Dazed and confused? Not me. I’m just Lost in the Cheese Aisle.

Monday, December 14, 2015


“...In the days of Mattathias son of Yochanan the High Priest, the Hasmoneans and their sons, there arose a cruel power against Your nation Israel, demanding that they abandon Your Law and violate Your commandments. And You, in Your great mercy, stood up for them in the time of their trouble, defending them, vindicating them, and avenging the wrong done to them. You delivered the strong into the hands of the weak, the many into the hands of the few, the spiritually unclean into the hands of the pure, the evil into the hands of the righteous, the arrogant into the hands of those who were faithful to Your Law. And You wrought great victories and miraculous deliverance for Your people Israel unto this day, revealing Your glory and Your holiness to the world. Then Your children came into Your Temple, purified Your sanctuary, and kindled lights in Your sacred courts. They set aside these eight days as a season for giving thanks and reciting praises to Your holy Name.”  - from the daily Chanukah liturgy

Many of our non-Jewish friends - and many of us Red Sea Pedestrians ourselves - are under the mistaken impression that the central story of Chanukah has to do with the so-called miracle of the oil: a single day’s supply of the consecrated oil used to light the candelabrum in the Temple having lasted a full eight days, long enough for additional supplies to be prepared.

But that story, miraculous as it may be, is nothing but a fable... a tall tale for the children, and an excuse to eat fried foods all week. The real miracle is the victory of a small band of warriors - the Hasmoneans - over a vastly superior power, the Seleucid Greco-Syrian rulers of Judea, who wanted to force the Jews to assimilate into their pagan culture. That is where the hand of the Eternal One was truly revealed.

To say that Chanukah is all about the oil is like saying Christmas is all about Santa Claus. It misses the point.

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