The Fire Of Memory

I know I’m going out on a limb right now, just as all those fun Hanukkah videos are making their social networking rounds. After reading what I have to say here, you might starting calling me the Grinch (or a worse word that kinda rhymes with “grinch”) Who Stole Hanukkah. That’s fine with me – the Gen X Yiddishe Mamme has to speak her mind.

I’m a fan of MyJewishLearning.com and of Bible Raps (just search for them on this blog – you’ll find several posts mentioning each). However, the Hanukkah song and video offered to us jointly by them, “Light Is In The Air (More Fire),” is adding to my worry about the apparently extremely short historical memory of young Jews today.

True to its name, Bible Raps, focuses on transmitting biblical narratives to children, teens and young adults through rap music. So, I have no problem with the lyrics of the song, which talk about references to fire in the Torah (the Burning Bush, God appearing in the desert as a pillar of fire, Temple sacrifice).

What I find disturbing are some of the images: a book of Torah (specifically, a book with Rashi commentary) burning, a Jewish person standing in a tight circle of fire, and large explosions and even mushroom clouds. I get it – despite what the Hellenist Greeks tried to do to us, we prevailed and the fire of Torah learning still resides within us.

But, excuse me, have the makers of the video never heard about the burning of Jewish books by those who sought to destroy us and our traditions in various dark times in our people’s history? Did the story of Haninah Ben Teradion being immolated by the Romans, the burning of Jews at the stake by the Inquisition, or the Nazi crematoria not come to mind? How could more recent news items of Jews dying in Israeli buses exploded by suicide bombers or the nuclear threat Iran poses to Israel not have set off a self-sensoring (aka anti-bad taste) mechanism?

There’s a warning at the end of the video – it says, “Warning: The fire stunts in this video are dangerous and should not be attempted in place of traditional Menorah lighting! No Bibles, Bible Rappers or Jew Fros were burned in the making of this video.” It’s good to know that this video making business is all make-believe. But what these guys don’t seem to appreciate is that many, many Jewish holy texts and human beings (curly haired and otherwise) have been burned for real.

© 2010 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.

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2 Responses to “The Fire Of Memory”

  1. Matt Bar Says:

    All things you mentioned that we might not be aware of we did in fact consider. And some things were censored. Our conscience is clean (and glowing a bit – more fire!). But thanks for the feedback.
    PS Rashi is fire – not on fire.

  2. Renee Ghert-Zand Says:

    Matt, thanks very much for commenting. As I wrote, I am a fan of your work in general, so please take my constructive criticism here in that light. As I mentioned in my post, I understood what you were trying to get across (eg. Rashi is fire – not on fire), but I just wanted to point out that there were many images that those of us who might be a bit older and wiser may be offended or shocked by. Maybe I just associate Hanukkah with bringing more light into the world, not fire, explosions, etc. I know you were trying to focus on fire in the metaphoric sense of the fire fueling Jewish learning and pride, but I thought that many of the images you used undermined that message by being more about the destructive use of fire.
    In any case, looking forward to seeing what your next projects are.
    Chag sameach,
    Renee

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