Chanukkah is the story of a group of warriors (the Maccabees, later the Hasmoneans, led by Mattathias) who rose up against the Greeks (the Seleucids), united the Jews, reclaimed the Temple (Beit HaMikdash), and then lit one day's supply of oil which miraculously lasted for eight days, started a brand new holiday called Chanukkah, and brought Jewish sovereignty and peace to the land of Israel. Except that almost every part of that story is either wrong or completely misleading. [more inside]
Today is the last day of Hanukkah. "The Festival of Lights" commemorates ... well, that's the question now, isn't it? It's a minor holiday, not found in the Torah (alleged allusions notwithstanding). The story about the candles is first found in the Babylonian Talmud (Shabbat 21b), which was written over five centuries after the fact. More contemporaneous sources paint it as a fairly typical Greek-style victory celebration, and the national holiday of the Second Commonwealth. [More inside...]
Who are today's Maccabees? Fundamentalists fighting a secular culture? Or as our president states in his Hanukkah message, our brave soldiers in Iraq? Or is it the Iraqis themselves, rebelling against an invading and occupying force? Or is it the white supremacists? The enduring power of a symbol of resistance and its many and incompatible uses--all in time for Hanukkah.