December 1, 2010, - 6:07 pm
As you know, tonight at sundown the Jewish holiday of Chanukah begins. I love the holiday and what it stands for becuase it has so many important messages for today, which are, unfortunately, lost on so many Jews. In fact, it’s not exaggerating that the battles the brave Maccabees fought against the yokes of Hellenist Seleucid tyranny against the Jewish people–well, those battles are battles that most of the Jewish people today are willingly losing to our modern-day enemies.
Chanukah Postcard from Jewish World War II Soldier, Produced by Jewish Welfare Board (from my collection):
And it’s no coincidence that the most liberal–the most solicitous to Islamic enemies of the Jewish people–are also, in most cases, the least religious Jews, just like the Hellenist Jews who chose the Seleucid empire which mesmerized them beyond reclamation. As I noted earlier today and in years past, the most brutal–the most bloody and deadly–battles the Maccabees fought were not against the armies of Antiochus Ephiphanes. They were against their fellow Jews, the ones who chose the empty lifestyle of Antiochus’ minions instead of Judaism. The Maccabees killed many of those Jews, more Jews than the number of Seleucid soldiers.
It’s also ironic that Antiochus’ people–while Greek in their Hellenist habit and custom–were geographically Syrian. Today, Syria is again home to the alphabet soup of Islamic terrorist groups–from HAMAS to Hezbollah, from Islamic Jihad to Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade–all of these groups are bent on the Jewish people’s destruction and then the destruction of the rest of the West.
Chanukah is known as the Jewish Festival of Light. But it’s far more than that. It’s the story of miracles on so many levels, miracles Jews remember and mark during this eight-day holiday, every year. Unlike other Jewish holidays, part of our observance of this holiday is to publicize the miracles of Chanukah to the public by lighting our menorahs (plural is actually “menorot”)–the Chanukah candelabras–in our window or front door for the world to see.
We celebrate and let the world know the miracle of the few who beat the many: that a small band of Jewish warriors, the Maccabees, were able to defeat the Greek-Seleucid soldiers of King Antiochus (Epiphanes), who far outnumbered them. We celebrate the light that G-d made miraculously last: that a jar of oil that would only last one day, lasted eight and lit the holy Jewish Temple that had been theretofore been desecrated by the Hellentists, until a new jar of oil was ready to keep the Temple lit. (It took eight days to make a new jar of the oil.)
But the Menorah and the holiday mean even more to me and those I’ve met in my life. Here is a story I’ve recounted on Chanukahs past on this site, a story which bears repeating:
As a grad student at the University of Wisconsin in the early-to-mid-’90s, I became friends with a Russian Jewish immigrant, Dmitry. Dmitry, from a poor Jewish family near Siberia, was sold into slavery by a Russian businessman. As a student at a university, he was regularly beaten up by his fellow students for being Jewish. Soon, a Russian businessman promised his professors at the university that he had a great opportunity for him in the United States. To escape the anti-Semitism of Russia and expand his horizons, Dmitry eagerly agreed to the offer.
But when Dmitry reached the airport in America, he was met by a Wisconsin farming family who brought him to their house, only let him shower once a week and paid him $20 a month. The family constantly asked him if he was a Jew, but he never admitted it, fearing he’d be beaten like he was in the former Soviet Union. Dmitry was used to Soviet oppression and didn’t understand that Jews, like everyone else, had rights in America.
One day he escaped the farm and took a bus to Madison, Wisconsin, where he did odd jobs trying to survive. He lived across the hall from Jewish students in a dumpy apartment building. When Chanukah came, he saw their lit menorahs (menorot is the plural term in Hebrew) in their windows, and he finally realized that he could be freely and openly a Jew in America. Dmitry eventually became a U.S. citizen and with the help of the Chabad Lubavitch movement of Judaism, and the righteous Rabbi Yonah Matusof of the Chabad Madison Jewish Center, he soon became a successful businessman and always, thereafter, a proud American and Jew.
