By Vavi Toran – Jewish LearningWorks
Scroll to explore:
· The Dual Narratives of the Holiday – Historic and Miraculous
· Hanukkah or Chanuka? (Or is it Hannukah?...)
· Light as a Metaphor – Artists’ Perspective
· Illuminate SF Festival of Light
· Hanukkah Songs
· Other Resources
The Dual Narratives of the Holiday - Historic and Miraculous
"Hanukkah, one of the most popular holidays of the Jewish calendar, is a military victory celebration. The Maccabees, the heroes of the holiday, were a band of Jewish fighters who took to the hills and the caves outside of Jerusalem to attack the Seleucid forces. Despite their small numbers, they forced the Greeks to retreat. Ultimately the Maccabees regained control of the Temple and of Jerusalem. But the victory could not have come about without combat, suffering, and even death, all wrought by the Jews. Sadly, if the Jews wanted their autonomy back, they were going to have to fight-and to kill-for it.
Despite Hanukkah's overtly militaristic origins, the focus of the holiday gradually metamorphosed from military power to the miracle of the oil. Now God, and not the Maccabee fighters, was at center stage.
The miracle of the oil embellishes the story. When the Maccabees recapture the Temple, they found a sole cruse of oil with enough oil for one day. But miraculously when they lit the lamp the oil lasted for eight days, until more oil was ready.
The miracle of the oil is nowhere attested in the "eyewitness" accounts from the era. Instead, it's found for the first time in the Talmud, a text that emerged hundreds of years later.
To be sure, the "new" version of Hanukkah does not in any way deny the role of the Jewish warriors, but it certainly does shift the focus. It is therefore not surprising that early Zionists, who knew that they would have to fight for their independence, insisted that the Hanukkah story be "restored" to its former version.
In an attempt to make the Hanukkah story more fitting for the challenges that Zionism faced, the poet Ahron Ze'ev (1900-1968) among many others rejected that passive God-centered rabbinic reading (or rereading) of the Hanukkah narrative, and wrote a children's song that became an anti-religious mainstay of the secular Israeli celebration of Hanukkah. The poem “We are carrying Torches” insists that "a miracle did not happen to us, we did not find a cruse of oil, we chiseled away the stone until we bled." Not God, but people. Not miracles, but pure physical might. Not oil but courage. Those are what will save the Jewish people."
- from Saving Israel by Daniel Gordin (Chapter 11: The Wars That Must Be Waged)
Whether you agree with the interpretation of Daniel Gordis about the reasons for the dual focus of the holiday or not, these two narratives do live side by side during Hanukkah. Perhaps in the Diaspora we tend to emphasis the divine intervention in a form of a miracle and in Israel many still focus on the courageous acts by the Maccabees. Whatever the balance between these two narratives - the historic and the miraculous - we joyously celebrate the holiday with lights, stories, dreidel spinning and oil drenched food!
Articles exploring many meanings and multiple narratives of Hanukkah.
Agnon's "Whirlwind of Voices" - Secular Zionism, Hannukah, and Contemporary Jewish Identity
by Roni Zemelman in Kol Hamevaser
Creating Light Each Day
by Gila Sacks for JOFA
Al HaNissim: Do I Really Believe in Miracles?
by Noam Zion From Haggadahs-R-Us
The Truth(s) About Hanukkah
by Shawna Dolansky for the Huffington Post
The True Meaning of Hanukkah
by Hilary Leila Krieger for NY Times Op-Ed
Hanukkah or Chanuka? (Or is it Hannukah?...)
There is major disagreement and confusion around the proper spelling of the name of the holiday in English. Even Wikipedia deals with the alternative spellings issue in its main article.
We choose to use all of them!
Read More: Balashon: Etymology of Chanukah
Light as a Metaphor
The song We come to chase the darkness away (Banu Choshech Legaresh) is a Hannukah staple that illuminates the power of light over darkness. This year it has an added significance for all of us.
We come to chase the darkness away.
In our hands are light and fire.
Each individual light is small.
But together the light is mighty.
Flee, darkness and night.
Flee before the light.
Four artists from four different disciplines bring their own unique perspective and meaning to the motif of LIGHT
"From every human being there rises a light..."
- Baal Shem Tov
The poster designed by Tom Geismar is a part of Voices & Visions™, a program by Harold Grinspoon Foundation. A collection of 18 images, the series pairs leading figures of contemporary art and design with powerful quotes from Jewish thinkers across the ages.
A traveling exhibit of 18 framed posters accompanied by professional development and educational guidelines will soon be available to your school/institution through Jewish LearningWorks.
For more info
1. Who are the lights in your life?
2. In what way are you a light to others?
Lights: The Miracle of Chanukah is a popular animated film about the deeper meaning of light during the Festival of Lights. Retelling of the Chanukah story, it delivers the message that it is all right to be different and to stand up for what you believe. Available in our local Jewish Community Library and for sale
H.N. Bialik - I Didn't Win Light in a Windfall The poem is about the art of poetry (Ars Poetica). Haim Nachman Bialik, Israel's national poet, examines the sometimes-painful process of poetry writing, the way it is perceived by the readers and their response to it. Light here is a metaphor for the poetic expression. Light, like a precious stone, is chiseled and quarried from the poet's heart.
In-depth analysis of the poem in Hebrew
This song describes the hardship, doubts and loneliness associated with the road to independence, and the great light that emanates in the process of resolving these difficulties.
Singer-songwriter Amir Dadon was born in Beer Sheva, wrote for and played with Idan Reichal Project, Shlomo Artzi and many others. His maiden album was a great success in 2010 and the song "Or Gadol" (A Great Light) was watched by more than two million viewers on YouTube. Besides his musical career, Amir works with youth at risk by introducing them to the power of music. He might be the light in their lives!
Illuminate SF Festival of Light
Experience San Francisco as a shining gallery of light during the fourth annual Illuminate SF Festival of Light, from Thanksgiving 2016 through New Year’s Day 2017. The 39-day event celebrates 35 dramatic, eco-friendly light art installations—9 new ones this year including iconic works in the new SFMOMA. Visitors may experience free neighborhood light art tours, artist studio visits and neon walking tours, a stargazing party at the Presidio and more interactive experiences.
List of Hanukkah songs with Lyrics in Hebrew and English -http://www.hebrewsongs.com/chanukah.htm
Comprehensive list of Hannukah songs and dances with downloadable Hanukkah Song sheets -
Hanukkah Songs on YouTube
Songs for Hanukkah With Uzi Chitman and Cheni Nachmias in Hebrew -https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pg3Be6doSCU
A medley of songs and stories in Hebrew -
Fountainheads Hanukkah – Light Up the Night
Songs by The Maccabeats:
Candlelight by the Maccabeats - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=feYf5pJqhoE
Miracle with Matisyahu - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oHwyTxxQHmQ
Latke Recipe - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fg51la8Yayc
Eight Nights – Hanukkah Mashup - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WAbTDHblxFM
Elon Gold- Stand Up Comedy - Why the Jews Are Better Off Without Xmas Trees
Other Resources for Hanukkah
An article by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz: The Motif of Light in Jewish Tradition
From the iCenter for Israel Education: http://www.theicenter.org/compilation/chanukkah
Chanukah Heroes – American Zionist Movement
Celebrating the Miracles – And the Heroes Who Made Them Happen
Heroes and activities for each night of Chanukah
An article about a collector of Chanukiyot (Hannukah menorahs) in Jerusalem