And how do they celebrate Hanukkah? In a Hummer, naturally.
You didn't know this? You didn't realize our ancient ancestors gathered in big-box retailers and then paraded in SUVs the size of small planetoids?
Neither did I. But now that I've brushed against rabbinical greatness, sort of, I'm an expert in the ultra-Orthodox observance of this otherwise minor holiday and therefore feel obligated to enlighten you all.
I went to Target yesterday for diapers, stain stix and pantyhose, in that order. The anti-Martha in me was planning to whip up some serious holiday fun dangling Toy Story training pants from nylons festively strewn across the mantel. And nothing says "Festival of Lights" like drawing Jewish stars on your windows with stain stix.
So there I was in Target, the Minitaur happily tossing cheese crackers into his bottomless pit, perusing the last of the dogearred Hanukkah cards. It unnerved me that there was actually another person crowding the tiny display rack with me. Who was he? What did he want?
The man turns to me and says, "So, you going to the big lighting?"
What big lighting?
Twenty minutes later, I am armed with directions and a stern lecture that I must compete with Christmas lights and Santa or my son is doomed, doomed I tell you. I am obligated as a parent, as a Jew, as a carbon-based life form, to bring my son to "the big lighting," whatever that is.
I have less than an hour to finish all my shopping and get my sorry, secular butt over there.
I tell myself that if I get there, I get there. No biggie. The directions take me to the biggest intersection in town. I'd need a helicopter to find a menorah there. I'm thinking, no way a town of 67,000 that can count its Jewish population in the mere double digits is holding a religious shindig at rush hour smack in the middle of its busiest thoroughfare.
Nonetheless, I make a two-mile loop and approach the same intersection from another direction.
And there, in front of a car dealership, is an enormous line-up of Hummers, each with a giant menorah on top and a sign saying, "Happy Chanukah from the Chabad."
The Chabad is a community center for the super-duper, industrial-strength, extra-ultra Orthodox. You don't get much more kosher than a Chabadnik. I am usually ashamed to breath the same sanctified air as they, but once Minitaur spotted the fire truck with the menorah mounted across the back, I had no choice.
I quickly found Target man, who introduced me to a svelte redhead about my age. I naturally assumed such a beautiful woman would be married to this handsome, tall and gregarious man.
It was the rabbi's wife. It took 10 minutes of staring at her head before I realized she was, indeed, wearing a wig. They do that. They wear wigs. Something to do with only your hubby seeing your real hair, which means that the stereotypical ultra-Orthodox woman looks as if some exotic and badly groomed acrylic animal is nesting on her head.
But this woman was the package, wig and all. She was dressed in a narrow skirt, a comfy sweater and clogs, as opposed to the baggy, soiled jeans and formless pea coat I wore. My inferior status was obvious, but she didn't even snicker. So how Jewish could she possibly be?
Mrs. Rabbi snapped a digital photo of Minitaur and me by one of the Hummers, jotted down my email address, then asked us to join her and her eight (!) kids at the start of the parade route. We had a great view. The best part? The police motorcade halted the long lines of impatient drivers to let the Hummers pass.
All night long, Minitaur would chitter away about "Police stop cars! Make cars stop!"
Compete with Christmas? Heck, I got to show my son that we Jews stop traffic. That, and parting the Red Sea, are pretty big deals.
I left feeling buoyed and with a dinner invitation. I called my husband and said, "Guess where we're spending Christmas Eve?"
Dunno, he said.
"With a Chassidic rabbi and his eight kids!"
My husband is agnostic. He is a determined non-believer. The closest he's come to Orthodox anything is the occasional Hebrew National hot dog.
But we're going to spend, uh, excuse me, just another ordinary Shabbos eve with a real, live ultra-Orthodox rabbi and his lovely wife.
Us! Virtual infidels!
My mother will plotz when she hears this.
Update: As you can see, Mrs. Rabbi came through with the Hummer photo. And Mom plotzed.