Shalom, peoples! Yeah, you were probably expecting to see the word “Christmas” in that post title, didn’t you? And especially with this being posted on Christmas morning? Well, my Christmas will be a subject for another post (perhaps a little later on this Christmas day, if not tomorrow). But I wanted to note that yesterday was the first day of Hanukkah. Now, I cannot profess to being an expert on Hanukkah or any sort of rabbinical studies as I am not of the Jewish faith. But from reading up on the holiday for this post, I understand that Hanukkah is to commemorate these things (and if I am incorrect, please don’t hesitate to correct the record in the comment section below):
- A successful turning point in the rebellion of Maccabean Jews against Greek forces from the ruling Seleucid Empire, who had outlawed Judaism and established worship of the Greek gods after their conquest of Judea.
- The purification of Jerusalem’s Holy Temple, center of Judaism, where Seleucid monarch Antiochus IV established a shrine and altar dedicated to the Greek god Zeus (complete with — um, eww! — pig sacrifices).
- And, most noteworthy, the rededication of said temple (“Hanukkah” means “dedication” in the Hebrew language). This included perhaps the most famous aspect related to Hanukkah — a menorah that miraculously remained illuminated for eight days running on nothing more than a one-day supply of the only untainted jug of olive oil the Jewish worshipers could find.
So, every Hanukkah (no matter when it occurs, as it jumps around the Gregorian calendar every year), those of the Jewish faith celebrate the rededicating and miraculous oil burning with several traditions: The family get-together; the eating of latkes and other food fried in oil (questionable in regards to healthiness, but it does allude to the 1-day oil); the spinning of the dredel; and, yes, the illumination of the menorah on each of the 8 days of Hanukkah. (Eight days? There’s a nice write-up of a reason for that here.)
But there’s something about those original aspects of Hanukkah I listed above that struck a chord in my heart and mind this year, especially with the year we’ve gone through and the possibly dark times that await us. I can’t help but equate Antiochus’ lack of benevolence with the attitudes of a certain thin-orange-skinned newly-elected leader and his lustful seeking of fame and fortune, no matter who stands in his way. Also, I can’t help but think that that same new leader’s stamping of his imprimatur on anything that only glorifies him, or at least makes him feel more well off than he already is, equates to Antiochus’ desire to conquer and impose his iron hand and his beliefs upon others. And I shudder to think of how those who blindly support that new leader will feel not only emboldened but inspired by their own hateful beliefs to leave our country as scarred and horrifically desecrated as Antiochus and his forces left the Holy Temple all those centuries ago.
I think, too, that once that same thin-orange-skinned man leaves his newfound office (one way or another), it will require us a long time to salve those scars and heal our country. I’m betting it will take a heck of a lot longer than it took the Jews to cleanse the Holy Temple once they drove out the Greeks. It will certainly take a lot longer than eight blessed nights, that’s for sure. But if those who held strong to their Jewish faith could stay strong in the face of adversity and rebuild, then we can hopefully stay strong and withstand the headwinds that await us, whether we are young or old, male or female, trans or cisgender, gay or bisexual or straight.
So, shalom aleichem to all of you, no matter what your faith may be, on this second day of Hanukkah. May it be a safe and enjoyable time for you all. And mazel tov — good luck — in the coming days, months, and years.