It was the lights of the Chanukah menorah–proclaiming to the world that we are Jews an proud of our history, heritage, and victory over the Hellenist Seleucids–which freed Dmitry from his fears of oppression and his secret that he was a Jew.
Below are some pics of some of my favorite menorahs (menorot) from my own collection, which I shared last year. It was a crappy camera, this not such great photos. But these menorot, to me, speak to the modern meaning of Chanukah. And you, too, can own two of these.
The first is a cool menorah with Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) F-16s, tanks, and helicopters. The planes, on metal rods, rotate around. It’s called the “Israeli Army Menorah ELARMY Menorah” and is designed by artist Reuven Masel. I especially love it because I know the sight of it pisses off all of the many Muslims who venture and lurk on this site.
The second one is my favorite and is called “IDF Chaverim [Hebrew for "Friends"],” and shows Israeli soldiers praying at the Western Wall, the holiest site in Judaism. It’s designed by Uri Kaufman.
The third is an old Kurdish menorah I bought from a Kurdish Jew in the Machaneh Yehudah Market of Jerusalem. The “Hamzah” ["Five"] hand symbol is a good luck symbol in Judaism (and to Muslim Arabs–hey, they steal everything from us Jews and Christians, so why not steal that, too?). It’s not a kosher menorah because the ninth prong, the “shamash,” isn’t higher than the others, which is one of the requirements of Jewish law regarding a Chanukah menorah (more on that below). But I like it, anyway, and for me, it’s a cool decoration which I don’t use for the Chanukah lighting ceremony.
(Next year, I want to make a menorah out of pool/billiard balls. We’ll see.)
As I noted, Chanukah is the story of the heroic Maccabees, led by Matthew [Matityahu, and then, after his death, Matthew's son, Judah [Yehudah], who fought the oppression of Antiochus against the Jewish people when they were far outnumbered. But, above all, Chanukah is about the age-old, repeat fight of the Jewish people for religious freedom. It happens in every generation. That’s something we read on Passover. And something we remember on Chanukah.
Today, as we Jews face a bleak future with Islamic extremism and violence on the rise, our enemies, again, are the modern day version of the Jewish Hellenists the Maccabees slaughtered: Jews who’ve forsaken Judaism for liberalism. They’re the ones who voted for Barack Obama, the ones who continue to pander and “outreach” to our avowed enemies in the Islamic community. I’ve written about so many of them on this site over the years, and their names need not be mentioned on this holiday. We know who they are. And they know who they are.
Their views must be crushed, just as the Maccabees crushed Jewish Hellenism. How sad that, today, they cannot be conveniently done in by the Maccabees. How sad that there really aren’t any modern day Maccabees. I say it every year. And it never changes. There are no Matthews or Judahs. Just pollyannas. There are scant few among my fellow co-religionists willing to fight for the West’s survival, and far too many who run faster than Usain Bolt to kiss the feet of Muslim extremists in our communities in America. With very few exceptions, they would have been among the carnage necessary for the Maccabees’ miraculous victory.
I’m not suggesting violence, as the Maccabees needed to engage in. But, again, the most savaged targets of the Maccabees were not the enemies without, but the enemies within–their fellow Jews, whose behavior could have meant the end of Judaism . . . and could mean its end, again, today. The Maccabees showed no mercy toward these ignoramuses who eagerly embraced the enemy, toward these eager sell-outs. No mercy.
And since these modern Hellenists dominate my religion, killing it from inside with their own special brand of liberal gangrene–and since there are no Maccabees–we see the results in the shrinking number of Jews worldwide.
And so I recognize and remember all of this as I light, tonight, the first of eight candles on my Chanukah menorah, marking each night of this joyous holiday. Tomorrow night, I’ll light two candles, marking the second night, and so on. The ninth candle, the shamash, is used to light the other eight. It is required to be elevated in height from the other eight candles, which are supposed to be uniform in height on a kosher menorah.
