Which Chanukah are YOU Celebrating – Part Two

Over the years, I’ve come to realize that Chanukah, like most Jewish holidays and observances, is viewed through many lenses. Sometimes it depends on time, sometimes on place, sometimes on context, sometimes on an individual’s frame of mind. But from celebrations to articles, to speeches about the holiday, it is clear that Chanukah is a prism through which the lights of the holiday shine and reflect light to a lot of different places.

These are the Chanukah holidays that some to my mind:

Chanukah as recognition of God’s hand in the world – Simply stated, this Chanukah recognizes miracles in the world. There are events that cannot be explained away simply. We all have examples, although we may or may not choose to see them as Godly. Nonetheless, this particular Chanukah sees God’s hand in the victory of the ancient Maccabees and in the burning of a container’s worth of oil for eight days.

Chanukah as celebration of religious freedom – We look at Antiochus IV’s attempts to outlaw significant Jewish practices. The victory of the Maccabean army reestablished the right of traditional Jewry to their practice, including the rituals of the Temple. It ignores the question of whether the Hellenized Jews or other groups walked away with religious freedom. Because mostly, we don’t know. Still, there is something to be said for this version of the holiday and it plays well in public forums, such as interfaith gatherings and public schools.

Chanukah as freedom from oppression – This Chanukah recognizes that the Maccabees broke free of foreign rule and asserted the right to self-governance. It is an inspiration to all who stand for the right of a people to choose their own destiny.

Chanukah as Jewish strength – After 2,000 years of Jewish political and military powerlessness, Chanukah served as the beginning of the last chapter of Jewish might and of Jewish self-governance. Particularly in the Zionist movements, the Maccabees became the most recent example of a successful Jewish army. It was an important reminder that Jews weren’t always lawyers, doctors, and accountants. They were also generals, kings and a Hasmonean queen, Salome Alexandra (ShalomTzion Ha-malka).
Chanukah as light dispelling darkness – Judaism, Christianity, Zoroastianism, Hinduism, Druid and many other cultures have holidays around now — the winter solstice. At the darkest time of the year in the northern hemisphere, lights were lit to illuminate the darkness. Symbolically, this Chanukah holiday reminds us of hope even in the darkest times.
There are probably many more Chanukahs, all of them interwoven into one eight day celebration. What Chanukah do YOU celebrate?
Chag Ha-Urim Sameach, a Happy Chanukah to you and yours.

2 responses

  1. Thanks for posing your question – It just sparked my own blog. Hope your Hanukah is filled with light!


  2. Great question Arnie! For me, the meaning had evolved with time. The more I research on the subject, the more the original Hasmonean /Maccabees resemble today’s Haredim to me. For me Hanukkah has the meaning for spiritual and physical survival of Am Israel. It is the constant struggle between a dominant power upon a minority.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: