Christmas and Chanukah

Shalom. The two exactly coincide this year, which evidently has happened only 4 times in the last 100 years!  It’s good when they are close because we can fool ourselves into thinking there is no school because it’s Chanukah, and we are singing when Christians are singing and we are giving gifts when they are giving gifts.  But of course there is a flip side, as people think the holidays are similar.

Anyway, it’s not been the happiest of secular years that is soon ending, so how about a little on the lighter side to match the holiday season? First an old joke, then a new feel good story.

A teacher was curious about how each of her students celebrated Christmas.  She called on young Patrick Murphy.  “Tell me, Patrick, what do you do at Christmas time?” she asked.  Patrick addressed the class: “Me and my 12 brothers and sisters go to midnight Mass and sing hymns, then we come home and put mince pies by the back door and hang up our stockings.  Then we go to bed and wait for Father Christmas to come with toys.”

“Very nice, Patrick,” the teacher said.  “Now, Jimmy Brown, what do you do at Christmas?”   “Me and my sister also go to Church with Mom and Dad and we sing carols, and after we get home we put cookies and milk by the chimney and we hang up our stockings. We hardly sleep, waiting for Santa Claus to bring our toys,” Jimmy replied.  “That’s also very nice Jimmy,” she said.

Realizing there was a Jewish boy in the class and not wanting to leave him out of the discussion, she asked Isaac Cohen the same question. “Now Isaac, what do you do at Christmas?”   Isaac said, “Well, we go for a ride and we sing a Christmas carol.”  Surprised, the teacher questioned further. “Tell us what you sing.”   “Well, it’s the same thing every year. Dad comes home from the office.  We all get into the Mercedes, and we drive to his toy factory. When we get inside we look at all the empty shelves and we sing, “What a friend we have in Jesus.”  Then we all go on a cruise to the Bahamas.”

Something about that story makes me a little uncomfortable, but let’s stay positive. The past five years the Baltimore Jewish community has put up a giant thirty-two foot Menorah in the heart of downtown Baltimore on McKelden Square. In past years, the mayor of Baltimore and the governor of Maryland and many other dignitaries participated in the lighting celebration and the Menorah has become a holiday fixture downtown.

One of the problems they have always struggled with is how to properly illuminate the entire menorah at night. Nothing has really worked, so this year the rabbi/organizer went to his google machine and searched, “outdoor illumination Baltimore.” Sure enough, in just a flash, Google came up with a number of options. He randomly clicked on one of them, a company located in Harford County north of Baltimore called Good News Electric, and dialed the number. He explained the dilemma to the fellow who answered the phone and asked if this was something they could help with. His response was, “This is something you would need to talk to the boss, Mr. Dennis Seufert, about.”

When reached, Mr. Seufert had already been alerted to the request. It turns out that his downtown office is located just a few blocks away from the site so he went right over and took a look, as well as receiving a picture of the menorah. Within a half hour, Mr. Seufert called back and said they could easily do the job and, in fact, had just the right equipment in their warehouse to do it. Then, he was asked the all important question of how much it was going to cost. He paused for a moment and answered, “Rabbi, I am a devout Catholic and I believe in Divine providence. G-d brought you to me and I wouldn’t think of charging you.” He then added, “Where would we Christians be if not for the Jewish people?”

Does that illuminate and warm your heart? It did mine.

Best wishes for a Chag Chanukah Sameach. Bill Rudolph



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