How the Grinch Saved Chanukah
Have you heard the amazing news?! In the attic of the Massachusetts home of Dr. Seuss, some researchers discovered a geniza! There in the attic, a treasure trove of discarded Jewish manuscripts. Never-before-seen works like:
- The Cat in the Kippah
- One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Gefilte Fish
- Oh the Places You’ll Shlep
- Green Eggs and Lox
- Hop on Pop, Take Pop to the Orthopedic Surgeon
- Horton Hears a Jew
But beyond all those tempting titles, one stood out above the rest. So tonight I am proud to present the international debut of Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Saved Chanukah!
All the Jews down in Jewville were busy preparing
the latkes and candles and fresh pickled herring.
To the Chanukah festival all thoughts were turned,
to the Maccabees’ win, and the oil they burned.
But the Grinch was not pleased, he was rather irate,
that he had to endure this, not one night, but eight!
“What’s all this mishigas, with the gelt and the dreidels?”
said the Grinch to the Jews, all the boychiks and maidels.
“If you’re looking for Chanukah somewhere in Scripture,
Check the Christian ones -- now are you getting the picture?
I’m sick of this nonsense, you’ve got it all wrong.
And don’t get me started on Chanukah songs!”
The children were stunned, and some of them whimpered.
(The Grinch was well known for his horrible temper.)
“Shame on you,” said the Jews, “for pooh-poohing their fun,
You’re ruining Chanukah for everyone.”
“That’s not true!” said the Grinch. “It is you Jews who blow it.
You get Chanukah wrong, and you don’t even know it!”
Every Jew down in Jewville loved Chanukah time,
so the Grinch’s behavior was nearly a crime.
But while everyone stood there, so angry and proud,
suddenly someone emerged from the crowd.
It was a young Jew, to the Grinch’s surprise,
who looked up at him with her innocent eyes.
Little Cindy-Lou Jew then said to the Grinch,
“If we’re getting it wrong, lend a hand, be a mensch.
If the meaning of Chanukah’s something you know,
then help us by teaching us Jews how it goes.”
At first the Grinch stared right at Cindy-Lou Jew.
No one ever had asked him, so simple and true.
“Yes I’ll share what I know,” said the Grinch to them all,
“And, with knowledge and wit, all of Jewville enthrall.
“Your heroes are Maccabees, warriors so brave,
who fought the Greeks rather than bow down as slaves.
They rid all Judea of pagan oppressors,
Making Israel a homeland for Jewish successors.
A miracle, sure, that the underdog won,
that a small band of Jews had the Greeks on the run.
And then, as the story you like to tell goes,
came the miracle of oil that everyone knows:
the oil that should have just lasted one night,
for a week and a day gave off heavenly light.
So we light our menorahs, our dreidels we spin,
for these miracles two, that happened there, then.
“But that’s not the whole tale!” said the Grinch with a shout.
“Let me tell you what Chanukah’s really about!
The story you know is just too black & white,
with Greek villains, and Maccabees setting things right.
The truth is a lot of Jews fell in the middle,
And pinning them down is the heart of this riddle.
They were Jews, to be sure, but they also felt Greek,
and compared to the Maccabees might have seemed weak.
They liked their Greek names, followed certain Greek ways,
But their Jewish neshamas illumined their days.
The Maccabees, too, though known as so pure,
learned Greek skills for battle that helped them endure.
And even the way that they wrote down their story
used techniques from the Greeks to make public their glory.”
The Grinch paused and looked out on the Jewville Jews’ faces.
Not a sound could be heard in the high and low places.
Bewildered, offended, confused or perplexed,
all were equally baffled by what happened next.
For Cindy-Lou Jew then spoke up to the Grinch,
“I get it now, thank you, it’s really a cinch.
The real tale of Chanukah makes much more sense,
In Jewville and everywhere else Jews pay rent.
We live ‘in between,’ just like those Greek Jews,
adapting and changing while facing the new.”
At that moment, the Grinch’s frown melted away,
And a smile appeared as he started to say,
“My dear Cindy-Lou Jew, you’ve got it, my girl,
the true Chanukah tale, now let’s give it a whirl.
We have enough feasts with that theme we repeat:
‘They tried to destroy us. We lived. Now let’s eat!’
Here’s to Chanukah teaching us something contrasting,
a message more resonant, truer and lasting:
Whenever Jews live in surroundings non-Jewish,
We adapt, and we thrive, and create something newish!”
Then Cindy-Lou Jew said, “The sun is now setting.
There’s something important that we’re all forgetting!”
The Grinch then reached into the pouch on his belt
and pulled out some candles, a dreidel, and gelt.
The Jewville Jews joyfully lit their menorahs
and broke into laughter while dancing the hora.
The Grinch said, “I’ll leave you with one final notion,
before we get lost in this festive emotion:
‘Dedication’ is how the word Chanukah’s defined,
if you learn nothing else, just keep this in mind.
When we’re spinning our dreidel and kindling our lights,
Let’s rededicate ourselves to the point of these rites.”
Hollered Cindy-Lou Jew, “A great miracle happened!”
And the Jewville Jews answered with singing and clapping.
The Grinch, with a flourish, said, “Strike up the band!”
And the children, with sufganiyot in their hands
Lifted voices and spirits and hands up in song,
And the Jewville Jews -- and all of you -- sang along!
* * *
Inspired by “A Chanukah Proposal” by Matthew Kraus, Tikkun Magazine, Nov/Dec 2003.
With gratitude (and apologies) to Dr. Seuss.