Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.

The Irony of Celebrating Chanukah in a Sports Arena

December 17, 2012 5:56 pm 1 comment

Chanukah Half-time show at the Miami Heat. Photo: Jewish Heritage Night.

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.

Chabad of Florida performed a menorah-lighting ceremony at half-time, and a Hanukkah party was held on the court after the game.

But the event itself was really quite ironic.

How odd, I thought, to celebrate Hanukkah in a sports arena, given that the concept of sports is emblematic of Greek culture.

Besides placing a great emphasis on rational thought with thinkers like Aristotle and Plato, the Greek and Hellenist culture glorified masculine physical strength and sports. The story of Hanukkah is about opposing the Greek idea that we are just soulless material beings whose bodies are ends in themselves, devoid of the divine spark and human dignity which transcends our physical appearance.

The Book of Maccabees recounts how the Greek-culture Seleucid Empire provoked a revolt in part due to the Greek-style gymnasium built in Jerusalem. The gymnasium represented the glorification of the body.

On the other hand the Maccabees, too, are a symbol of physical strength, both as ancient warriors fighting for religious freedom and in the modern-day “Jewish Olympics” held in Israel every four years. Perhaps hosting a Hanukkah party at a basketball game is quite appropriate after all.

It not only symbolizes the physical prowess of the Maccabees but is also a message of sanctifying and harmonizing the mundane Greek culture for a Godly purpose. Infusing the spiritual with the physical. Focusing on physical strength and health is a very Jewish concept, so long as the human body is not seen as an end in itself but part of the eternal soul endowed to every person. Prohibitions against mutilating the body are based on the principle that we are required to maintain our health because a healthy body is a healthy soul. Our bodies are not ours to harm.

In deciding whether a public display of a menorah outside a government building violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, the U.S. Supreme Court, in Allegheny vs ACLU, ruled that a holiday display with a menorah was constitutionally permissible because in the context of other holiday symbols such as the Christmas tree, the menorah served as a secular symbol with universal significance. Despite the fact that the menorah also has a deep spiritual and religious significance, the court’s ruling indicates there is a secular, universal dimension to the menorah as well.

The message and struggle of Hanukkah is universally applicable to all people at all times. Although it has deeply religious origins, there is also a secular message to Hanukkah. We must strive to combine the health of the physical body with the sanctity of the soul. By lighting a menorah in a sports arena, we combine these two aspects of life.

Ultimately, the story of Hanukkah reflects on the struggle of the poor, oppressed and colonized over the long span of human history seeking to achieve freedom and liberty. The very fact that a menorah lighting would be accepted in a sports arena, the place that was once a symbol of Jewish oppression, is a sign of ultimate conquest of freedom over tyranny.

Also, what better way is there to fulfill the mandate of publicizing the story of Hanukkah then to broadcast it to tens of thousands of people watching basketball? The Maccabees would be proud.

1 Comment

  • Federman’s mistake lies right at the end of his article: “What better way to fulfill the mandate of publicizing the story of Hanukkah….”. To publicize the story? Who gave a mandate? By erecting a Menorah we are “publicizing” Hanukkah? No! By having a half-time Hanukkah show we are lowering Hanukkah to the level of “half-time Bruce Springsteen show” or a “half-time Burger King show”, and that’s disgusting! Ask gentiles what they know about an X-mas tree and you’ll see that Jews know the same about a Menorah. Why? Because planting a Menorah somewhere visible does NOT publicize anything to anyone. It serves only for the self aggrandizement of the “planter”, in this case, Chabad.

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Relationships US & Canada Analysis: Jewish Women Less Likely Than Catholics to Take Husband’s Name

    Analysis: Jewish Women Less Likely Than Catholics to Take Husband’s Name

    An analysis of New York Times wedding announcements showed that women married in Jewish ceremonies were less likely to take their husband’s last names than those married in Roman Catholic ceremonies, the Times reported on Saturday. The largest gap between the two groups was in 1995 when 66 percent of Catholic women took their husband’s names and 33 percent of Jewish women did the same. Nearly half of the women featured in the publication’s wedding pages since 1985 took their husband’s name after marriage, while about […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Jerry Lewis, Legendary Jewish Comic and Humanitarian, Stays Relevant at 89

