The Miami Heat hosted a Jewish heritage night at the basketball team's Dec. 12 game at American Airlines Arena, with tens of thousands in attendance. How odd, I thought, to celebrate Hanukkah in a sports arena, given that the concept of sports is emblematic of Greek culture.
This Hanukkah, when Jews light their menorahs, we should remember that the item we are lighting holds a large cultural and historical significance. It symbolizes not only the miracle of the lasting oil, but also the miracle of the surviving Jewish people.
As the attendant to the light, the Shamash is responsible for lighting all the others. So too, each of us is a light. We have the choice as to whether we live from that lit-up place or ignore our light.
Taking a symbol like the menorah, which represents that struggle of adhering to faith in the face of an oppressive Greek culture that believed everything should be secular and rational, and redefining it as having secular connotations contradicts what the menorah represents.
We will be celebrating Hanukkah once again this year, lighting candles, eating latkes, opening presents and spinning dreidels. We'll sing Hanukkah songs. We'll talk about the holiday a lot, but I'm not going to tell my girls the story of Judah the Maccabee. Not yet.
Nature has parked itself on small sections of our city's corner. Soon, the trees will be gone, my son observes, sold to homes where they will decorate living rooms and be adorned with bows, ornaments, trinkets and gifts. His living room will be empty of such wonder.
What is the real miracle of Hanukkah? It is the miracle of human courage that empowers us to take risks for the future even in our imperfect, uncertain world. It is the courage, even in the darkest of times, to create our own light.
While I'm still not a fan of endless C-major holiday songs and goyishe blinking lights, I have learned to make my peace with Chrismas - ironically, because of the same "paganism" that I once used to decry.