Whatâ€™s set the kvetchometer off this time, you may ask? Itâ€™s not that I have a theological problem with this, but itâ€™s justâ€¦a bit strange. Utah Senator Orrin Hatch, a Mormon, has written and performed a Hanukkah song to be released online.
When I first heard the news, I thought it a bit strange. Looking more deeply into the matter, I think that the song Hatch wrote and performed for Tablet magazine is a positive incentive for Jewish Hanukkah traditions.
Many Christian children are brought up learning the caroling traditions and songs that have been around for more than a century. Favorites like â€œJingle Bells,â€ â€œSanta Baby,â€ â€œDeck the Halls,â€ and â€œRudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeerâ€ are pop culture staples during the winter seasons. But what do we have in terms of popular songs to celebrate our winter festivities? Not many.
Take about a minute and try to brainstorm all the Hanukkah holiday tunes you can muster. When youâ€™re done, count them back. To be frank, the only one I could think of was Adam Sandlerâ€™s famous â€œHanukkah Song.â€ As a teenager who grew up watching the schticks of comedians like Jerry Seinfeld and Sandler, the jokes in Sandlerâ€™s song about Jewish delis and O.J. Simpson struck a familiar chord. However, Sandlerâ€™s song became famous because of both his humorous approach and its framework that is structured around Christmas carols. Indeed, the song opens, â€œThis is a song, that, uh; there’s a lot of Christmas songs out there, but not too many about Hanukkah.â€ Sandler wrote the song precisely because we have few Hanukkah tunes to jam to while lighting the menorah.
The Jewish Daily Forward recently chronicled some of the best-known Hanukkah songs. After skimming the article, I realized that I recognized almost none of the names. But, when I read the Forward article, I realized just how few songs kids today have that celebrate Hanukkah. How many Hebrew schools teach children to sing â€œThe Ballad of Judah Maccabeeâ€ or â€œCount the Candlesâ€? Those songs might be a bit old, but do we have anything else? I think that we could stand for a revival of Hanukkah tradition.
The singing tradition is one that brings families together on the holidays. The tradition of carols and holiday-themed songs are ones that I imagine many families cherish. I would have loved to sing with my family when I was younger about latkes and menorahs, but I just heard the traditional Hanukkah story. It would have been much more interesting as a child had it been set to music.
By no means do I think we need to compete with Christmas carols or produce that magnitude of music to celebrate our holiday. I do think, however, that the singing practice at holiday-time is a great one that I would love to emulate. Who wouldnâ€™t love singing about latkes and dreidels?
The fact that Orrin Hatch took it upon himself to write and perform a Hanukkah song is an incentive to Jews everywhere to step it up a notch. Maybe his song will become a staple on Hanukkah for some families. Also, who doesn’t love music? If itâ€™s our faith, letâ€™s jam with it! Chronicle your favorite Hanukkah memories, traditions, and the holidayâ€™s history into a little ditty that your family can sing every year.