With Chanukah marking the rededication of the holy temple in Jerusalem after the Maccabees’ defeat of Judea’s Seleucid rulers more than 2,000 years ago, the week of the holiday turned out to be the perfect time for the Academy of Jewish Religion, California (AJR-CA) to celebrate the opening of its new campus in Koreatown.
The heroes of Chanukah are no secret. The legendary Judah Maccabee and his warrior brothers defeated the Greek Hellenists in true Israelite fashion.
Who would have projected that Chanukah could be billed as the festival of lights, camera, action?
Books about Chanukah.
A lot of people have trouble with Chanukah. I did, for years. I'd go to parties and nibble on my latke or sufganiyot while grumbling under my breath about how there was nothing here to celebrate. I'd light my Chanukiyah, but I'd only do the bare minimum needed to fulfill the mitzvah and I'd do my best not to enjoy it. My problem then, and the problem of the people who this year have already informed me that they're all but going to boycott the holiday, is that the history of this particular celebration is, well ... complicated.
One of the Jewish calendar's most widespread and public observances, the Chanukah holiday has traditionally emphasized two miracles: the military victory of Jewish rebels over Greek invaders and the one vial of oil that lasted for eight nights. However, just as other holidays have seen their historic purpose shaped to contemporary narratives, Chanukah is increasingly being used as a vehicle for other Jewish agendas that seem to stray far from the holiday's original meaning.
Less well-known, according to a leading Israeli archaeologist, is that the Maccabees also were major builders who transformed the face of Jerusalem and restored the centrality of the Temple in Jewish life.
The election of Dr. Riccardo Di Segni as the new chief rabbi of Rome opens the latest chapter in the tumultuous life of a Jewish community that traces its history back to the days of the Maccabees.
Nes Gadol Hayah Sham.
We all agree that the letters on the sides of the dreidel stand for "A Great Miracle Happened There." (In Israel, of course, the letters stand for Nes Gadol Hayah Po -- "A Great Miracle Happened Here.")
But -- and this is why there's a book titled "Two Jews, Three Opinions" -- what miracle are we talking about?