Hanukkah A Holiday of Ironies

By David Block


By David Block

Special to the Press/Review

More Jews and non-Jews know more about Hanukkah (Festival of Lights) than the other Jewish holidays, but it is arguably one of the least important Jewish holidays.

In the year 165 BCE (Before the Common Era), while the righteous Jew named Judah Maccabee was leading a revolt against the Assyrian Greeks, he and his small army restored the sanctity and purity of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. Their enemies had defiled the Temple, so Judah destroyed the Greek idols and statue of Zeus. It was a rededication of the Second Temple. At the time of the rededication, there was only enough oil to last one day. Oil was needed for the Menorah, (candelabrum) in the Temple, which was supposed to burn throughout the night, every night.

Miraculously, the oil burned for eight days, which was enough time, to prepare a fresh supply of oil for the menorah.

We don’t celebrate Hanukkah because the Jews had military victories over the Greek army. We don’t celebrate the holiday because the war ultimately led to Israel becoming an independent nation for the second time in its history. We celebrate the holiday because of the rededication of the Temple.

Hanukkah is a holiday with ironies. The Maccabees fought the Greeks because they refused to assimilate. Today, Jews have turned this minor holiday into an eight-day gift giving extravaganza, so they can enjoy getting presents like Christians. That’s assimilation.

Today Israel has the Maccabee Games, where the top Jewish athletes in the world compete. The Greeks always took part in sports, while the Maccabees back in 165 BCE would not “stoop” to doing something like that. The Maccabee Games is one example of Israel trying to be like the rest of the nations. That was the last thing that the Maccabees wanted. Of all the Jewish holidays, probably the one that the least knowledgeable and observant Jew would observe is Hanukkah, and just the part that pertains to gift giving, which was not part of the festival when it originated.