For our college students out there, the holiday coincides with the ending of your semester, and the pressures of finals. Here's the good news: your winter break is a pretty spectacular gift to enjoy. Hope you're going to get to do something fun during it.
We'll start by reviewing the basics. The traditional story of Hanukkah goes something like this: way back in the day, around 168 BCE, a super-evil Greek king named Antiochus IV came to rule over the Land of Israel and wanted to prevent Jews from being Jews. Antiochus was in favor of Hellenism (Greek civilization), and basically came to force it upon the Jews of Israel. There were Jews that were in favor of Hellenism (and of ultimately assimilating completely into Greek culture) and there were Jews (Judah Maccabee and Company) who sought to both stop Jewish assimilation and rebel against the totalitarian Greek rule. It took a few years, but eventually Judah and his followers (aka the Maccabees) were victorious.
According to the Talmud (written a solid 650+ years later), there was a great miracle at the conclusion of the war. The Maccabees returned to Jerusalem to rededicate (the word Hanukkah means Dedication) the damaged Temple. One day's worth of oil lasted for eight. Thus, we celebrate the 'miracle of light' for eight days.
There's a different version of the story that is more historically accurate, but potentially less fun. When I learned it: I thought - on some small level, this must be what it's like when Christmas-celebrating kids learn that Santa isn't real! (TANGENT: One of my earliest memories as a kid is waking up on Christmas morning and searching my house for the presents that Santa was supposed to have left the night before!!! We didn't celebrate Christmas in my house - but I had somehow absorbed the whole Santa story, and was devastated when my parents went on to explain that 'Santa doesn't leave gifts at Jewish homes.')
Anyway, I guess that's just a long way of warning you that you may not actually want to know the 'real story of Hanukkah' but if you do, you can find it here.
One of the great themes of the Hanukkah story is the Jewish struggle against total assimilation. In other words, Hanukkah is a chance for us to celebrate our Jew-Pride! Yeah...we may be a little bit different from everyone else. But - so what?
One of the best ways that we American Jews have expressed that is through our own depictions of Hanukkah in pop culture. You've got to check out everything on tvtango.com's Top 10 Hanukkah moments in TV history. Here are a few of my favorites from their collection.
1) Jon Stewart (in song) trying to convince Stephen Colbert to celebrate Hanukkah!
|The Colbert Report||Mon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c|
|A Colbert Christmas: Jon Stewart|
2) More general Hanukkah highlights from "The Daily Show":
|The Daily Show With Jon Stewart||Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c|
|Best Hanukkah Moments Mashup|
3) Some of you will remember Adam Sandler's classic "Hanukkah Song" that he premiered on SNL in 1994. Here is an updated version, featuring the voice of Neil Diamond (!) and some cool animation.
One final piece of kitsch - involving Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah. In addition to being a longtime senator (and proudly observant Mormon), Hatch has also gained some very low grade notoriety for his religious singing (composition and performance). Anyway...there's a long story behind it, but low and behold, Orrin Hatch has written (a pretty catchy) Hanukkah song! Check it out here.
I'll close with some basic resources to help make your holiday complete. You can click here for a treasure trove of Hanukkah recipes. You can click here for the rules of dreidel. You can click here for a copy of the Hanukkah blessings. And, finally, enjoy the entertaining (and informative) video below on the proper way to light the menorah.
So...I hope you enjoyed these Hanukkah "gifts." May they instill a little bit of Jewish Pride in each of us, during this holiday season.
Wishing you and your families a Happy Hanukkah, and an enjoyable winter break. I'll be posting again in mid-January, when you are back at school, and I'm back from a little time away....Until then, Shabbat Shalom - and Happy Hanukkah.
P.S. If you're going to be in San Diego over the break, and want to get together for coffee, drop me an email!!