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The Real Miracle of Hanukkah

While I agree with Rabbis Waxman and Stern about the dangers of focusing too much on gifts, there is a positive aspect to Hanukkah that the comes from having become the Jewish-American antidote to Christmas cheer.

I also met with parents this past Sunday. Some were ambivalent about making a big to-do about Hanukkah, afraid that decorating the house, for example, was just a misplaced expression of Christmas envy. They were relieved when I let them know that decorations are really part of the mitzvah of Hanukkah, which is to publicize “the miracle.”


What exactly that miracle was is subject to some disagreement: Was it that one cruse of oil miraculously lasted eight days (as the Talmud recounts) or was it the fact that the small, outnumbered and out armed Jewish guerrillas won against the well established Seleucid army (as the prayer book recounts)? Is the Talmud a metaphor or a history lesson? Perhaps it is both in a way.

The word “Hanukkah” means dedication. For me, it refers not only to the rededication of the repaired and purified Temple, but the Jews’ dedication to their ancestral traditions, a dedication repeated throughout history. And that is the real miracle, and meaning, of this holiday.


It is a meaning we are to publicize, according to tradition, by placing our menorahs in our windows. (We can use an electric menorah for this purpose in order not to burn the curtains and instead place our candle or oil-burning menorahs in a safer location.) Today, we can also publicize the miracle of Hanukkah with flags and signs, blinking menorahs, and window decorations that announce we are proud to be Jewish at this time of year.

As I shared with my families, the real test, though, is how dedicated we remain to living our Jewish identity proudly and actively throughout the rest of the year. Perhaps the real miracle of Hanukkah can only be realized when we translate some of the excitement we feel about Hanukkah time to the rest of the Jewish year, such as for the next few holidays like Tu B’Shevat and Purim.

–Posted by Rabbi Susan Grossman

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posted December 13, 2006 at 5:45 pm

This is a wonderful time of year and I have for all my near 60 years participated in a Hanakkah – Christmas season with gift giving to all the family and friends I have. I have enjoyed it and will continue to do so. I also remember why each holyday is celebrated and celebrate them accordingly. What bugs me more than anything else is every religious leader trying to make me feel guilty about it. They probably wouldn’t if I was giving my money to them. Just stop it, if I want to buy my family presents and have a good time during the holidays then I should not be made to feel guilty about it.

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posted December 13, 2006 at 8:02 pm

Christmas is also a metaphor. In Christianity, the Birth of Jesus isn’t really that big of a deal (everyone gets born, right?)despite what all the advertising, etc would have you believe. The stuff about the birth takes up almost no room in the Christian bible (and Dec 25th doesn’t appear as a date) and Christmas is very closely linked to (shock!) Saturnalia and other shortest-day-of-the-year festivities despite the manger scenes and whatnot. Both holidays, Christmas and Hanukkah, could also be interpreted as celebrations of light and requests to the sun to please hurry home soon. Leslie (a religiously unaffiliated person)

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Chana Silverman

posted December 14, 2006 at 5:16 am

Hanukkah is really a wonderful time. Light and warmth and family and friends in the midst of cold dark nights. It is a good time for a dedication – a rededication. The High-Holydays are long gone now but it is still easy to remember and reflect upon them. We American Jews really have a lot to be thankful for I think. Xmas has become very secular and quite materialistic, but it is also a lot of fun and fills a need for people to reconnect with family and friends. I find the religious part of it annoying because I just cannot stomach “baby Jesus worship” :O come let us adore him”?? This time of year sure reminds me I am a Jew and happily so! Wether we give gifts or not, decorate or not Hanukkah is a blessing admist the xmas madness and deeply reconnects us with our roots when celebrated with Kavanah. I do inspite of myself soak up the festive feelings. How can one not get a little bit of the xmas spirit when people are in a good mood and towns and malls are decorated, but I know it is not my “holiday”. I enjoy Santa movies and the giving spirit of this holiday, without really wanting to be a part of it. It’s like I don’t really need it. I have so much already as a Jew, but it’s nice to see other people celebrate and be happy. I think it is important for the world to know that not everyone celebrates xmas and people have meaningful holidays of their own. I am thankfuf for all the attention Hanukkah gets. We need to be counted among the masses. We are not invisible. If people think we are in envy or that we have produced a holiday to imitate them, that is their thinking only, and in reality NOT ours.

