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Chanukah 2012: Guide for the Perplexed

Chanukah highlights the moral-high-ground of Jews in their ancestral land.
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Photo Credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

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9.  The thirty six Chanukah candles (without the constant candle – the Shamash) represent the 36 hidden righteous persons, whose virtue safeguards human-kind.  There were 36 hours of divine light, welcoming Adam during the creation, lasting until the end of the Sabbath. Various forms of light, and candles, are mentioned 36 times in the Torah. There are 36 parts in the Talmud. Chanukah is celebrated during the Hebrew month of Kislev, whose spelling consists of two Hebrew words: Throne (כס) and 36 (לו).  Candles are lit outside the home, or at the window, in order to spread light.  Unlike the Shabbat candles, which are lit inside since they target the family, the message of the Chanukah candles targets the world at large.

10.  Eight days of Chanukah represent divine capabilities and optimism. The ancientTemple Menorah consisted of seven branches, which commemorated the seven days of creation. The Chanukah Menorah has eight branches, reflecting the additional level of divine capabilities.  The eight day celebration could be intended to make up for the holiday of Tabernacles, which could not be celebrated due to the war of liberation. The shape of the digit8 represents infinity: no end to divine capabilities, as evidenced by the survival of the Jewish People against all odds. The root of the Hebrew word for 8 (Shmoneh, שמונה) is “oil” (Shemen,שמנ), which is also the root of “Hasmonean” (Hashmonayim, חשמונאים). The Aramaic name of the month of Kislev is Kislimo, which is “heavy” in Hebrew.  The spelling of “heavy” is identical to the spelling of “oil” – שמן.

11.  The statue of the head of Judah the Maccabee is displayed at the West Point Military Academy, along with the statues of Joshua, David, Alexander the Great, Hector, Julius Caesar, King Arthur, Charlemagne and Godfrey of Bouillon – “the Nine Worthies.”

12.  “In God We Trust” is similar to the Maccabees’ battle cry, which adopted Moses’ battle cry against the builders of the Golden Calf. A literal translation of Moses’ battle cry: “Whoever trusts G-D; join me!”

13.  Patrick Henry’s “Give me liberty or give me death,” and New Hampshire’s “Live Free or Die,” followed the legacy of the Maccabees’ sacrifice and political-incorrectness.  The Maccabees followed in the footsteps of Abraham, Phineas the High Priest, Joshua & Caleb, King David and Elijah the Prophet, who knew that swimming against the stream gets one closer to the source!

14.  “Rebellion against Tyrants is obedience to God” was proposed, as the US seal, by John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin. It reflected the legacy of the Maccabees who were a tiny minority of “rebels” – condemned by the “loyalists/pragmatists” – rising against an oppressive super-power.  They demonstrated the victory of the few over the many, right over wrong, moral over immoral, truth over lies, faith over cynicism and opportunism. Paul Revere’s nickname was the “modern day Maccabee.”

15. “Chanukah has a special significance in Montana these days. In Billings in 1993,vandals broke windows in homes that were displaying menorahs. In a response organized by local church leaders, more than 10,000 of the city’s residents and shopkeepers put make-shift menorahs in their own windows, to protect the city’s three dozen or so Jewish families. The vandalism stopped” (New York Times, Dec. 4, 2009, Eric Stern, senior counselor to Gov. Brian Schweitzer).

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About the Author: Ambassador (ret.) Yoram Ettinger is consultant to Israel’s Cabinet members and Israeli legislators, and lecturer in the U.S., Canada and Israel on Israel’s unique contributions to American interests, the foundations of U.S.-Israel relations, the Iranian threat, and Jewish-Arab issues.


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