Channauka in Columbus

Israel -- 200 BCE

A miracle of lights followed a victory won by the sword. Led by the Macabees, the Jews of ancient Israel fought against and overthrew the Assyrian Greeks. The Greeks may have had a great civilization, but when Assyrians who had learned Greek ways tried to make the Jews worship Greek Gods and bow down to statues of the king they installed, it was time to fight.

Though outnumbered and out-armed, the Macabees used stealth and strategy to fight and win against the forces of the evil Assyrian Greek ruler, Antiochus IV. They risked their lives for their faith. After they won, they returned to their temple. This was the fabled Second Temple where in two hundred years, Christ was to preach.

The temple to which the Jewish fighters returned, however, was an utter MESS. The Assyrian Greeks had used it to sacrifice swine to their idols. The Macabees cleaned up the temple but when they checked to see if their was enough of the special pure olive oil to light the lamps on the altar. There was only enough oil to burn for one day. The Macabees sent a messenger to get oil. For eight days the messenger traveled, and while he was gone the oil continued to burn and did not run out.

This is why we Jews today light candles in a special holder called a menorah for eight days. We celebrate not only a small miracle but a large military victory. If you want to read the story of Channauka, you can find it in the Apocrypha, a group of books not inclcuded in Protestant and Jewish bibles but part of the Catholic scriptures and available in large public or college libraries.

Were there no Macabee victory and no Channauka, there would have been no Christianity or Islam. I wonder if we would have the idea of worshipping one invisible God that is neither male nor female, or of fighting for freedom of religion. There are many good reasons to celebrate, light candles, learn the story and remember....or do we remember?

Columbus, Georgia USA -- 2000 AD

What do we remember and what have we forgotten? 2,200 years ago Macabees fought for the right to practice their faith in one God but what do we believe in?

Every four weeks, my syangogue holds its Friday night services in someone's home. This home is known only to those who receive the bulletin or who have been to services on a night when the dinner-service has been announced. A person walking in from off the street for services will find the synagogue closed and dark. There will be no services to nourish the spiritual appetite of the stranger. Columbus is a town with an army base, so there are always strangers, Jewish soldiers far from home. Sure they can call ahead, but should they have to....

It is hard to get a minyan, a minimum of ten people over thirteen, for services. Jews, like their non-Jewish bretheren, are out to dinner, asleep, watching TV or movies, or off at the mall. Well why shouldn't they enjoy themselves.

Were things this bad 2,200 years ago? Would it take the modern equivalent of an Antiochus IV to make us renew and defend our faith. I hate to think that it takes oppression to bring people together to fight for what they really believe in. Of course if there were another Antiochus IV in Columbus, maybe we Jews just would not care. Perhaps what Antiochus could not accomplish with force and the sword, the American South may have done with prosperity and the "good life."

At this time of year, I wonder what Judah Macabee, who led the victory that preserved my religion would think of the way we practice our faith. We are too apathetic and lazy to practice the mitzvos, learn, go to services, pray, or maintain a house of worship that helps the stranger. We say we remember the story of Channauka, but have we really forgotten how to fight or why we fought? And even if we give the story of the holiday lip service, have we really forgotten its meaning?

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