My brother runs 2002 studios (http://www.2002studios.com) - a music and content production company. Its a very diverse company that does everything from original composition and arrangement, to recording and engineering albums, to voice-overs, to computer games ... anything where sound is needed in any multi-media context. Recently he was asked to contribute the music to a seasonal computer game, originally called 'A little helper: Christmas Collect', my brother suggested to the game designers, 'Why not add a Chanukah option?' Sure enough they did. You now have the option of answering the question 'What are you celebrating?' with either 'Christmas' or 'Chanukah'.
When you select the 'Chanukah' option, you are introduced to the scenario: 'Rabbi Santavitch is packing his Chanukah and holiday season gifts onto his snow mobile to take to the local Jewish Community Center for his Jewish and multifaith friends. Whilst on his way to the community center, he didn't notice his presents falling all over the frozen lake ...'
We discover that it is our job to play the part of the shmelf who wants to help out by skating over the lake, collecting the gifts.
Obviously, we're having fun with the Santa story, but this is one of those Chanukah moments that I really love; a Jewish expression of the universal spirit of gift-giving and helping to spread some light and happiness around. Its not deep but it is an important part of the wider culture of this season and, so often, when families fret about how to make Chanukah 'compete' with the Christmas season, what we're missing is that the piece that everyone wants to be part of is the spirit of giving and receiving. Its fun, it feels good, and we want to be a part of it too. And I'm not bothered about borrowing from the broader culture in this playful way. We all get the joke. And the wonderful irony of Chanukah is that, if you look at just about every single feature of 'traditional Chanukah celebration' (the menorah, the latkes, the dreidle, the tune of Maoz Tzur...) you'll find that we've borrowed every single one of them from another culture (the Canaanites, Eastern Europe, a medieval gambling game, the earliest form of which has been traced back to Anglo-Saxon England in the Tenth Century, and a medieval German marching tune!)
Its a cute little game that is - beware - rather addictive.
So... a little gift from the Gurevitz clan - play the game here. Enjoy, share with your friends and a very happy 7th night of Chanukah!
Rabbi Rachel Gurevitz