A minor Jewish holiday may be of major importance to anyone who values freedom.
A holiday is a holy day. Holy refers to that which is blessed, hallowed, consecrated, and sacred. A holiday is a special day – unlike others. The “minor” winter holiday of Hanukkah, often called the Festival of Lights, is celebrated for 8 nights and days – and can be spelled in English in at least as many ways. In Hebrew, the word Hanukkah means dedication – and refers to the re-dedication of the defiled and profaned (Second) Jewish Temple in Jerusalem (now covered by the Muslim Dome of the Rock mosque) after a long bloody battle against an occupying army and oppressive ruler (King Antiochas IV Epiphanes of the Syrian-Greek Seleucid Empire).
The candelabra Jews light is NOT a 7-candle menorah but a 9-candle Hanukkiah – with the one candle whose sole purpose is to light the others. This is to remind us both that even one can make a difference and spread light without losing any of their own AND that the true and only purpose of the “highest” among us is to serve others – NOT the other way around.
Although considered the LEAST important Jewish religious holiday, Hanukkah is VERY popular. Attempts by both Jewish rabbis and Jew-haters to stop the annual celebration have always failed – even in the Nazi death camps during World War II. This may be because Hanukkah is NOT really about a religious miracle enabling a small amount of (olive) oil for the lamp of the Eternal Flame in the Temple to burn for 8 days instead of only one.
Eight is a significant number in Judaism. Jewish boys are circumcised in the ritual of their Covenant on the eighth day after birth. The night before, there is a tradition of staying up all night keeping watch over the infant. Modern New Years celebrations take place 8 days after Christmas – the day designated as the day of birth for the Jewish baby Jesus.
The “reason for the season” and most of what is associated with it has nothing to do with sustainable energy, oil from petro-chemical companies, or even seeking and sharing light during the longest nights of the year while waiting for the Sun (of God and man) to return. The reason for the Hanukkah lights is not for the “lighting of the house within”, but rather for the “illumination of the house without,” so that passers-by should see it and be reminded of the great “miracle” that happened there.
The Jewish Cinco de Mayo?
Hanukkah celebrates the (military) victory of an oppressed people willing to fight, over-throw, and expel a far more powerful adversary (governing, taxing, and persecuting them). While many died, many who resisted, persisted – and (briefly) regained autonomy, sovereignty, liberty, and freedom. The cost was high. The (eventual) outcome far from certain.
Hanukkah commemorates historical events – that only later acquired religious and commercial significance with corresponding rituals around candle lighting, gift giving, gambling games, and oil-fried food (and cheese). The current holiday commences each year on the 25th of the Jewish month of Kislev – which was the day fighting finally ceased (in 165 BCE).
Neither liberty nor freedom is free – and cannot be taken for granted. The (often physical) fight to preserve or regain liberty and freedom often seems never-ending – like the Global War OF (rather than Against) Terror. The struggle is not only against tyranny and oppression but also against apathy and indifference. All that is often needed for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing. But darkness does not understand and cannot overcome light. Rather than continually fight, we would be wise to nurture and share our light – and that of all others around us.
What did the bees know?
Much of what is known about the history of Hanukkah and the Festival of Lights comes from the two Biblical books of the Maccabees. Maccabee means hammer in Hebrew. It was the nickname and nom de guerre of Judah, one of the five sons of Matthias, leader of the original resistance and revolt. Those who followed, fought, and died, beside the Hebrew Hammer became known as The Few. The Proud. The Maccabees. A legendary Band of Brothers.
Many were martyred. Hannah and her (Magnificent) Seven sons were always faithful – despite being tortured and executed because of their faith. Matthias and many of the Maccabees were also killed while fighting – for and because of what they believed. Semper Fi, Matt!
The Hebrew Hammer was neither an MC nor PC.
The Maccabees didn’t sit around and sing “If I had a hammer”. They became the change they wanted to see in their world. The didn’t beat their swords into ploughshares – or choose to “go along to get along” (with those in power seeking to either assimilate or eliminate them). Then took up swords – and struck like a hammer – against those with shares in what today resemble the Patriot Act, TSA, RFID tracking chips – wanted by a New World Order bank and government.
The best way to disable a (RFID) microchip (and not get caught or in trouble) is to hit it with a hammer. It is also often the best way for a human to get the attention of a misbehaving baby orangutan. They have really hard heads – able to withstand even harder blows by their mother!
Blacksmiths use hammers to make swords. The hammer and sword of the Maccabees was NOT the same as the hammer and sickle of Communism. The symbol of Socialist governments started out not as a hammer and sickle but as a hammer and a plough – for tilling the soil (and burying bodies rather than hatchets).
A sickle is similar to a curved or crescent-shaped sword. Out of the Fertile Crescent came Islam, the Arabic word for submission. The crescent is a symbol for Islam – which looks very similar to a sickle. So is the scimitar and other curved swords – often used in efforts to convert or kill foes and (infidel) unbelievers.
Communists, Socialist, Muslims, Christians, warlords, drug cartels, pirates, and many others, have often been quicker to turn to the sword than Japanese Samurai. But Ninjas did not fear the sword. Neither did the Maccabees. Judith is not the only Jewish woman in the Bible to have used an enemy’s own sword to sever his head. It is important to keep one’s head when one’s life or liberty is threatened.
Mac and Cheese and the Maccabees
Governments are controlled by banks which are controlled by insurance companies. The best insurance for freedom is friends – followed by water and food. Even firearms cannot ensure being able to eat, drink, or survive. Fiat currency is not money. There is also no guarantee of what or how much may be possible to exchange for it. Silver, gold, and many other “commodities” hold and will increase in value, but cannot be eaten, worn, or usually directly used other than to barter. The ability to protect and defend oneself is not limited to firearms. Food for thought is as important as food for the the body – and what we feed our minds and comes out of out mouth often even more important than what we put in our mouth or comes out the other end.
Hanukkah is a celebration of liberty and religious freedom as much as it is a festival of light. The two are interconnected. One need not be Jewish, speak Hebrew, or like Adam Sandler or his latest Hanukkah song(s), to find value and significance in the meaning and message. Hanukkah is a time to shine bright, not just at night, but also during the day – and to be a beacon, like a lighthouse that simultaneously guides others away from danger and illuminates their way home to safety.
Hanukkah is a time to re-dedicated oneself to whatever one feels is most important – and worth living, working, fighting, and if needed dying for. Hanukkah is a minor holiday with major meaning to anyone open to embracing it.
Wishing you, those you love, and those who love you, a Happy Hanukkah!
Please share YOUR thoughts below – before reading what I wrote about Happy Holidays.
© 2010 – 2011, Oren Pardes. All rights reserved.