Hanukkah is destroying our planet.
In a campaign that has spread like wildfire across the Internet, a group of Israeli environmentalists is encouraging Jews around the world to light at least one less candle this Hanukka to help the environment.
The founders of the Green Hanukkia campaign found that every candle that burns completely produces 15 grams of carbon dioxide. If an estimated one million Israeli households light for eight days, they said, it would do significant damage to the atmosphere.
"The campaign calls for Jews around the world to save the last candle and save the planet, so we won't need another miracle," said Liad Ortar, the campaign's cofounder, who runs the Arkada environmental consulting firm and the Ynet Web site's environmental forum. "Global warming is a milestone in human evolution that requires us to rethink how we live our lives, and one of the main paradigms of that is religion and how it fits into the current situation."
Cofounder Tom Wegner, who heads the public relations firm Update Marketing Media, spread the campaign via mass e-mails and through social interaction Web sites like Facebook and Hook.co.il. He said no money had been invested in the campaign, but it had already raised awareness around the world and made people realize that they have to consider the environment this Hanukka.
Wegner said he did not consider the campaign anti-religious. The unlit candle could be the shamash, which is not required for the mitzva, he said. But he said he would encourage people who do not keep mitzvot not to light a hanukkia at all for environmental and educational reasons.
"We have many environmental traditions in Judaism like Tu Bishvat and Succot, but there are also traditions like Lag Ba'omer and Hanukka that made sense when they were instituted but are more problematic now in the days of global warming," Wegner said.
"There are many people who just light candles for the tradition and for their children," he said. "To tell a child on the eighth day that we are not lighting the last candle as a sacrifice for the environment is an act that is not only educational but also will prevent the release of a huge amount of carbon dioxide that would hurt the environment."