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posted December 19, 2006 at 5:32 pm

THE MEANING OF CHANUKAH BY: FERN SIDMAN In these days before Chanukah, we sit and reflect on the tumultuous events that have unfolded with blinding speed over the past year. We have witnessed the rise of Hamas to power, the dismantling of the settlement of Amona along with the brutalization of its residents at the hands of the Israeli police, as well as the forced removal of Jews from their homes in Hevron and other settlements in the Shromron. We have witnessed the barbaric and inhumane treatment of Gush Katif refugees as well as the restriction of movement of settlement activists. We have witnessed the kidnapping of three Israeli soldiers by Hamas and Hezbollah and we have witnessed a war with Hezbollah in Lebanon that saw the devastating defeat of the once mighty and invincible Israeli army. We have witnessed Hamas terrorists use Gaza as a launching pad for continual and incessant rocket attacks on Jewish towns and settlements while millions of dollars and massive amounts of armaments are being smuggled into Israel for future terrorist attacks against Jews. We have witnessed a Prime Minister of Israel who has remained steadfast in his campaign to relinquish Israeli territory to the Arab enemy in his ill conceived realignment and convergence plan, while maintaining the dubious distinction of running one of the most corrupt governments in Israeli history. We have witnessed the astronomical rise in global anti-Semitism along with the global insurgency of radical Islam. We have witnessed the heinous and sadistic murder of French Jew, Ilan Halimi by those connected with Islamic terrorism, while also witnessing a multitude of anti-Jewish and anti-Israel demonstrations on every corner of the globe. We have watched world leaders such as Mahmoud Ahmadnijehad and Hugo Chavez spew forth their incendiary rhetoric against Israel with impunity. We have witnessed the memory of six million Jews who perished during the Holocaust mocked and derided at conferences in Teheran that are dedicated to revising history to further their own nefarious agendas. The picture is clear for all those who wish to see. The Jewish nation, the land of Israel and its people are under siege. We are at war for our survival as a people and as a nation. While our enemies of today seek to vanquish and eradicate the physical presence of the Jew, this war goes much deeper than that. It is a war for the very soul of our people. It is a war that is not all that unfamiliar to the Jewish people. It is a war against the forces of righteousness and holiness and it is a war that seeks to destroy the connection of the Jewish people to their G-d. Two hundred years before the destruction of the Second Temple, the Assyrian-Greeks rose up to destroy the Jewish people in the very same way that our enemies of today do. Their war of terror began with simple harassment and then escalated into a full scale military battle. The Greek Hellenists were supported in their battle by Jews who embraced Hellenism as the new found path to freedom, as do our Jewish leaders of today. While the Greeks outlawed the observance of our Sabbath, of Bris Milah and other commandments, it was their war on our G-d and his holy Torah that was the key plank in their platform for destruction. Then, as now, the world remained silent as our impending destruction was at hand. It was only the voice of the very few, of the minority of righteous Jews, who rose up, despite insurmountable odds and proclaimed the Oneness of our Creator. It was this small group of rebel Jews who became anathema in the eyes of the Jewish Hellenists. They were the upstarts who dared to speak the truth and who had the courage of their convictions. While the Jewish Hellenist leaders also crafted a plan for national suicide as do our leaders of Israel today, it was the faith and courage of the Chashmonaim dynasty that paved the path to Jewish victory and self preservation. In our prayers and supplications, at this time of Chanukah, we ask for the indomitable faith, tenacity and fortitude to do the will of Hashem. In these times of spiritual darkness, of national disunity and collective pain and travail, we can bemoan the fact that the leaders of the Israeli government, the Olmerts and Livnis of the world lack the basic faith it takes to be a leader of the Jewish nation. As they lead us down a path of further territorial concessions to the Arab enemy, and as they further attempt to foster and encourage the forces of assimilation, our response can and must be one of resolve to do the will of the Almighty without fear of world opinion. We must take comfort, hope, strength and inspiration from true Jewish leaders. During this holiday of Chanukah, we must take a good look at just who the Maccabees were, what they stood for and how the lessons of days gone by still readily apply to us today. We must seek out and explore the true meaning of Chanukah and emulate these