Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Chanukah Refresher

Like most Jews, I can explain some details about Chanukah - yet when I was asked yesterday when it happened and a few details about the story, I found myself clueless. (Of course, dates aren't exactly my thing, if you asked me when the Civil War happened, I'd need to look that up too*). So, here's a few key facts about Chanukah beyond the fact that we light candles and eat yummy food cooked in oil:

  • Chanukah commemorates a military victory and miraculous event that occurred in 167 BCE. Here's the time line leading up to Chanukah:
    • 200 BCE - Jews are living independently in the Land of Israel
    • 175 BCE - Antichous IV Epiphanes becomes King Of Syria. Things start to go down hill, Jews are looted, massacred, and their religion is outlawed
    • 165 BCE - Things hit an all time low when Antichous orders a temple be created for Zeus
  • Judah Maccabee and his brothers lead a successful revolt to regain control of The Temple. Note, Judah earned the nickname Yehuda HaMakabi which means, I kid you not, Judah the Hammer. Even the WWF would be impressed with a nickname like that.
  • Along with the military victory, there's the miracle of the oil lamp - that is:
    According to the Talmud, olive oil was needed for the menorah in the Temple, which was required to burn throughout the night every night. But there was only enough oil to burn for one day, yet miraculously, it burned for eight days, the time needed to prepare a fresh supply of oil for the menorah.
    Hence the 8 days of Chanukah.
  • So, what's Chanukah all about? Well, it's certainly not about getting 8 nights worth of gifts. I think the standard prayer recited on the holiday sums it up remarkably well:
    ... [G-d] delivered the strong into the hands of the weak, the many into the hands of few, the impure into the hands of the pure, the wicked into the hands of the righteous, and insolent ones into the hands of those occupied with Your Torah.
    In other words, it's the ultimate underdog story. That'll teach the ancient Syrians to mess with us.

* - 1861 - 1865


  1. Or the modern syrians (48, 67, 73)- 3-0 unless you count Lebanon to be under syrian control, then the numbers definitely get fudged (82, 2006).

    Happy Chanukkah (does anyone really know how to spell this word in english anyway?)

  2. Thanks Dave for bringing the stats up to modern times.


    Yeah, nobody has a clue how to spell Hanukah. My plan, spell it differently every time write it this holiday.