But when they saw the army coming to meet them, they said unto Judah: 'What? shall we be able, being a small company, to fight against so great and strong a multitude? ...' And Judah said: 'It is an easy thing for many to be shut up in the hands of a few, and there is no difference in the sight of Heaven to save by many or by few; for victory in battle standeth not in the multitude of an host, but strength is from Heaven. They come unto us in fullness of insolence and lawlessness, to destroy us and our wives and our children, for to spoil us; but we fight for our lives and our laws. And He Himself will discomfort them before our face; but as for you, be yet not afraid of them." (The First Book of Maccabees)
Tonight is the first night of Hanukkah as many of you are aware of and some of you may be aware that Hanukkah is not a major holiday within Judaism or at least wasn't until the Jews started to assimilate and the little Jewish children saw their goy friends getting gifts for Christmas and they wanted to get into the action. So Hanukkah was born as a highly celebrated holiday within Judaism, it went from a minor holiday to what is considered a favorite if you ask any Jewish child. And with this honor of becoming a favored holiday and a holiday that is celebrated we had to create a story, a reason why it is worthy of celebration. As Jews we learn that the Maccabees defeated the Greco-Syrians and that the miracle of Hanukkah is that the oil in the Holy Temple which was only supposed to last for one day lasted for eight nights, but is this really a miracle? I grew up and for many years thought about the miracle as the oil and as I got older, the whole idea of religious freedom is added into the mix. The discussions become about how important religious freedom is as Jews who have been persecuted for our religion. Into middle and high school the discussion around Hanukkah still emphasized the oil as a miracle and religious freedom as the lessons we should learn from Hanukkah. Then in my freshman year of college a new lesson was proposed by a rabbi whose house I was at for a meal, the miracle is not the oil, the oil could have easily lasted for eight days, it is the defeat of a huge Greco-Syrian army by the small army of the Jews. It is the overthrow of a theocracy by a small band of rebels. I still think about that every Hanukkah, I think about how a small group can change the world.
I am really struggling to focus on this post so I will end it here and hope that maybe someone, somewhere will get something out of this post. I have been thinking about this post for a while, but today I just can't get it together. I had this whole paragraph likening the gay rights movement to the Maccabbees, but it just didn't work for me so it is gone now. Anyway, so I will leave you with a great modern adaptation of the Dreidel song to help you celebrate Hannukah.
And in the Winter concert that we did at the public school preschool I work at, we did sing the Dreidel song, but it was not nearly as cool as this version.