values in our hearts, now and forever. The Sages (Shabbat 21b) asked: What is Chanukah? The Rabbis taught: From the twenty-fifth day of Kislev, eight days of Chanukah are observed, during which eulogies are not made and fasting is not permitted. For when the Greeks entered the Sanctuary, they defiled all of the oils [used for kindling the Menorah]. And when the Hasmonean House prevailed and defeated them, they searched and found only one jar of oil which was sealed with the seal of the Kohen Gadol and this jar had oil sufficient only to burn for one day. But a miracle occurred and the oil burned for eight days. The next year, the Sages designated these eight days as a festival, with songs of praise and thanksgiving. During the period of the second Holy Temple, the Greek kings issued harsh decrees against Israel, outlawing their religious practices and forbidding them to engage in the study of Torah and the practice of mitzvot. They stole their money and their daughters, entered the Sanctuary and ravaged it, defiling all that was ritually pure. They caused Israel great anguish and oppressed them until the G-d of our fathers had mercy upon them and delivered them and saved them from the hands of their enemies. The Hasmonean House the Kohanim Gedolim prevailed and killed them and saved Israel from their hands. And they designated a king from among the kohanim, and the kingdom of Israel was restored for more than two hundred years, until the destruction of the second Holy Temple. It was on the twenty-fifth day of the month of Kislev that Israel prevailed and defeated their enemies. They entered the Sanctuary and found only one jar [of oil] which was pure. It contained only enough for one day, but they lit the lights of the Menorah from it for eight days, until they pressed olives and extracted pure oil (Rambam, Hilchot Chanukah 3). The wars that the Maccabees waged against the Assyrian-Greek Hellenists are the same wars that we find ourselves embroiled in today. In the Israel of today, our hellenized, gentilized leaders relinquish G-d given Jewish land into the hands of the burgeoning and malignant Arab enemy. This enemy who has vowed our physical and spiritual annihilation. Our leaders do not speak of the uniqueness and special status of the House of Israel. They have contempt for the G-d of Israel and for His Holy Torah while they cower in fear when they face the nations of the world. They have erected gods of silver and gold, better known as US economic aid. Our leaders enact laws that discourage the promulgation of true Jewish values that are predicated on a Divine Source. We are a people that stands alone. In the face of such rabid hatred of G-d and all that He stands for, our only hope is to remain Maccabees. To display the courage to fight, to gird our loins and to prepare to defend our faith. To know in our hearts, that the G-d of Israel goes into battle with us and never leaves our side. Our mission is for each of us to become an Emunah Shleima (a person of complete faith in G-d). There is no question that we are living in the times of Chevlei Moshiach, the birth pangs of our righteous Messiah. We must understand that the chain of world
events that are directed at the Jewish people and Israel are wake up calls from the Almighty G-d of Israel. The same G-d who tested Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is now testing us, the Jewish nation on a global and collective scale. It is up to us to recognize and remain cognizant of these warning signs and tests and to summon up our internal strength that will assist us in passing these tests. In these times of spiritual blindness we are an orphaned generation without any real Jewish leaders to emulate. We can however look in to our rich and glorious history as a people to find true Jewish leaders and heroes. Men and women who we can look to, to provide us with an instruction manual on how to pass these tests. Our history is replete with such exemplary persona. We need only look at Mattityahu, the Kohen Gadol of the town of Modin. When a Syrian officer built an altar in the marketplace of the village and demanded that Mattityahu offer sacrifices to the Greek gods. Mattityahu replied, “I, my sons and my brothers are determined to remain loyal to the covenant which our G-d made with our ancestors!” Let us look to Yochanan, the Kohen Gadol, the father of the Hasmonean family, who foresaw the danger to Judaism from the penetration of Syrian-Greek influence into the Holy Land. He knew the Jewish people could never give up their faith in G-d and accept the idol-worship of the Syrians. Yochanan was therefore opposed to any attempt on the part of the Jewish Hellenists to introduce Greek and Syrian customs into the land. He was scorned by the Hellenists for his outspoken beliefs. Let us extol the virtues of Yehudit, the daughter of Yochanan of the Hasmonean Dynasty. We know that the town of Bethulia, in the land of Judea, came under siege by Holofernes, a mighty Syrian-Greek ge

