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Torah: Anticipating Hanukkah

“The Right to be Different”
Sages of the Talmud asked Mai Hanukkah? What is Hanukkah? It is a surprising question. For the question, arising in the context of a discussion on Shabbat wicks, occurred well over a hundred years after the Maccabee’s successful revolt. In response, the rabbis introduce the miracle of the oil that lasted for eight days. In more contemporaneous accounts of the revolt, composed about 150 BCE, we learn of the Modi’in village where priests initiated the first historical revolt for religious freedom. Antiochus, the Syrian-Greek ruler, had forbidden the Jewish rite of circumcision and the study of Torah. As a Hellenist, Antiochus believed that all people should be the same: participating in sport competitions, enjoying Greek plays and art, and sharing in meals and matrimony. Hanukkah means dedication, arising from the rededication of the Temple to God. The word in Hebrew also means, “education.” What is Hanukkah? First and foremost,  the lesson of our people’s victory for a distinctive way of life and the right of all peoples to choose to be different.