Celebrating Light Over Darkness: Abq Jew is very happy to report that - once again! - the 2020 presidential election is over. Former Vice President Joe Biden is now the President-elect. Senator Kamala Harris is now the Vice President-elect.
And it's time to celebrate Hanukkah.
Many of us are mourning the more than 290,000 of our neighbors who have been taken from us by Covid-19. And some of us - Mr & Mrs Abq Jew included - are mourning more personal losses of family members and old, dear friends.
Only to discover that light will tonight overtake the darkness, as we and Jews all over the world begin our celebration of Chanukah, the Festival of Lights.
Hanukkah does not cancel shiva, even though, in our Jewish tradition, simcha - joy - takes precedence over mourning.
There is a story in the Talmud of two processions – a wedding procession and a funeral procession – that meet at an intersection too narrow to allow both to pass. One of the processions will need to step aside to allow the other to progress; but which one should go first?
The rabbis concluded that the wedding procession should get the right of way. Why? Because hope and optimism about the future (as represented by the bride and groom) should always take precedence over the past. We are a people who believe in the future – even in the face of sadness.
Even as many of us are living through hard times of unemployment, loss of income, and food insecurity, let's take a few minutes to celebrate Hanuka Gelt! - Chanukah Money! - with the Klezmatics.
Here is some vital (OK ... Abq Jew thinks it's vital) background about the song, the songwriter, the album, and the performers.
An American klezmer music group based in New York City, who have achieved fame singing in several languages, most notably mixing older Yiddish tunes with other types of more contemporary music of differing origins.
An American singer-songwriter, who is considered to be one of the most significant figures in American western folk music. His music, including songs such as "This Land Is Your Land", has inspired several generations both politically and musically.
An album by the Klezmatics, released in 2006. It contains Hanukkah-themed songs, of which the lyrics to most were written by American folk singer Woody Guthrie in 1949.
Didn't know about Woody Guthrie's profound (indeed!) Jewish connections? Rabbi Joshua Eli Plaut wrote about them in 2014:
Here is a recent American tale of old wine in new vessels. Part of our national folklore reveals that Woody Guthrie, the iconic American folk troubadour and songwriter, composed Hanukkah songs.
In a 2003 concert, the Klezmatics, a popular Grammy Award-winning Klezmer band, performed Hanukkah songs showcasing lyrics written from 1949 through the early 1950s by Woody Guthrie.
The lyrics had laid fallow and long-forgotten in Guthrie’s archives until their discovery in 1998 by Woody’s daughter, Nora Guthrie. Nora asked the Klezmatics to write original music for the lyrics, which fuses strains of Klezmer music with American folk and bluegrass.
The 2006 album, “Woody Guthrie’s Happy Joyous Hanuka,” comprises many different songs....The songs were in part biographical. Woody was married to Marjorie Mazia, a Jewish dancer with the Martha Graham Dance Company who was the daughter of Aliza Greenblatt, an activist and Yiddish poet.
Nora remembers “For Hanukkah actually, we had a hat — we didn’t get presents — but we had a hat with different amounts of Hanukkah gelt, and every night we’d pick out five cents or twenty-five cents of gelt. My mother played piano, and we used to sing and dance every night.”