It’s Greek to Me

The miracle of Chanukah (or Hannukah or Hanukah) most remembered in our holiday celebration is not the battle, but the miracle of the light: a tiny vessel of oil lasting eight days, menorah remaining lit, a defiled temple purified.  That a small Jewish army was victorious over the Greeks is not forgotten, but what happened afterward  is what we celebrate at Hanukkah: the miracle of how holiness was restored. Which seems a timely message to revisit.

The Jews at that time were assimilating into a larger Syrian/Greek culture, losing Jewish values and compromising tradition and identity to a more modern ethos that favored physical beauty, polytheism, and reason. Some Jews favored and supported these Syrian Greek Hellenists.

We currently live in a troubling time that many agree is on the verge of changing. And there have been Jews involved in and supporting these regimes as well. An unprecedented level of governmental corruption is now being made known. Open unscrupulous behavior is no longer being tolerated or touted.

What happens when things do change – when we are left to face the remains of this civil desecration, and are in need of a more global spiritual enlightenment?  Can we return to valuing the sacred nature of goodness, to revering and protecting the environment, each other, and those seeking shelter and asylum, and embracing the holiness of children? Is there oil still pure enough; long-lasting cleansing light strong enough to pour over us, returning us to at least the pursuit of virtue and of moral aims, rather than personal profit and flagrant self interest, hatred and bigotry and terrifying acts of violence that has been a hallmark of corrupt administrations.

After the rule of law and the law of democracy are restored, who will we be? Can and will we rededicate ourselves to purging the defilement remaining after immoral and compromised leaders are no longer in power. How?

The coexistence of Democratic and Jewish values is unique to the Israeli government and the American Jewish communities, the interplay between these values and how they are reconciled interesting to compare in these different circumstances, demographics, and histories.

The word Hanukah itself means rededication. Some may talk about putting the christ back into Christmas. But the seeking of purification as a national ethos after resistance that the rededication of Hannukah embodies may prove the greatest enduring and recurrent miraculous lesson of all.

About the Author
Judi Zirin is an attorney and freelance writer in the New York area.