An old Polish Jew immigrates to the “Golden Land,” the United States of America. There, he experiences the culture shock of his life. Everything is big, industrialized, impersonal, cold, materialistic… where is the human passion of the old country?
“America!” He shouts the word in disgust as he walks down a busy street. “No one cares about anything here! There is no one idealistic in this place!”
The man behind him overhears his comment and protests. “Not true, Americans can be idealistic about everything! You just have to pay the right price!”
The miracle commemorated on Hanukkah is the military victory of the few Maccabees over the many and mighty Syrian Greeks. However, the story was not about a fight for survival. The Hellenistic empire, which controlled the Land of Israel, had not threatened the Jewish People with annihilation.
No, the Greeks were not out to kill Jews; all they wanted was to replace the “old-fashioned” and “irrational” Jewish values with the sophistication of Hellenistic culture. Committed observance of the Torah and the uncompromising adherence to ethics were passé, they said. Man should think for himself, do as he feels… come on!
And so, in an effort to pull the Jewish population into the melting pot of Hellenism, the Syrian Greeks instituted new laws. Jewish practices deemed “irrational,” such as the Sabbath and circumcision, were banned.
That’s why the Maccabees rebelled. Rallying the faithful with a cry of, “Whoever is for G-d, follow me!” they charged against the most powerful army in the world.
And in the battle of morals versus culture, morals won. Principles were victorious over popularity. The few triumphed over the many.
Now, you may ask, why commemorate this victory with the lighting of a menorah?
When the Jews entered the Temple after battle, they searched for oil still sealed with the stamp of the Kohen, the High Priest. But the Hellenists had broken every sacred seal in their campaign to eliminate the sanctity in Judaism. Keep your oil but remove the meaningless seal, they had said; keep the religion’s practices, but eliminate their spiritual meaning.
Alas, the Jews could not light the menorah until they finally found one undefiled flask of oil. They finally located one, but it contained just enough to last for one night.
Miraculously, the little oil burned for eight full days—a Divine symbol of what the Jews had fought for: the preservation of untainted tradition. So every year, we too commemorate the heart of the Hanukkah story with a menorah whose light proudly stands as a tribute to the endurance of the Jewish People.
This Chanukah, treat yourself and your family to a Maccabee experience. Connect with the timeless values that are engraved in your identity. Be a strong Maccabee. Be a winner!
Where to light:
We light the menorah at home. The optimum place for a menorah is in a doorway opposite the Mezuzah. You can also use a window visible from the street.
How to light:
On the first night, light the candle furthest to the right. Each day, add another candle to the left of the original. Always light the newly added candle first.
A married couple is considered one unit so the husband can light for everyone. If you are living alone you also need a menorah. To get the kids involved, allow them to light their own menorahs!
The right time is at nightfall, about 20 minutes after sunset. Your menorah should remain lit for at least a half hour past nightfall.
As long as someone is around to see the menorah, you can still light it with a blessing. If not, light the menorah without a blessing.
Friday afternoon, both your menorah and Shabbat candles should be lit 18 minutes before sunset, so as not to break the Sabbath. Saturday night we light after nightfall, when Shabbat ends.
Catch up on all the Hanukkah news here!