Saturday, December 13, 2008

Rudolph, a Chanukah Carol

In a post last year, I hinted that "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" seems more like a Chanukah story than a Christmas one. Further investigation and analysis of the song indicates that I was right.

Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer
Had a very shiny nose,
And if you ever saw it,
You would even say it glows.

Rudolph–probably Reuben, in reality (more on that later)–is different from the rest. He’s a reindeer, so he is of the same species, but he’s a "red-nosed" reindeer. This hints at a racial difference. Rudolph is actually Reuben, a Jew living in a world filled with goyim from which he stands out as a Jew.

Additionally, reading the Hasmonean period through the lenses of the Third Reich era, Reuben is distinguished from his neighbors most noticeably by his rather prominent schnoz. This national and religious heritage stands out–shining as a "light to the gentiles." You could even say his exemplary Jewishness "glows."

All of the other reindeer
Used to laugh and call him names.

The goyim (lit. "nations." the gentiles) in the Hellenistic era mercilessly mocked the Jews, and pressured them to become part of the Greek culture. The Hebrew idiom "to call a name," indicates naming someone like you would name a child or pet. This is not mere mockery, they are pushing Reuben to alter even his name to become part of the surrounding culture. Hence, they "call him a name," i.e. coerce him to change his name to, Rudolph.

They never let poor Rudolph
Join in any reindeer games.

Because of the fact that the Olympic-style games were played in the nude, Jews would not compete, and those who did had to go to ridiculous surgical measures to reverse or conceal the marks of their–um–masculine Jewishness.

Then one foggy Christmas eve
Santa came to say,
"Rudolph, with your nose so bright,
Won’t you guide my sleigh tonight?"

"Santa": the Holy One, blessed be He, is HASHEM himself, speaking through brave Judas Maccabee. Because of his passion for Jewish distinctiveness, Reuben (still called, "Rudolph," to hint at the extent to which Hellenistic culture had infiltrated even among the most devout of God’s people) is called to join in the revolution. An implicit pun refers to the bold and daring acts of battle under cover of darkness: "Won’t you guide my slay tonight?"

Additionally, the bright nose hints at the miracle of the oil. "Nose" has four letters. Yet, in the song, it is called both "shiny" and "bright." Hence, we double the letters in "nose" (lamp) and get eight, for the eight nights that the oil lasted to "light the way" in the reclaimed temple. A great miracle happened there, indeed!

Then how the reindeer loved him,
And they shouted out with glee,
"Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer,
You’ll go down in history!"

The celebration of Chanukah for eight nights celebrates the brave stance taken by the Maccabees and the joy of reclaiming and rededicating the temple.


The Ironic Catholic said...

The fact that you can sing it with "I Have A Little Dreidel" in perfect harmony is another clue....

(good job!)

Allen's Brain said...

Really? Chorus and all? Cool! Wish I'd known that last night when we went Cjristmas caroling!

The Ironic Catholic said...

By the way, check tomorrow's post/ You'll like it.