    Jerry Lewis, Legendary Jewish Comic and Humanitarian, Stays Relevant at 89

    JNS.org – Through appreciation of both his comedy and humanitarian work, legendary Jewish entertainer Jerry Lewis is staying relevant at age 89. The only comic to ever be nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, Lewis added another award to his trophy case in April, when he received the 2015 Distinguished Service Award from the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB). Gordon Smith, NAB’s president and CEO, said the organization was “honored to recognize not only [Lewis’s] comedic innovation, but also his remarkable […]

    Read more →
  • Europe Sports Israeli Gymnasts Win Bronze, Silver Medals at 2015 European Games in Baku

    Israeli Gymnasts Win Bronze, Silver Medals at 2015 European Games in Baku

    Israeli athletes marked a successful day on Sunday, as gymnasts won multiple bronze and silver medals in the 2015 European Games in Baku. The Gymnastics team won two silver medals and one bronze in group events, while Neta Rivkin, an Israeli Olympic gymnast, won bronze for the Solo Hoops event. Sunday’s gymnastics wins follow Sergey Richter’s bronze on June 16 for the Men’s 10 meter air-rifle, and Ilana Kratysh’s silver for women’s freestyle wrestling. The 2015 European Games in Baku are […]

    Read more →
  • Theater Report Highlights Success of Russian-Jewish-American Ballroom Dancers

    Report Highlights Success of Russian-Jewish-American Ballroom Dancers

    Russian-American Jews are some of the most successful ballroom dancing competitors in the U.S., South Dakota Public Broadcasting (SDPB) Radio reported on Thursday. Jonathan Sarna, a professor of Jewish history at Brandeis University, said their success can be traced back to Jewish discrimination in the former Soviet Union. Because of the prejudice they faced, Russian Jews had to perform better than their peers in every field, including dancing, in order to have a chance of getting ahead. “They knew that if they […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture US & Canada Israeli Dancer With Shofar, Prayer Shawl Wows ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ Judges (VIDEO)

    Israeli Dancer With Shofar, Prayer Shawl Wows ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ Judges (VIDEO)

    An Israeli dancer made use of Jewish props in an extraordinary routine that left judges amazed when he auditioned for season 12 of TV dance competition So You Think You Can Dance on Monday. At first, the panel of judges appeared confused when Asaf Goren, 23, began his audition in Los Angeles with a tallit (prayer shawl) over his head and the blowing of a shofar, which he explained “opens the sky” for people’s prayers. However, as soon as he started his “Hebrew breaking” performance, […]

    Read more →
  • Sports US & Canada Jewish Hoops Fairytale Falls Short as David Blatt’s Cavaliers Drop Game 6

    Jewish Hoops Fairytale Falls Short as David Blatt’s Cavaliers Drop Game 6

    JNS.org – A fairytale ending to Jewish basketball coach David Blatt’s first season in the National Basketball Association (NBA) was not meant to be, as the Blatt-led Cleveland Cavaliers on Tuesday night dropped Game 6 of the NBA Finals to the Golden State Warriors, 105-97, to lose the best-of-seven series 4-2. Blatt, who just last year coached Israel’s Maccabi Tel Aviv franchise to a European basketball championship, failed to finish a second straight hoops season on top. But after the Cavaliers began the NBA […]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Sports Israelis Venture to Cleveland for NBA Finals

    Israelis Venture to Cleveland for NBA Finals

    JNS.org – The people who sat in seats one and two of row 12, section 120 at Quicken Loans Arena during Game 3 of the NBA Finals on Tuesday night weren’t your ordinary Cleveland Cavaliers fans. Tomer Hulli and his father, Eli, made the trip from Israel to attend games 3 and 4 in Cleveland. Tomer, who lives in Tzur Moshe, a 25-minute drive north of Tel Aviv, has been playing basketball since he was 5. Hulli said he didn’t plan this […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Israel Bon Jovi Signs Contract to Perform in Israel

    Bon Jovi Signs Contract to Perform in Israel

    JNS.org – The American rock band Bon Jovi signed a contract in Germany that officially commits it to perform in Israel on Oct. 3, the concert’s producers announced at a press conference. The move marks the latest defeat for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement activists seeking to convince musicians not to perform in the Jewish state. Bon Jovi’s performance in Israel for the final show of its Asian concert tour is the result of an effort by Guy Besser and Shay Mor Yosef of BlueStone Productions, in cooperation with promoter Marcel […]

    Read more →