5 Common Misconceptions About Modern-Day Hanukkah

5 Common Misconceptions About Modern-Day Hanukkah

Not all Hanukkah traditions are practiced by nonreligious Jewish people.

As an ethnically Jewish person, I commonly am asked about Jewish Holidays like Hanukkah, for example. I may be ETHNICALLY Jewish, but I am currently unsure of my beliefs. Knowing this, growing up, my parents took my sister and me to Sunday Hebrew school right near our house. There, we were given the choice to learn about the culture we were born into and decide for ourselves whether we want to follow it. We were taught about the holidays and certain prayers. I even remember making a photo album where we teach people how to celebrate other Jewish Holidays.

Here are some common misconceptions about modern-day Hanukkah:

1. You get 8 days of presents.

As a nonreligious Jewish person, whenever I see a family member during this 8-day holiday, we get a present that day. We do NOT get 8 days of presents, we never have.

2. You get money every day.

You get “gelt” (money) possibly one or some of the days, but NOT ALL.

3. You light the candles every day.

Ideally, yes. But nonreligious people sometimes skip days.

4. You recite prayers each day of the holiday.

Again, ideally, yes. Not in nontraditional families.

5. You play with dreidels.

Maybe when you are a kid or have kids, but not typically when you get older.

Hanukkah is a holiday where we celebrate the Jews’ escape from the power of a higher culture, the Maccabees. They made light last for eight days with a little oil, which is why traditionally we eat oily food such as potato pancakes (latkes) and we (are supposed to) light the menorah every day for 8 days. Most Jewish holidays tend to celebrate the Jews’ escape from harsh rule. They were oppressed over the years, although Christianity originated from Judaism. It is an older culture and people who are nontraditional Jews have their own way of celebrating; it is not wrong just because it doesn’t follow “every rule.” There is no need to offend some people who are religiously immersed in the Jewish holidays and traditions. The misconceptions though, have to be put out there so people understand the difference when someone says they are not religious.

Religion is a touchy topic for many people. We always go through situations where we end up questioning our faith. But the issue is, nothing is consistent, especially growing up, about your beliefs. Ideally, you would want your children and even yourself to believe in something out there, outside of this world. It would be great to entrust your entire life to a religion, but some people, like me, can’t just submit to something they don’t know a lot about. I’m happy that my parents never forced religion on my sister and me.

However, it is important to have faith in something, even if you don’t have faith in religion. To keep you going, you must believe in a future for yourself and have goals. Believe that you will achieve all of your dreams. You have to believe sometimes that things happen for a reason. But let your holiday be just that- a holy day. Sometimes getting together for any reason with your family brings you closer to who you are on the inside. Bonding with family is an important part of your faith- having unity. It is important to have faith, and faith that brings you closer to someone else is a faith that cannot be pushed to the side.

Cover Image Credit: Robert Zunikoff / Unsplash

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7 Things To Take Up This Lenten Season

"The goal of lent is simple: fall in love with Jesus Christ again."

February 14 is not just about Valentine's Day this year. The 14 is also Ash Wednesday-the start of Lent. A big emphasis on lent is what to give up. Giving up some sort of food or habit that maybe isn't the best for you is a great thing to do! But I want to focus on a few things that you can take up to strengthen your relationship with Christ, others, and/or yourself this Lenten season.

1. Spending an hour each day/week in silence with the Lord.

It doesn't have to be an hour. You can spend 10 minutes a day, an hour every couple of days, whatever amount of time will pull you just enough out of you comfort zone and will give you time to listen to and talk with God.

2. Practicing gratitude each day.

Life is beautiful, and we need to see that! Get a journal and write down a couple of things every single day that you are grateful for in your life.

3. Reading the Gospels.

The Bible is huge and can be intimidating at times. The gospels are the story of Jesus' life. What better way to get closer to Christ than to read and reflect on His life?

4. Speaking out about your faith.

This can be scary. But try to challenge yourself to speak out about your faith. You don't have to be a Theologian to talk about the impact God has had and continues to have on your life.

5. Texting/calling a different person every couple of days/week to give them encouragement.

Text that friend hasn't spoken to in a while and tell her you to hope she has a wonderful day. Call your childhood friend to catch up. Whether it be a 5 worded texts or a 30-minute phone call, strive to reach out to those around you to remind them they are loved.

6. Smiling at every person you see.

Yes. Every person.

7. Doing something you would never normally do.

I know, this is extremely vague, but this is going to look different for each person. Take some time to think about something you could take up that is not a "normal" thing for you. Think out of the box. (but still, something that will help you grow spiritually and as a person)

"Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return."
Cover Image Credit: wikipedia

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Are You Living Your Life Captive Or Captivated?

Every single day we wake up faced with new decisions.

As humans, we are subjected to hurtful things just as often as peaceful things.

We have all experienced the peace brought about by a clean slate—a fresh start but in the same way, we have all experienced pain as a result of bad experiences.

I have struggled in my life quite significantly and it wasn’t until recently that I came to some pivotal realizations.

I lived in prison. I was shackled. I was bound. I was a captive. My mind was the prison and my thoughts were the prison guard. I wasn’t living in the present. Rather I was stuck in the muck of my past and it was dreadful.

At first, I was the obedient prisoner. I did what I was told. I listened to the prison guard or the thoughts that told me I would never be free; the thoughts that told me that no matter how hard I tried I would never experience freedom or the joy that came with it.

It was dark and it was draining not only emotionally but also physically.

I started to rebel but I was rebelling against the truth. I rebelled against the idea that there was any light at all. So instead of looking up, I turned my back and started running deeper into the darkness.

For years I ran back toward this darkness immersing myself further in a depression. This depression told me that I wasn’t worthy and that I should just give up because no one would care anyway.

I know this is a reality that many people face but if you only get one piece of what I’m trying to say may it be this:

People do care and you are more worthy than you can even begin to understand. I know this is a hard reality to accept but know you aren’t alone and you never will be.

I have begun to realize that life doesn’t have to be this way, there is a way out of the prison--- there is a way to defeat the prison guard and open the door to a freedom that was always waiting for you.

It’s an answer you may not want to hear but the only way out of the prison is through recognizing the lies that the prison guard whispers as such and in retaliation throwing a punch backed by the truth.

The only way to open this door to freedom and a fulfilling life is through the love and the truth which is given abundantly by God. The only way to make the giant, depression fall is to surrender and accept help from the one that can defeat it. God.

It’s not easy to do. It’s a journey but it begins by making a choice every day to say “yes, Lord,” “I can’t do this on my own Lord.”

You can wake up every morning and choose to live your life as a captive to the lies or be captivated by God’s grace.

Become humbly victorious my friends. Praise God for His great work!

Cover Image Credit: Ben White

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