16 December 2006
Okay okay, Happy Hanukkah! Chag Sama-ach!
Here's the deal. After Alexander the Great (a violent, drunken Bulgarian youth) conquered a huge chunk of Eurasia and Africa, his empire was split among three generals, and one of them, the Seleucid Antiochus IV Epiphanes, got Syria and Israel/Judea.
In 167 BCE, Antiochus erected a statue of Zeus in Solomon's Temple in Jerusalem. (See Commandment I.) The priests led a revolt under Judah, nicknamed Maccabee ("the hammer") -- and won! In 165, they kicked the Greek army with all its elephants out of Israel/Judea!
Solomon's Temple was a real mess, but the immediate crisis was that the Eternal Flame was about to go out, there was barely a few drops of oil left. The priests ran to get more oil, but it took eight days to bring it back to Jerusalem.
But the Flame never went out! It kept burning on vapors and prayer! That's the miracle of Hanukkah.
For eight days, a woman in each household (wearing some kind of hat/scarf on her head) says the Hebrew prayers and lights the Hanukkah candles, and if we get another miracle and this little filched image wiggles for you, this is the Precise Order of how to light the candles every night. The candle in the middle of the menorah is called the Shammus, and you light it first, and then use it to light all the other candles.
PizzaQ (1 slice): If it wiggles and you can figure it out, How Many Candles Will Be Lit for the Entire Hanukkah Festival?
My guess is the Tel Aviv Fire Department really hates Hanukkah.
The other big Hanukkah thing is the spinning top called the Dredel. It has four sides, each with a Hebrew letter. Kids gamble with chocolate coins called Hannukah Gelt (if they're from the Yiddish-speaking culture, I don't know if Sephardim/Ladino-speakers gamble for chocolate).
I hope I got most of this right. As I've said before, I am the Huckleberry Finn of World Jewry.