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posted December 20, 2006 at 4:40 pm

I agree that gift giving is a major part of the holidays and the Judeo-Christian life. We need to do this everyday because there are people always in need. Also,because of our sacrifice of giving God has promised to bless us for doing it. But what I do not agree with is the fact that Christmas and Hanukkah is only about giving and spending quality time with the family. Christmas time is suppose to be a celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ who gave us hope and peace through His teachings, death and resurrection and the GIVING of the gift of the Holy Spirit. He was the final, perfect, sacrificial lamb who shed HIS blood to cover and wash away our sins. HE was born through a virgin so that HIS blood was pure and was not tainted by sin, therefore HE had no spot nor wrinkle!Hanukkah is supposed to be a celebration of how good and how great and powerful GOD is. Whether people believe it or not miracles happen and it’s because of the hand of GOD and this is what these two holidays are about. GOD has given us the miracle of Jesus Christ our Savior and Redeemer and the miracles of walking through the red sea, and having a crude of oil burn for 8 extra days. If people believe that God exists why can’t they believe that HE can do GODLY things? GODLY things are things that we as humans can not do,explain or completely fathom. The miracle of Jesus Christ and the miracles of Passover and Hanukkah are things that humans can not do nor even explain, but they happened and we are suppose to rejoice in God and thank Him for everything. It may not seem like it, but miracles still happen everyday, and if we had faith like we are suppose to have and do what God has commanded us to do then more people would have faith and more miracles would occur. But if you do not BELIEVE in GOD and HIS AWESOME POWER then of course you would not believe in miracles, and try all that you could to degrade the awesomeness of GOD by trying to make up some scientific explanation about what occured. Some science explanations are true, but seek GOD who is ALL TRUE for the TRUTH. GOD is a SPIRIT so worship HIM in SPIRIT and in TRUTH BELIEVING that HE IS REAL! Otherwise, you are just talking in vain rather than praying. God bless you and I pray your love and peace in the name of Jesus Christ! ~Leedea Harrison

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posted December 20, 2006 at 5:21 pm

Oh and LESLIE, Jesus is known as the LIGHT of the World because of the truth HE taught. Although Christmas was started as a traditional compromise from early Christians so that they could celebrate Chrstianity without being persecuted therefore adding some pagan rituals of the persecutors to the holiday which I do not celebrate nor agree with- the birth of Jesus is very important which is why it is talked about in two of the gospels and even prophesied about in the old testament numerous times. It’s just not the fact that HE was born that is important, but the way HE was born and the reason HE was born are also very important. He was born through a virgin mother as a sign of purity and a sign from God that HE can do all things and that this is a gift specifically from HIM without any human involvement. Usually when one gets pregnant, it takes two people, but God showed that this was His work that needed to be done in the Earth by His only and in His wonderful way! Plus, Jesus was born to give us the true word of God and to show us that we have victory and control over our sins, and the destructive urges of the flesh (premarital sex, murder, malice, laziness, greediness,etc). He didn’t sin, yet he died for ours because he was born to be the final sacrificial lamb to die for EVERYONE’S sins rather than a specific culture or people. And now it’s easy for us to be in a relationship with God because all we have to do is believe and we are saved. And if we believe that means that we believe the word of God (the Torah and the Bible)and will follow it’s commandments of love and protection. Yes, these holidays can be considered a festival of lights because the light of truth has entered the world. The truth that Jesus is the Son of God and redeemed our souls from sin (if we believe and repent and do the commandments of God which includes being baptized of the water and the spirit in the NAME of Jesus Christ)and the truth that GOd is real and continues to create miracles for people who believe and trust in HIM. And because we believe the truth and live a life that is holy and acceptable unto God, we are considered lights also. We are suppose to go around teaching and living the word of God. We are suppose to love, rejoice, and celebrate God everyday and do the same for one another!Hence the festival of lights. Celebrating the lights of the world. Draw nigh to God and HE will draw nigh to you. Believe in God and believe in Jesus – They are the same anyway. No one else could do the job, so God came down and did it himself. If you do not believe that, then ask yourself, “why not?” Because if God is GOD then HE is capable to do anything HE wants. And think of it this way, “who do you know that is loving enough to leave their throne as a mighty, clean and powerful KING and become a humble servant who moves to a disgusting part of town and starts wearing nasty dirty clothes in order to understand the plight of those people better who live in that part of town and to teach them how to survive in the dire conditions that they are living in; and then that KING also goes as far as dying for the crimes/ the sins that were committed by those people in that town although he committed no crime? How many people do you know would or could go away and send themself in Spirit form after they died for OUR SINS and was resurrected in order to be a comfort for us, and so that we would never be alone? Break those questions down, and just count how many people you know would do any of those things. This is what Jesus did for us and no one would, and no one could because we do not have that type of strength, because we are not God! The closest thing we will get to being like God is being filled with His HOLY SPIRIT which will give us His power,Truth and the perfect peace that surpasses all understanding because HE is living in us. BEing filled with the HOLY GHOST/SPIRIT is God living in us- This is how close God wants to be to you! Despite what yo may think about yourself, God sees you differently, and thank JESUS for that! I love ya babe and I pray in the name of Jesus that you were enlightened and inspired. Have a great day!

