Put on Your Yarmulke and Celebrate Chanukah!
In the words of Adam Sandler, as well as Jewish scholars and theologians, “Chanukah is the festival of lights.” Out of all of the Jewish holidays, Chanukah probably gets the most attention, however it is ironically one of the least important holidays. The holiday itself is a historical holiday that celebrates the story of the miracle of the oil of how it lasted for 8 days and nights.
The story of Chanukah begins during the reign of Alexander the Great. Alexander conquered Syria, Egypt and Palestine, but allowed the lands under his control to continue observing their own religions with relative autonomy.
More than a century later, a successor of Alexander, Antiochus IV came in control of the region. He began to oppress the Jews severely, placing a Hellenistic priest in the Temple prohibiting the practice of the Jewish religion, and desecrating the Temple by requiring the sacrifice of pigs on the altar. A group called the Maccabees came to oppose Antiochus. They were led by Judah Maccabee and revolted against both the assimilation of the Hellenistic Jews and the oppression by the Seleucid Greek government. The revolution succeeded and the Temple was rededicated.
According to tradition as recorded in the Talmud, at the time of the re-dedication, there was very little oil left that had not been defiled by the Greeks. Oil was needed for the menorah in the Temple, which was supposed to burn every night. There was only enough oil to burn for one day, yet miraculously, it burned for eight days. An eight day festival was declared to commemorate this miracle. Note that the holiday commemorates the miracle of the oil and not the military victory.
Some other interesting facts about the traditions that followed. The dreidel which was a gambling game, came about when those who wanted to study Torah which was illegal during the time, would play dreidel whenever an inspector would come by looking to see if there were those trying to break Antiochus’ law.
The Hebew letters Gimel (all), Shin (some), Nun (none), and Hei (half) while they represent the rules of the game they also come to spell out a symbolic phrase: “Nes Gadol Hayah Sham” or a “Great Mircale Happened There.” Interestingly enough, if you happen to purchase a dreidel in Israel the phrase says: “Nes Gadol Hayah Poh” or a “Great Miracle Happened Here.”
To everyone in the Rocket Community enjoy the remaining week and have a wonderful winter break!