Chanukah message from 1913 Pittsburgh

Chanukah Menorah

This Chanukah message appeared in the Jewish Criterion of Pittsburgh, PA on December 19, 1913. (Parenthetically, the Federal Reserve System was created with the signing of the Federal Reserve Act within a week of the publishing of this holiday message.)

HANUKKAH AND CHRISTMAS.

To our readers and friends we extend sincerest wishes for a happy and joyful Hanukkah week. May the memories of brave names, called again before us, fill our souls with renewed enthusiasm for the faith of our fathers. The kindling of the lights should awaken within every Jewish heart a deeper and more abiding love for Israel and its ideals.

Next Wednesday, the day before Christmas, the happy week will be ushered in. When the first candle will be kindled on Tuesday evening, we trust that our Jewish people will concentrate their thoughts on Mattathias and his valiant sons, without waiting for the holiday of their neigh­bors to commence celebrating. We never could see why the beautiful symbolism of the candles, commemorating the wonderful bravery of the Maccabees, was less meaningful to Jews than the signs and ceremonies of the Christmas festival. The one event is grounded in history, the other is not. The one narrates the story of unequalled heroism for a world ideal, the other records an uncertain date, at best, and which is chiefly remembered by Jews as being the time for yearly persecutions and outrages. Mindful of this, let us concentrate our thoughts on the joys within our own history, without borrowing those of our neighbors.

One of the saddest experiences of our life was in passing along East Broadway in New York, about ten years ago on Christmas Day. Window after window was decorated, often with a Christmas tree. Pre­sumably, every household had left Russia to escape persection [sic], yet how quickly had all their sorrows been forgotten. In the old country, Christ­mas Eve was a night of dread and apprehension, and in the new land it became an occasion to outdo their neighbors in celebrating. The Jew has no reason to exchange his Hanukkah gladness and candles for his neighbor’s mirth and tree. This joyful week will soon be upon us, and may its message of loyalty to Judaism enter our souls, making us better and more zealous children of Israel.

It’s a nice basic message – “cherish your own holiday.” I’d like to think that the number of Jews celebrating Christmas over Chanukah is at least somewhat lower now than it was in 1913, giving the flourishing of American Judaism and Jewish pride over the last 99 years. (If nothing else, at least the holidays don’t overlap this year.)

Drizzling in the Sukkah – To Eat or Not to Eat?

As is well known, while the consumption of bread on Sukkos must take place in a sukkah in most circumstances, significant rainfall is an exception to the rule. If there is significant rainfall, it is permitted to eat bread outside of the sukkah. At what point, however, is rainfall considered “significant?”

The mishna in Sukkah (2:9) permits eating outside a sukkah when the rainfall is strong enough to ruin a porridge-like substance. The Shulchan Aruch seems to agree. Based on this, the criterion for determining whether rainfall is a legitimate exemption from eating in the sukkah seems to be the quantity of rain.

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A sukkah covered 51% by schach (“schach coverage”) is fit for use.* While 100% schach coverage renders a sukkah invalid, the schach coverage can get close to that figure. I feel quite certain that schach coverage well north of 95% would still render the sukkah kosher.

What results is quite interesting. You can have two neighbors, one with a schach coverage of 51%, the other with a schach coverage of 96%. Both have kosher sukkahs. Yet when a light rainfall occurs, one of them must remain in the sukkah while the other is permitted to eat inside his house

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* When we say that schach coverage of 51% is acceptable, that means schach spread (more or less) across the whole sukkah in a uniform pattern which covers only 51% of the area is acceptable. A sukkah with 100% schach coverage on the right half and 2% schach coverage on the left half would not be valid even though its schach coverage would average out to 51%.