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Rick Abrams

posted December 20, 2006 at 7:03 pm

These critiques of Xmas and Chanukah make the same mistake: They tend to whine over the origins and the true meaning. No one really cares about the origins. Xmas was shunned by Christians for years and ins ome places forbidden, so let’s stop the BS about any Xmas tradition going back to the birth of the Babeeeeee Jessszus. There were no Xmas trees, no electrical lights, no raindeer, no Santa Claus, no Macey (Jewish Company) Day Parades, no White Christmas (Irvng Berlin). As far Hanukah, it was a nothing hokliday or minor importance until Xmas became big and it gave us a pretext to participate in the Holiday Season. We celebrate because it makes us happy (and stressed), and money is vitally important. The Holiday Season is good for everyone and it is 90% secular. Maybe in 50 years it will be KwaMasKah — Kwanza, Christmas, Hanukah. A few Christians may go to midnight Mass and most Jews may light candles, but like the spread of Washingto-NewYork-Boston etc into a mega mass of urban sprawl, everything is flowing together with regional variations. If you want a miracle, here’s my candidate: We’ve made one big all inclusive holiday while allowing each group to retain their own unique aspect. Man made miracles are the best kind.

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posted December 22, 2006 at 8:31 pm

Please pray for me. I am in a Women’s Shelter. At this time I am homeless. I am looking for a job. Thank you. God Bless you.

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posted December 24, 2006 at 1:13 am

i was raised catholic but as i got older i consider myself just a christian. my favorite bible is the complete Jewish Bible, translated by David Stern, a Messianic Jew, believer in Jesus Christ as the Savior and Messiah. Christmas is great for business but what we as humans should focus on is doing good to one another and spread peace and joy to everyone and anyone, regardless of race, color or creed. I whole heartedly believe Jesus Christ died for our sins and rose from the dead on the third day, i just hope that more Jewish people, which i truly admire, begin to believe in Jesus Christ as the savior that he is. for if you believe that Jesus Christ is our redeemer, than you shall be saved. we are all sinners, for let anyone who has not sinned, throw the first stone! i being hispanic, pray privately daily to our lord and ask for peace in the world and for the Jewish people to be blessed and for Israel,Jerusalem to be all for Jews, as this was the land of milk and honey which was promised by God to Abraham. this must be done. i just pray that more Jewish people, who are a wonderful people, to begin to accept Jesus Christ as our saviour and theirs, for if they dont, then when they perish, they shall be judged for such, since they had their entire life to accept the lord Jesus Christ and did not. In closing i wish above all things the happiest of holidays to all people this Christmas season and throughout 2007. May the peace of Jesus Christ be with all. May God bless the world and bring peace to the world we live in. I, for one, will continue to pray for Israel, as i am a supporter of Israel, the holy land, the land of Milk and Honey. SHALOM! May Jesus Christ bless us all and may he come to save this racist, corrupt and violent world we live in. “JESHUA” our Savior is our redeemer and whoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life!!!! with love to all. JR.

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