Wednesday, December 31, 2014


DECEMBER 18, 2010 - 10 TEVET 5770

Four years......hard to believe. December 18th was the calendar date....the third night of Chanukah...

At sundown tonight, December 31st, Tevet 10 is the yahrtzeit by the Jewish lunar calendar. Thinking of Roby during all these holidays especially tonight, the New year when we light the yahrtzeit candle again.

Last year, Julian sent me Roby's THE STORY OF CHANUKAH which I had never read. Here it is in his memory...


The story of Chanukah begins, not with Judah Maccabee, but with another great general, Alexander the Great, of Macedonia. In the fourth century B.C.E., Alexander conquered the world - or as much of it as he could find. His father, Phillip, had previously conquered Greece, which borders on Macedonia. Although Phillip of Macedonia conquered Greece, Greek culture "conquered" him and Alexander - a not infrequent occurrence in human history. It was Greek learning and Greek culture, therefore, that Alexander's armies spread among the various countries that they conquered in the the Middle East - including Judea. (Israel)

After the death of Alexander in 323 B.C.E., his Middle Eastern empire was split into three kingdoms: Parthia in the East, Syria in the center, and Egypt in the southwest. Judea (Israel) was located in the area of the King of Syria.

By the second century B.C.E., Hellenism (Greek culture) was still exercising a strong attraction upon those who could read and write - usually the rich and the powerful - in the major cities of the Middle East, including many Jews in Judea, especially in Jerusalem. By this time, it had become common for those who were literate to learn Greek and to educate themselves in the Greek arts and sciences and philosophy, etc.

In Judea a split occurred between those Jews who had eagerly embraced the impressive academic and creative achievements of the Greeks (and in the process, neglected and forgot about their Judaism) and those Jews who felt that Greek culture was weakening and eroding their Jewish heritage. There were also some Jews - like Hillel - who studied and admired Greek arts and sciences but who did not abandon their primary - and strong - commitment to their Jewish philosophy and teachings.
In 175 B.C.E., the Greco-Syrian king, Antochus Epiphanes, unhappy and uncomfortable with the religious independence of many other peoples, declared that the Greek religion was going to replace the Jewish religion. When he met opposition from ardent Jews, Antiochus decided to take harsh steps. He banned the reading and study of the Torah. Those who violated the ban were put to death. Mothers were forbidden to have their sons circumcized. Those who violated the ban were put to death.

In 167 B.C.E., ing Antiochus decreed that the animal to be sacrificed daily in the Holy Temple was henceforth to be a pig...which, for Jews, had been the most despised non-kosher animal for a thousand years. In addition, sculptured idols of the gods of Greek mythology were to be worshipped in the Jewish Holy Temple, including a statue of Antiochus Epiphanes himself.

As circumstances developed, the secularized, educated, Hellenized Jews in Jerusalem offered little resistance to the edicts of Antiochus. Significant resistance was present, however, in the countryside among the farmers, among the relatively uneducated, among the poor - and among a few prominent well-to-do families in small towns and villages who resented the loose living and free thinking of those Hellenized Jews in the larger cities.

Antiochus then ordered his troops to hunt down those places in the countryside where opposition to Antiochus and Jewish Hellenists were known to exist. One such place they went to was the town of Modi'in, where Mattathias, a Jewish priest, and his five grown sons lived. The were known for their opposition to the weakening of Judaism as a result of Jewish Hellenization.

In the presence of people of the town, one of Antiochus' men prepared an altar with a pig and asked for a Jew to come up and perform the sacrificial ritual. When a Jewish man rose to perform the sacrifice, Mattathias killed both him and Antiochus's soldier. As he tore down the altar, Mattathias shouted to the crowd: "Who is for the Lord and for Torah stand with me?" With his five grown sons, and some of the townspeople, Mattathias fled to the mountains, where he was eventually joined by many like-minded zealots - Pietists, as they were called. As stated in the Book of Maccabees I, "The core of the conflict was a fight for religious freedom and national survival."
From their mountain hide-outs, they used guerilla tactics - the first known use of such tactics in warfare - to harass the military units of King Antiochus. Mattathias died early in the war, in 166 B.C.E., but his son, Judah, proved himself to be an outstanding military leader. Judah the Maccabee, he was called; the thousands of men who joined them in their struggle for religious freedom became known as the Maccabees. The word "maccabee" means "Hammer" in Hebrew. Also, the first letters of the Biblical phrase, "Who is like you, Lord, among the mighty," spells "maccabee."

After a string of military successes against the larger forces of Antiochus, the Maccabees defeated the Greco-Syrians and recaptured the Holy Temple in Jerusalem 163 B.C.E. Within a few days, they had cleansed the Temple thoroughly, and, on the 25th day of the month of Kislev, they rededicated the Temple, including the restoration of an eternal light over the ark, which contained the Torah scrolls - an ancient custom of the Israelites. To this day, every synagogue in the world has a candle, or light, burning day and night, every day of the year. The Hebrew word for "dedication" is Chanukah. The Maccabees - and Jews everywhere - celebrated Chanukah every year for eight days.

About a century later, after the Romans had occupied Judea, a story of unknown origin began to circulate that when the Maccabees recaptured, cleansed and rededicated the Holy Temple, they found only a small cruse of oil with which to light the eternal light - enough, it was thought, for perhaps one day. When it lasted for eight days, it was considered a miracle - a point that became - and still is - a part of the Chanukah story.

Just think! If the Jews had not fought for the continued existence of the Jewish religion 2165 years ago, there would not have been any Christianity...or Islam !!


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Traditional Chanukah Menorah, oil lamp;


As we head into the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year, Sunday Dec. 21st, we add Light - common to all traditions at this time of year. Thinking of Roby and the latkes....

 Modern Menorah by LILIBI: An interesting modern take on the ancient, traditional Chanukah menorahs where olive oil was used, not candles, clearly connected to the Chanukah story where the oil burned for 8 days even though there was only enough for one day.....miracles......