Tuesday, December 07, 2004


Happy Chanukah!

Tonight is the first night of Chanukah, the Jewish Festival of Lights, which commemorates the military victory of the Hasmonean family of priests over the Syrian Greeks in 165 B.C.E., as well as the miracle of the oil that burned for eight days.

Chanukah is a minor holiday (the only traditional Jewish holiday not mentioned in the Bible), primarily of interest in the United States because of its rather unfortunate coinciding with Christmas. The tendency of some Jews to try to turn it, largely for their children's sake, into a kind of Jewish analog to Christmas is especially unfortunate considering that Chanukah commemorates the refusal of the Jewish people to assimilate as their Greek rulers demanded!

That said, Chanukah is a very joyous, and surprisingly public holiday. One is commanded not merely to light the special menorah for 8 consecutive days, but to try to arrange so that the candles are visible from the outside. That bringing of light to the world, in the dark days of winter, makes Chanukah a very attractive holiday.

Chanukah is also a time to eat potato latkes, potato pancakes, my very favorite food in the entire world (fried foods recall the oil that burned eight days). Every Jewish boy is practically commanded to assert that his mother made the best latkes. Mine made, if not the best, certainly very tasty latkes.

In any case, Chanukah is a time for Jews to celebrate God's love for us, our refusal to knuckle under to attempts to destroy us, the miracle of the lights, and the fact that, 2169 years later, we are still here - a miracle if I ever heard one.

Chag sameach!
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