A few notes on Chanukah from previous posts:
Contrary to what Hallmark and American Greetings and Best Buy (and Snuggie) would have you believe, it is not–as I’ve noted here many times–a major Jewish holiday. That’s why, unlike on important Jewish holidays, we Jews can work [on the holiday]. I only do not work while my Chanukah candles–which are required to burn for a half hour–are lit up. Chanukah has only become important, here in America, because of weak, ignorant Jewish parents who cannot explain to their kids that we don’t have a Christmas or a holiday at the same time of the year that is as important to us as Christmas is to Christians. This is largely a phenomenon of Jewish immigration to America and the dumbing down of parenting across America and all of its religions and social strata. These parents are too lazy, too inept, too ignorant themselves to teach and demonstrate to their kids the inner beauty of this great holiday. I’m lucky my parents did that, even if–one year–the bottle cap menorah I made burnt through and the whole table caught on fire.
Speaking of Hallmark, I’m often asked why the name of this Jewish holiday is spelled a gazillion different ways, especially on greeting cards. That’s because of English transliteration from Hebrew. It begins with a “Ch” sound, which is similar to the noise you get from clearing your throat. It’s not an “h” sound, but most Gentiles–and now, many Jews–are unable to pronounce the “ch” sound. As for the two “n”s or two “k”s, those are irrelevant, as it’s all about transliteration and phonetics. There is no right way to spell “Chanukah” in English. But I prefer the latter spelling.
We play a game with a spinning top, called a dreidel. The dreidel has a different of four Hebrew letters on each side, which are the initials for a Hebrew phrase, Nes Gadol Hayah Sham, which means, “A Big Miracle Happened There [Here, if you're in Israel].”
The eight gifts thing–or even one Chanukah gift–is really not part of Chanukah, either. It’s also part of the incorrect “Just like Christmas” phenomenon. In Europe, traditionally people gave gold coins–called “Chanukah gelt”–and ate fried potato pancakes, called latkes. In Israel, they eat sufganiyot, jelly donuts. Jews in America tend to eat both of these on Chanukah.
The bottom line is that, no matter how Chanukkah is celebrated by various Jews around the world, it is about Jews–with all odds against them–vanquishing their enemies, both their enemies without and within.
On the bright side, as with all enemies of the Jewish people, with all odd against us, we defeated the Greeks and Antiochus. I’m hopeful we’ll defeat Islam eventually, too.
Like I said, Chanukah is about believing in–and experiencing–miracles.
To my Jewish friends and readers, I wish you a Happy Chanukah, and to my other friends and readers, I hope this explained this beautiful holiday to you. Thanks to all of you for being vigilant and helping to fight the modern-day Hellenists. (And if you haven’t been vigilant, it’s time to star.) And thanks to all of you who sent me such warm Chanukah greetings and good wishes.
My Favorite Vintage Menorah (Wish I Owned It):
From Shraga Simmons and Shimon Apisdorf at Matityahu’s Revolt:
The name “Maccabee” is an acronym for the [Biblical] verse “Who is compared to You among the mighty, oh Lord” (Exodus 15:11).
More on Chanukah from Judaism 101, Matityahu’s Revolt, and the Constantia Hebrew Congregation of Capetown, South Africa.
Chag Chanukah Sameach–Happy Chanukah!
Temple Mount Faithful Light Chanukah Menorah in Israel (Part of the Jewish Temple–the most holy part–has a mosque built on top of it.)
Tags: Anitiochus Epiphanes, candles, Channukah, Chanukah, Chanukkah, Greek, Hannukah, Hanukah, Hanukkah, Hellenist, Hellenists, Jewish, Jewish Festival of Lights, Jewish Holidays, Jews, Judah, liberals Antiochus, Maccabees, Matthew, menorah, oil, Seleucid, Seleucid empire, Temple