Monday, December 14, 2009

Chanukah Miracles

This year marks H.B.'s and my first holiday season together (get all the cooing out of your system now).  Chanukah is not a high holiday, and were I a good Jew, I would not be so excited about it.  However, I am a semi-Semite, a historical Jew, and I look forward to the opportunity to celebrate an event in geopolitical history.

Roughly 2300 years ago, the Graecian Alexander the Great conquered Judea.  At the end of his reign, his kingdom split into the tension-riddled Seleucid and Ptolemaic kingdoms, between which Judea was caught.  While the two Greek factions fought for political control, the Jews successfully turned Jerusalem into a recognized city while maintaining their Temple and practices in exchange for paying extraordinary taxes.  For a hundred years, taxes paid for peace until Seleucid King Antiochus entered the stage and attacked the Ptolemies.  Antiochus lost and was presumed dead, which invited his crown to be lobbied for, and a former High Priest began this revolution in Jerusalem.  Furious, Antiochus carried out a slaughter of Jewish people, declared martial law and decreed many Jewish practices capital crimes.  Desecration of the Temple ensued.  Judah Hasmonean and his followers revolted and successfully overwhelmed two of Antiochus' armies via guerilla warfare.

A year after the defeat, the chanukah of the rebuilt Temple -- chanukah being the Hebrew word for "dedication" -- was declared by Judah to last for eight days as a reminder of Sukkot, which also lasts eight days.  But things were not all sunshine and happiness in Judea; civil war lasted for twenty years following the defeat of the Seleucids until the Hasmoneans won and regained governing power.  And although there was warring in Judea, the Seleucid Empire was collapsing under the budding Roman and Parthian Empires who joined forces with the newly recognized state of Israel... and then exploited and retracted its independence as Octavian sought to out-do Caesar's expansion of the Roman Empire. 

Although the Hasmonean family governed for nearly a century, there was severe tension between them and the sages.  The myth goes that when the Talmud was finally written seven hundred years later, the story of the single day's worth of oil burning for eight days was the result of the sages not wishing to credit the Hasmonean family, and Chaunkah was regarded in somewhat of a tainted light. (The Book of Jewish Knowledge: 613 Basic Facts About Judaism).

But enough history -- onward to this year's Chanukah miracles!

1.  I am officially off Prednisone and am beginning to shed (very, very slowly) its various layers.

2.  A week after being denied by the two urologists in Oregon who my insurance covers, the symptoms of my mysterious infection-which-was-not-actually-an-infection-of-any-kind attenuated and are now almost non-existent.

3.  I have only woken up one or two times a night for the past several nights now.

4.  H.B. and I did some serious cooking on Night 1, which yielded almost zero Crohn's pain.


5.  My parents gave us a menorah which dwarfs my baby one from college in size and effulgence.

6.  We decided, this being the season for giving, and since our first anniversary is probably going to be amalgamated with my birthday and New Years, to each give four small presents to the other.  The miracle, here, is that we can both afford to give a few nice things not only to each other but to family.  Sorry, friends; a heartfelt letter of undying love must suffice.

7.  This has been a particularly challenging year for too many of the people I treasure.  Career stifling unemployment, seemingly insurmountable isolation, health obstacles without healthcare and the deaths of loved ones have played all too frequent and dominating parts in the lives of those who have met them with courage, passion and optimism.  One thing just seems to rear its ugly head right on the tail of another.  This year continues to be a very fortunate one for me, which has allowed me to continue to support the people I care about in whatever capacity is appropriate.  I am thankful to have not lost any of the people I hold most tightly.  My having not been touched by misfortune this year, and instead being flooded with opportunity and overwhelming happiness, is not really a Chanukah miracle so much as the universe being somehow content with my behavior... but I'll acknowledge it on Chanukah, anyway.

8.  The Eighth Miracle of my 2009 Chanukah is Aaron Zelinsky, and his article in the Huffington Post comparing Judah the Macabee to Barack Obama.  Yayer.

Chanukah sameach!


  1. Amazing post. Channukah is the best holiday for sure (causing the more devout Jews to turn their heads in shock).

  2. Many thanks for your comment -- I had forgotten about this, and many other posts :)