At the risk of presenting this post as click bait, let me just begin with the fact that this particular evening in December my world turned upside down.
I was told that there was no Santa Claus. More importantly, I was taught that the story of the Chanukah Miracle that I always believed as a child (c’mon, fifty-five years of believing) was shot to youknowwhere by our own beloved Rabbi Andrea Steinberger.
Chanukah — a time when we have believed that we were lights looking for more light. A time when we thought that the Macabbean Magic was not just their victory but it somehow extended into the magic of lipids….the physics of how oil for one night can burn for eight.
Big Yuge Lie — or as we know them to be now: Alternative Facts.
And here is the truth…or the Alternative Truth, or Authentic Lie…however you want to characterize it…
In 167 B.C.E. King Antiochus IV — of the Syrian-Greek Army, attacked the Temple in Jerusalem. For the next three years they defaced the Temple. They desecrated it. Many Jews gave up their observances…they were disheartened.
There was a group of Jews who continued to identify as Jews….a small band of folks…Super Jews, you might say…Zealots…by the name of Maccabee. Matisyahu and his son Judah — of the Hasmonean Dynasty. The light was alive in them, as it were.
They won a military battle — a few against many. Miraculous. YUGE.
They opened a fast of kosher olive oil to rededicate the Temple after it had been cleaned and purified.
Now it is three hundred years later. The Talmudic rabbis decided that as we celebrate Sukkot for a week…that we could also celebrate Chanukah — meaning “Rededication” (of the Temple) – also for eight days.
The miracle of the oil actually lasting eight days when it was only supposed to last for one…well kids, that is a myth. A Freaking Myth.
Rabbi Steinberger noted that the subject of Chanukah really pushes her buttons. The Rabbis, historically, became obsessed with the miracle. The Manufactured Miracle. The Alternative Fact.
The Actual Fact was that the Maccabees were extremists. There was a YUGE issue of Particularism vs. Assimilation. The candle, in our observance of this holiday, is symbolic of triumph.
In Rome, there is a menorah in the Arch. A public display of the menorah.
The Actual Miracle of Chanukah is the resistance. The Miracle of Chanukah is the opportunity for us to show our strength when things get difficult. When things get tough, the tough get to work!
Lighting hearts and minds in Assimilated Jews…this is the miracle and the mandate of Chanukah.
Can we rise to that opportunity?
There is a tradition, also rabbinic, of putting the lights of the menorah in the window…it is said that the people of the marketplace should be able to see the lights…to see that you are not assimilated…in order to fulfill the mitzvah. It is about opening the light into the outside. Sharing the inside with the outside.
Becoming public with our inner selves. But truly, how much of our insides do we really show? If it is a mitzvah to put our Chanukah lights in the public window…is it also a mitzvah to show the world who we are??
Next Aviv shared with us a children’s show, Parpar Nechmad, which has been alive and inspiring young Israeli children for a long time. It is interesting to note how the symbols changed in 1983 representing Chanukah as just menorah and dreidel….to the more Machismo/militaristically-inspired symbolism of 1993. Watch here: Parpar Nechmad 1983 and Parpar Nechmad 1993.