250 Words on Chanukah

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In 167 BCE, the Greeks set out to destroy Judaism by imposing a ban on Jewish tradition, punishable by death. Many Jews had assimilated already. Once the decree was made, many more followed. A small band of die-hard Jews, known as the Maccabees, revolted and, three years later, succeeded in evicting the oppressors.

The victory was a miracle on the scale of Cuba waging war against America and winning. Having regained control of the Temple they wanted to immediately rededicate it. Only a single vial of olive oil was found; enough to burn in the Temple Menorah (seven branched candelabra) for just one day. However, they needed oil for eight days until new olive oil could be produced. Another miracle occurred and the oil burned for eight days. Ever since, Jews have lit a Chanukiah (nine branched candelabra) for eight days, in celebration of the miracles.

The message Jews learn from Chanukah is that of the power of the individual. Often we feel that governments run the world – what difference can one person really make? The lights of the Chanukiah remind us that this is wrong. History is more so the story of individuals than it is of nations or governments. One candle in a room can dispel a great deal of darkness. Equally, one soul can provide light for millions – even billions. In a world that often seems too dark, each one of us has the ability to provide the light to dispel that darkness. If we care enough, we can prevail.

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