Thursday, December 2, 2010

Chappy Hannukah

So the weather has suddenly caught up with the calendar, and just in time, the festival of lights shows up. So, maybe it is worth explaining, just what is this Hanukkah anyways, and why does it have a whole station on Sirius/XM
For many Jews, particularly in America, Hannukah is basically our answer to Christmas ('instead of one day of presents, we have eight crazy nights!'). Except that it isn't, at all. For one, the holiday predates Jesus (and therefore, his birthday), and also, despite being a pretty common story (they tried to kill us and keep us from being Jews, we survived, let's eat), Hannukah is actually a pretty minor Jewish holiday.

Ok, so what is this all about? So, you probably know about Mattityahu (Hasidic Rapper Mattisyahu's namesake), and his son Judah, who revolted against the Syrian king Antiochus after the king sacked Jerusalem, spoiled the temple and effectively outlawed the practice of Judaism.

Maybe you heard that the revolt was successful and the Maccabees pushed the Syrians out of Jerusalem and rededicated the temple. And, I'm guessing that you knew that there was only enough oil to burn for one day, but miraculously, it burned for eight (which was the amount of time it took to harvest, crush, and processes more oil).

But you probably didn't know much about the mystical dimension of an eight day festival. Check it:

It has also been noted that the number eight has special significance in Jewish theology, as representing transcendence and the Jewish People's special role in human history. Seven is the number of days of creation, that is, of completion of the material cosmos, and also of the classical planets. Eight, being one step beyond seven, represents the Infinite. Hence, the Eighth Day of the Assembly festival, mentioned above, is according to Jewish Law a festival for Jews only (unlike Sukkot, when all peoples were welcome in Jerusalem). Similarly, the rite of brit milah (circumcision), which brings a Jewish male into God's Covenant, is performed on the eighth day. Hence, Hanukkah's eight days (in celebration of monotheism over Hellenistic humanism) have symbolic importance for practicing Jews.

Great, but where did all this music come from? Why is Hannukah probably the second most celebrated Jewish holiday in the US other than Passover? Probably because it is fun. I mean, you get to eat fried foods, you get chocolate coins for acting like a kid and spinning a top, and in a lot of families, you get presents.

Particularly in a country like ours, where people trample each other for Black Friday sales, and brag about their holiday present haul, its hard to not want to keep up with the Smith's, right?

Well, either way, here's to eight bright (and crazy) nights! Hannukah Sameach

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