“Light one candle for the Maccabee children, with thanks that their light didn’t die…”
Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul and Mary wrote these words in a song that cried out for the pain of his ancestors. He could not have drawn upon a more beautiful or pride-enhancing symbol.
Tomorrow night, the first night of Chanukah, Jews around the world will light one candle on their menorahs to commemorate the Maccabee victory over the Syrian-Greek Hellenists and the miracle that occurred with the rededication of the Temple (one day’s worth of oil lasted eight days). And while publicizing the miracle through the light of the Menorah is the definitive mitzvah of Chanukah, lighting candles has far greater significance in Jewish life than just this holiday.
Tonight, as on every Friday night, Jewish homes worldwide will be illuminated with the beautiful light of the Shabbat candles. The Hellenists tried to prevent the Jews from sanctifying Shabbat. But, as Hellenization (read assimilation) became an increasingly greater threat, some of the Jews (Maccabees) fought back.
On Chanukah we place the menorah in a window facing the street, to announce to the world that not only have we survived as a nation (a miracle of history, in and of itself), but that our beliefs and our values have survived as well.
*This Treat was originally published on December 11, 2009.
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