Monday, December 22, 2008

Chanukah 2008

Monday is the first day of Chanukah...tonight we light the second candle on the menorah.

I have to admit to having to recheck the historical story of Chanukah each year. I remember the part about the oil lasting eight days; it's the rest that doesn't come easily.

So, in case you have forgotten, here's the basic story, copied from my blog last year:

In 167 b.c.e., a Greek leader named Antiochus attempted to institute a Greek state religion. He ordered the takeover of the temple in Jerusalem, had a statute of Zeus built on its altar, and called for ritual sacrifice there and in other Jewish temples throughout the countryside. Mattathias killed the first Jew who came forward to offer a sacrifice as well as a state official, and he and his five sons were forced to escape to the hills. Together, they organized first a small band of rebels to resist Antiochus, which grew to a 6000 person army that retook Jerusalem and the Temple.

Three years from the day that Zeus was erected, the 25th of Kislav, Judas Maccabeus and his followers rededicated and purified the Temple in an 8 day celebration. Chanukah has been celebrated more or less continuously for 2,171 years.

According to a very short passage in the Talmud, the Maccabees came into the temple and after purifying it, went to relight the eternal flame. They only had enough oil for one day. Pressing new oil from the olive trees would take another week. Miraculously the oil lasted for the entire eight days.

The Rabbis who wrote the Talmud transformed the telling of the history from a heroic military battle into a story of God’s miracle and grace to the Jewish people. They moved it from a story based on the facts to a story based on the universal need for faith and hope and redemption. It is a truth story, not a true story.

So, take a moment tonight, whether you celebrate Chanukah or not, to be thankful for religious freedom and diversity. Be thankful for the light returning to the earth -- and maybe to your soul. Be thankful for the reminder that a small group of people can change the world. Celebrate the miracle of your life and the lives of the people you love. Light the light within you and bring it into the world. So may it be.

1 comment:

Cassandra said...

This is such a great story! Wishing you and yours a Happy Chanukah!