Still here to tell the (hi)story

Tuesday, 30 November, 2021 - 10:22 pm

 Every year, we send a Chanukah letter to alumni of Chabad of SIU. Here's the letter from 2019:

Chanukah is coming up next week. Since it’s been a few years since you graduated Hebrew School, here’s a quick reminder of what this holiday is all about.

A couple of years ago, around 2200 or so, the Jewish people lived in the Land of Israel, happily serving G-d at home and in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. The big world power at that time was the Seleucids (or (Syrian-) Greeks, if that’s easier to pronounce) who also took over Israel. At first that wasn’t a problem. Until the Greeks decided that they know best and therefore outlawed basic practices like keeping Shabbat, circumcision, kosher and studying Torah. They were all for philosophy and intellectual stimulation but to see the Torah as the G-d given wisdom that it is….neh, they disagreed with that.

What they might have glossed over during your Hebrew school days is that the situation on the ground was not pretty. Jews who dared disagree with the all-knowing, modern enlightenment of the Greeks were murdered by the thousands. Girls were attacked. Babies and children were slaughtered.

One day, the rational Greeks had had it with those ‘outdated Jewish rituals’ in the Holy Temple so they ransacked the Temple and offered a swine on the Altar. What especially irritated them was the concept of purity that the Jews hold on to. Why would Jews insist on only using ritually pure olive oil to light the Temple menorah? What’s wrong with using regular olive oil? What is ritually pure anyway? It’s not something you can scientifically prove. So as part of their mission to ‘re-educate the backwards Jews’, they broke the seals on all the jugs of ritually pure olive oil.

The Jews had had enough. They prepared for war by fasting and praying (because in order for a Jew to win in the physical sense, he needs to be strong in the spiritual sense) and attacked. And won from the physically-strong-but-spiritually-weak Greek army.

As soon as possible, the Jews liberated the Holy Temple and started cleaning it up. You can imagine how happy they were to find one small jug of oil that had not been touched by the Greeks. This one jug contained enough oil to at least light up the Menorah for one day and night. It would take 8 days to produce more. The Jewish people figured ‘we have enough for one day, might as well light it for one day. Whatever mitzvah we can do now, let’s do it. What we’ll be able to do tomorrow? We’ll worry about that then’. And so they lit the Menorah.

G-d appreciated their efforts and decided to reciprocate in kind. They go out of their way for Me, I’ll go out of My way for them. And so the oil lasted and lasted and lasted (and here’s where we write that word 8 times) for 8 days, until the new batch of ritually pure oil was ready.

To remember those miracles (the weak army winning, and the oil lasting) we celebrate Chanukah until today. In the exact same way we’ve been celebrating it for the past 2200 years. We’re still around, still keeping Shabbat, circumcision, kosher and studying Torah. And those Syrian-Greeks? They get studied by archeologists and history fans.

Get in on the 2200 year old game and celebrate Chanukah yourself! All it takes is a menorah and 44 candles. For more detailed how-to instructions, check out

With best wishes for a wonderful Chanukah,

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