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 Yossi Vardi Credits Pushy Jewish Mother for His Startup Success

    Yossi Vardi Credits Pushy Jewish Mother for His Startup Success

    Millionaire entrepreneur Yossi Vardi credited his success in start-ups to his Jewish mother continuously pushing him to do better, Daily Mail reported on Thursday. “Jewish mothers are never satisfied and nothing is ever good enough,” he said, adding that his mother, who died 15 years ago, used to compare him with his cousins and say he was “an idiot.” “For most of my life I have been trying to show her I’m not,” he continued. “I keep on trying even now.” Vardi, […]

    Read more →
  • Theater US & Canada Seth Rogen Unveils New Christmas Movie — ‘Will Open on Thanksgiving, Made by Jews’ (VIDEO)

    Seth Rogen Unveils New Christmas Movie — ‘Will Open on Thanksgiving, Made by Jews’ (VIDEO)

    Famed actor Seth Rogen on Tuesday unveiled with typical comic fanfare the trailer for his new Christmas film. The movie “was made by Jews… and opens on Thanksgiving,” Rogen pointed out on Twitter. The Night Before tells the tale of three “ride or die homies” celebrating one last debauchery-filled Christmas Eve reunion before they become too busy to keep up their annual tradition. In an effort to make the night as memorable as possible, they set out to find the “Nutcracka Ball – the […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Jewish History Art Can Inspire Faith; It Can Also Empower Destructive Ideologies

    Art Can Inspire Faith; It Can Also Empower Destructive Ideologies

    A June 2015 art exhibit, “The Transformative Power of Art,” at the United Nations headquarters in New York City, harnessed the universal language of art to convey an important message: “Our fragile Mother Earth faces the devastating consequences of climate change, a defining challenge of our time.” The exhibit also included sixteen portraits of people from all over the world who have “contributed to the common good of humanity in one way or another and have transformed the way we […]

    Read more →
  • Israel Sports Israeli Muslim Cage Fighter Says He’s Proud to Fight Under Jewish State’s Flag

    Israeli Muslim Cage Fighter Says He’s Proud to Fight Under Jewish State’s Flag

    A 32-year-old Circassian Israeli Muslim Mixed Martial Arts fighter from Abu Ghosh says he takes pride in fighting under the Israeli flag, Israel’s Walla reported on Sunday. Like most Circassian Israelis, Jackie “the Punishment” Gosh was born Sunni Muslim. He became observant about eight years ago, and is now scrupulous in following his religion’s tenets, praying five times a day and fasting during the holy month of Ramadan. Gosh is also very proud of his Israeli nationality, and sees no contradiction between […]

    Read more →
  • Israel Music New Mark Skinner Documentary Explores Jewish, Arab Rap Scene in Israel (VIDEO)

    New Mark Skinner Documentary Explores Jewish, Arab Rap Scene in Israel (VIDEO)

    A new documentary explores the lives and work of Jewish and Arab rappers in Israel and how the ongoing conflict in the region has impacted their lyrics, the U.K.’s Jewish Chronicle reported on Thursday. Hip Hop in the Holy Land is a six-part series co-directed by Mike Skinner, the British frontman of hip-hop group The Streets, and produced by Noisey, a music channel published by Vice news. The first episode, published last week, shows Skinner meeting with Tamer Nafar, the founder of one of […]

    Read more →
  • Sports US & Canada 49ers Running Back Jarryd Hayne Apologizes for ‘Hurtful’ Jesus Tweets

    49ers Running Back Jarryd Hayne Apologizes for ‘Hurtful’ Jesus Tweets

    New 49ers running back and Australian rugby star Jarryd Hayne apologized on Wednesday for a tweet in which he raised the age-old myth that Jews were historically responsible for Jesus Christ’s death. Reaching out to his Jewish fans, and the chairman of the B’nai B’rith Anti-Defamation Commission, Hayne tweeted: “To the Jewish community @DvirAbramovich #WeAreAllOne.” Underneath, he keenly included a screenshot of a text message to elaborate on his apology: “I sincerely apologize for my tweets on July 1. I […]

    Read more →
  • Theater Israeli Actress Gal Gadot Recalls Being ‘Extremely Surprised’ at Winning Miss Israel Contest

    Israeli Actress Gal Gadot Recalls Being ‘Extremely Surprised’ at Winning Miss Israel Contest

    Israeli actress Gal Gadot reminisced about her childhood in Israel during an interview published in this month’s edition of Vanity Fair. “I don’t remember this, but my mom told me that when I was three they threw a party on the rooftop of the house. They put me to bed, and I heard people coming into the house and no one came to me. I went to the rooftop and took a hose and I started to spray water on everyone, just […]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Features Wounded Israeli Soldiers Unite With American Veterans to Help Their ‘Brothers for Life’ Heal (INTERVIEW)

    Wounded Israeli Soldiers Unite With American Veterans to Help Their ‘Brothers for Life’ Heal (INTERVIEW)

    An Israeli organization is helping wounded U.S. veterans move past their physical and psychological challenges by connecting them with injured Israeli soldiers who understand what they’ve been through. “What we discovered very early is that there’s no ‘professional, psychiatrist, social worker’ or anything like that [or] pills that can come even close to helping a soldier who fought in combat, who was wounded, who lost his friends. No one can help him like another person who’s been through exactly what he has,” Rabbi Chaim Levine, […]

    Read more →