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What the Talmud Taught Me About Christmas

Or: the Hanukkah candles' criticism of Particularism and Universalism
Rabbi Avital Hochstein is a faculty member at the Shalom Hartman Institute and has learned, taught, and done research at the institute for more than 15 years. In 2016, she was among the first recipients of rabbinical ordination from the Shalom Hartman Institute / HaMidrasha at Oranim Beit Midrash for Israeli Rabbis. Avital is currently working on her Ph.D., focusing on Talmud, in the Gender Studies Program at Bar Ilan University. Avital is President of

On Hanukkah we mark two spheres of uniqueness and separateness: home and nation. These two particularistic spaces form a basis for identities of both individuals and groups of people. They provide a starting point for connection, and, generally speaking, mark boundaries that project on those included and on those excluded from the space delineated by them.

They carry the weight, not only of uniqueness, but also of separatism. The rituals of Hanukkah and the narratives that accompany them send a message of precedence to these two particularistic spaces—the home and the nation.

The Talmudic tradition, however, in its gentle and incisive manner, also critiques both through the medium of its discourse on the Hanukkah candles.

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