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Last year I wrote about a miracle on the "festival which dare not speak its name", when my favorite cafe was open on the morning of December 25. This year, there's another Christmas miracle, due to occur when the sun goes down on December 25. Well, technically it's a Hanukkah miracle. This year, you see, Hanukkah begins after sunset on Christmas day. And, you see, the Jewish feast of lights Hanukkah, which is a Hebrew word for "dedication", is dedicated to a miracle. And what was that miracle, you might ask? (I would hope you would ask.) The miracle was that a tiny container of olive oil for the Jerusalem Temple lamp, approved by the High Priest for ritual purposes, burned for a full eight days, long enough to prepare more.
But why, you might ask, did the temple's supply of oil run so low? Aha! At the time, the land of Israel was ruled by the Seleucid king of Syria, an heir to a kingdom established at the breakup of Alexander's the Great's empire. This particular king had decided to stamp out Judaism in Jerusalem, focusing on the hill where the Second Temple stood, the Temple Mount. (The idea of stamping out Judaism on the Temple Mount, BTW, still has its advocates today.) The king had converted the Jewish temple to a Greek-style temple dedicated to Zeus, eliminating all Jewish sacramental paraphernalia, including lamp oil. The Jews fought back, led by the Hasmonean family, including the militant commander Judah "The Hammer" Maccabee. They recaptured the temple and found the small container of oil overlooked by the Seleucids.
What, however, does this have to do with Christmas? Aha! More than you think. You see, just as the Seleucids tried to stamp out Judaism in Jerusalem, there are those today who want to stamp out Christianity in the little Middle Eastern town of Bethlehem, in parts of Europe, and even in the US. You know who you are. Which brings us to the "Merry Christmas" controversy, a theme so mindlessly overplayed that it gives meaning to the word "meme."
Yes, I said a year ago that I didn't buy the Hanukkah-Christmas connection. As a Jewish kid, I once felt that Christmas was being rammed down my throat by the popular culture. I am now more concerned that the opposite is happening. If a Muslim wished me "Eid mubarak", I would not be offended. Why should I? It now appears that those who would wish me a "Merry Christmas" are being made to feel guilty. And that's just not right. Therefore, on this particular Christmas day, I would hope that everyone who feels they are under attack for what they consider sacred would take inspiration from the Hanukkah miracle. Sometimes the oil lasts longer than you might expect. And, oh, yeah, Merry Christmas!| Technorati Tags: Christmas Hanukkah Miracle Menorah
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