Enclosed is a check from my parents, consisting of “Hanukkah gelt.” (Suddenly it occurs to me that “gelt” must be Yiddish.) Are you familiar with this concept? On Hanukkah one gives children money—I believe, only children.
On Purim, one ministers to the generally poor, but Hanukkah—a holiday of militant revolution—is celebrated by playing games, eating fried potatoes, and enriching children. Perhaps the sages who slowly perfected this religion (or dare I say, are continually perfecting this religion?) believe that military struggle is child’s play, or basically childish. And perhaps they are right.
Of course, my knowledge of Judaism is so sketchy that a good percentage of the previous information is probably near-wrong. But did you ever taste that particular Hanukkah candy which comes in the form of shiny gold coins? You peel back the foil to reveal milk chocolate—always milk chocolate. (I believe I was born with a preference for dark chocolate, which, though undetected in my youth, brought on a slight disappointment with Easter and Hanukkah, the two chocolatocentric holidays. And isn’t dark chocolate more healthful?*)
But I’ve been thinking about the chocolate-as-money idea lately—proof that Jews have a constitutional emotional problem with currency. Who else would eat money? I must have encountered this treat when I was so young that the peeling back of the foil struck me as impossible magic, causing me to wonder: “Does everything have chocolate inside?” or “Does everything have some inner secret, which only adults know?” But the miracle of candy within money, as it happened, was the last such mystery. The rest of the world was simply as it appeared. Inside trees was wood; inside rocks was more rock.
Though under rocks were sometimes helpless, wriggling near-blind creatures—occasionally all white!
*Preliminary Internet research suggests this is true.