So Hanukkah started on Wednesday night and it went fantastic! My mom, brother and his fiance and my in-laws all come over to support me in my attempt to be Jewish and raise a Jewish son. I said the blessings in my best attempt so far at Hebrew, lighted the menorah, ate latkes (fried potato pancakes), taught everyone how to play driedel and gave A. his first gift for Hanukkah.
Now I had put in a lot of thought about what to give each night. I wanted it to be fun things but clearly tie into the holiday and the meaning behind it. Well, as much meaning as an almost two year old could get. This lead me to a 12 DVD series about various aspects of Judaism that Sesame Workshop (who produces Sesame Street) is releasing over the next year. Volume 2, Chanukah: The Missing Menorah, coincidentally just released just in time for Hanukkah, score!
I watched a few previews on-line and decided to buy the DVD. Now for $12.63, which is what I scored it for along with free shipping, it still seemed a little steep for a 28 minute episode but I knew A. would get a kick out of it. I was so excited to see A.'s response that I almost gave him the DVD before Hanukkah even began but withheld the urge and I'm glad I did. He loved it! He clapped along to the songs and loved to point out the puppets on the screen. Now how much he's actually absorbing of the meanings or any of the Hebrew is really any one's guess but it's not really even the point. It instead gets him use to hearing correctly pronounced Hebrew and seeing other children light menorahs too.
That being said my overall thoughts about Chanukah: The Missing Menorah is that while it is short and I wish the DVD was longer (or cheaper), the overall message and meaning of Hanukkah is there in an age appropriate version. The DVD mixes segments with well known puppets (Grover), the main characters, guest apperances and recordings of Jewish children explaining the concepts and demonstrating how they celebrate the holiday. In the end it explains in simple terms why the holiday is remembered, why it is important and how different Jews celebrate it.
My only dislike about Chanukah: The Missing Menorah is that all of the details aren't always exactly correct. The biggest example that stuck out to me was when the second explanation (with puppets) was given that Judah Maccabee lit the seven branched menorah to celebrate the Temple being reclaimed. This is actually incorrect according to most bibical scholars. The oil is believed to have been to light the ner tamid (near ta-mid), or the eternal flame, that hangs above the Ark (where the Torah scrolls are kept). The nine branched menorah traditionally used now is simply a reminder of the eight days that the oil lasted, not because it is what was originally used. Of course, while I personally understand that the point of these series is to give a basic understanding of Jewish religion, culture and traditons and is not meant to be all inclusive in details, I still wish that some of the details had been corrected.
Overall though, A. and my first Hanukkah is going fantastically and while it's new and a little scary, it's also very comforting. It just feels right.