Saturday, December 24, 2011

Tebow and the Lessons of Hanukkah

Arnold M. Eisen, Chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary, finds a corollary between the meanings of Hanukkah and the example Tebow has shown this season.  Given Tebow's sideline prayer at the Bears game, we think Mr. Eisen will be pleasantly surprised.

This brings us to Mr. Tebow. Men and women who are grateful to God for daily miracles as well as extraordinary acts of salvation may subscribe to either of the stories of Hanukkah. They may believe, with the first story, that they "won" (whatever winning means in the context of their lives) thanks to their own efforts, backed up by God Who worked on their side. But they may also believe, with the second story, that because they won, they have the chance one more time, for at least one more day, to offer blessing to God. Like the rabbis, they want everything they do, great or small, to be an occasion for thanksgiving to their Creator.
If Tim Tebow is claiming, when he gets down on bended knee and points toward heaven, that God cares about Broncos victories on the football field, his theology frankly strikes me as absurd. I hope and believe that God has better things to worry about than football, even if God's attention span is infinite and therefore able to encompass a lot that lesser beings must leave aside while they are busy doing good. But if the quarterback is not thanking God for his touchdown passes, but rather testifying to the activity of God's strong right arm in the world and thanking God for his life and his gifts, Mr. Tebow is not all that different from the Rabbis who gave credit to "Mattathias, son of Yohanan" and his family of Maccabees for fighting against "cruel power," purifying the Temple, and "kindling lights in God's sacred courts."
Hanukkah means thanking God for help in doing that kind of work -- and summoning the courage to do the work, whether or not God's deliverance is at hand. That's the lesson behind the gifts, the latkes, the dreidels and the brisket. Darkness gives way when we light candles, one after another, week after week, year after challenging and wondrous year.

Full post here.