Monday, December 29, 2008

Last Night of Chanukah 2008

Last night was the final night of the Jewish Holiday Chanukah. Here is a photo of my menoarrah, with all the candles lit to mark the last night of this festival and celebration of light and miracles.

Below is an excerpt from a great site on the story behind Chanukah. There is also a link so you can read more about Chanukah and the traditions and customs surrounding it. There is also a link to the candle lighting blessings that are said as the menorrah candles are lit.


The Story
The story of Chanukkah begins in the reign of Alexander the Great. Alexander conquered Syria, Egypt and Palestine, but allowed the lands under his control to continue observing their own religions and retain a certain degree of autonomy. Under this relatively benevolent rule, many Jews assimilated much of Hellenistic culture, adopting the language, the customs and the dress of the Greeks, in much the same way that Jews in America today blend into the secular American society.

More than a century later, a successor of Alexander, Antiochus IV was in control of the region. He began to oppress the Jews severely, placing a Hellenistic priest in the Temple, massacring Jews, prohibiting the practice of the Jewish religion, and desecrating the Temple by requiring the sacrifice of pigs (a non-kosher animal) on the altar. Two groups opposed Antiochus: a basically nationalistic group led by Mattathias the Hasmonean and his son Judah Maccabee, and a religious traditionalist group known as the Chasidim, the forerunners of the Pharisees (no direct connection to the modern movement known as Chasidism). They joined forces in a revolt against both the assimilation of the Hellenistic Jews and oppression by the Seleucid Greek government. The revolution succeeded and the Temple was rededicated.

According to tradition as recorded in the Talmud, at the time of the rededication, there was very little oil left that had not been defiled by the Greeks. Oil was needed for the menorah (candelabrum) in the Temple, which was supposed to burn throughout the night every night. There was only enough oil to burn for one day, yet miraculously, it burned for eight days, the time needed to prepare a fresh supply of oil for the menorah. An eight day festival was declared to commemorate this miracle. Note that the holiday commemorates the miracle of the oil, not the military victory: Jews do not glorify war.

Chanukah Information from

Chanukah Candle Lighting Blessings

In the exerpt above, I'm encouraged by the statement that the holiday commerates the miracle of the oil, and not the military victory... and that Jews do not glorify war.

I am opposed to war and violence of all kinds. I do not believe it is an enlightened or civilized way to resolve our problems, nor to secure our own safety. I do not condone suicide bombings, home made rockets or organized military actions against others. In my heart and mind they are all equivalent acts.

As the horrible carnage in Gaza rages on at the hands of the Israeli military, I hope we all wake up to the insanity of war and oppression and of using military might to try to 'secure peace.'

The people of Gaza do not deserve what is happening to them. Collective punishment of the many, for the actions of a few, at the hands of one of the most powerful militaries on earth, is every bit as offensive to me as a suicide bombing or a terrorist attack. Both are acts of ignorance and neither brings the intended result. War begets war. Violence begets violence.

We have to look beneath acts of violence to understand what fuels them and solve the problem at that level.

I do have a special problem with powerful militaries attacking people who have nothing. The people of Gaza have suffered enormously as a result of the Israeli blockage of their borders for month after month after month. This is a breeding ground for frustration, outrage and violence.

In my view of the world, the more powerful party has the greater obligation to use its power wisely, fairly and justly. Attacking the people of Gaza in this brutal and heartless fashion will never resolve the rockets flying from there into southern Israel. The problem is far more complicated than 'snuffing out' terrorism. Terrorism grows from opression, discrimination and mistreatment, with a little ideology thrown in for good measure.

Pray for the people of Gaza. Pray for a world where we all wake up to the fact that violence will NEVER create peace or security.

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