A Sophisticate Honors Hanukkah

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"As long as Hanukkah is studied and remembered, Jews will not surrender to the night. The proper response, as Hanukkah teaches, is not to curse the darkness but to light a candle" Irving Greenberg 

When I was very little my father went for his Masters Degree at Cornell University. From the ages three to five years old, I had friends from China, Japan, Indonesia, Africa, Sweden, India, just to name a few. In nursery school and kindergarten my education revolved around cultures and customs from all around the world. One of the customs I learned was the dreidel song.  My friend and I would sit on the floor of her parent’s house and we would spin the dreidel while we sang the song that has forever stuck in my memory.

Although, I knew the dreidel song and have seen the movie 'Fiddler on the Roof' many times, I still never really fully understood the significance of what it meant to be Jewish or the significance of the celebration of Hanukkah. What I learned when I began reading about it was that Hanukkah was more than just a story passed down from generation to generation. The story of Hanukkah is fact not fiction and it will be a miracle that will remain a part of history forever.

The fight to reclaim Jewish religious autonomy began in 167 B.C. In the town of Modi'in, an elderly priest named Mattathias refused a Syrian order to sacrifice to an idol. When an apostate Jew stepped forward to comply, Mattathias killed the man and tore down the alter. Then he and his five sons took to the hills and launched a guerrilla war against the armies of the empire. 

When Mattathias died, his third son, Judah Maccabee, took command. He and his band of fighters were impossibly outnumbered, yet they won one miraculous victory after another. In 164 B.C., they re-captured the Temple, which they cleansed and purified and rededicated to God. On the 225th day of the Jewish month of Kislev, the menorah a.k.a. the candelabra  symbolizing the divine presence, was re-kindled. For eight days, throngs of Jews celebrated the Temple's restoration. "All the people prostrated themselves," records the book of Maccabees, "worshipping and praising Heaven that their cause had prospered."

The Jewish troops were determined to purify the Temple, with the small existing oil that they found. There was a great need to purify what the Greeks defiled with their worship of foreign gods and sacrificing of swine. They only had enough oil to last for one day and the new oil would take seven days to prepare. Instead of burning for one day, the Menorah stayed lit for eight days. Was it their belief and determination that made the impossible, possible? Yes. Was it a miracle? Yes. Hanukkah is a time when menorahs are lit for eight days to honor the miracle that took place and be inspired by its message.

The essence of what was created was not just something to burn away past sins. What made the impossible, possible was belief and hope. That night, hope was not just created for the people who experienced the miracle rather, it was created for future generations to understand and celebrate.

"Better to light a candle than to curse the darkness." Chinese Proverb

Sophistication in the 21st Century is about being optimistic and having hope in the face of darkness. Whether a Sophisticate is Jewish or not, she is optimistic and does not live her life in darkness or despair. A Sophisticate honors Hanukkah because she chooses to live with optimism and with hope one candle at a time. A Sophisticate chooses to live with optimism, re-affirming  hope in the face of despair. 

In the end, Hanukkah allows her inner beauty shines with an optimism that burns bright in her heart through the darkest of nights.  

A BIG thank you to David Friedberg for his help on providing the history of Hanukkah!