Happy Hanukkah, Chanukkah, Hanukah, Channukah…

So many spellings for Hanukkah, though this is the most widely accepted. The one true spelling is in Hebrew, and the rest are simply the transliteration from the original Hebrew script, hence the spelling confusion.

Hanukkah2014c
From a previous Hanukkah at my house.

While Hanukkah is not one of the high holidays in Judaism, as many Christians believe, it has become a bigger deal, if only because of the fusion of two cultures. Jews living in Diaspora, in the West, have assimilated to one degree or another, and with Hanukkah falling around the same time as Christmas, non-Jews have come to think of it has the “Jewish Christmas.” Hardly.

As Tracey Rich from Judaism 101 writes, “It is bitterly ironic that this holiday, which has its roots in a revolution against assimilation and the suppression of Jewish religion, has become the most assimilated, secular holiday on our calendar.”

It is however, about miracles.

Interfaith Hanukkah-Xmas 2013
Hanukkah at an interfaith household. You can see Christmas lights outside!

The experts at Chabad explain:

Under Syrian Rule

More than 2000 years ago there was a time when the land of Israelwas part of the Syrian-Greek Empire, dominated by Syrian rulers of the dynasty of the Seleucids.

In order to relate the story that led up to Chanukah, we shall start withAntiochus III, the King of Syria, who reigned from 3538 to 3574 (222-186 B.C.E.). He had waged war with King Ptolemy of Egypt over the possession of the Land of Israel. Antiochus III was victorious and the Land of Israel was annexed to his empire. At the beginning of his reign he was favorably disposed toward the Jews and accorded them some privileges. Later on, however, when he was beaten by the Romans and compelled to pay heavy taxes, the burden fell upon the various peoples of his empire who were forced to furnish the heavy gold that was required of him by the Romans. When Antiochus died, his son Seleucus IV took over, and further oppressed the Jews….

Yada, yada, yada, long story short: (See Chabad for the entire story.)

… Now the Maccabees returned to Jerusalem to liberate it. They entered the Temple and cleared it of the idols placed there by the Syrian vandals. Judah and his followers built a new altar, which he dedicated on the twenty-fifth of the month of Kislev, in the year 3622.

Since the golden Menorah had been stolen by the Syrians, the Maccabees now made one of cheaper metal. When they wanted to light it, they found only a small cruse of pure olive oil bearing the seal of the High Priest Yochanan. It was sufficient to light only for one day. By a miracle of G-d, it continued to burn for eight days, till new oil was made available. That miracle proved that G-d had again taken His people under His protection. In memory of this, our sages appointed these eight days for annual thanksgiving and for lighting candles.

Happy Hanukkah everyone!

First night of Hanukkah
First night of Hanukkah.

D.M. Miller is the author of The Religion of the Heart, an interfaith love story available at amazon.com.

 

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