This year, the 8 days of Chanukah will occur from the evening of December 24th to January 1st. Did you know that you can learn more about the celebration of Chanuka on the Touro College Library Guides? There are many helpful resources on the Festival of Lights and other holidays on the guide dedicated to weekly Torah readings, Parashat HaShavua Sites and Hagim. From this libguide, one can gain insight on how Chanukah fits into the constellation of all Jewish holidays throughout the year. The diverse resources on Chanukah include a link to Jacob Richman’s web directory of Educational Resources for Chanukah, Chanukah audio files of Jewish music from JNUL Sound Archives, as well as a few of my essays on the topic.
A reason we organize the holidays together is based on an understanding of time and process in ancient Judaism. Indeed it can be argued that [in part] the Hellenism that the Macabees rejected was a particular Greek notion that contradicted the rabbinic views of the proper way to relate to “time itself.” The rabbis did not view time (zeman) as a “commodity” or something manipulable to human control and mastery, encapsulated in the Greek term/expression, Kronos diatreiben (to spend time). The rabbis of antiquity, in fixing the Jewish calendar, understood that ideally the pious Jew should “dwell poetically in time” by being attuned to and cognizant of the legal (halakhic) requirements and enjoying the spiritual elevations of exultation in the cycle of the yearly Jewish calendar. While the most regular holiday is Shabbat, which occurs every 7th day, the Jewish year is marked by Holidays (moadim) that regulate the Jewish life like a clock, giving time cognitive order as well as mystical significance.
Historical time consciousness perhaps urges us to recall that whenever persecutors of the Jews arose, they also vented their destructive hate on the Jewish texts. In the time of the Macabees, Antiochus Ephiphanes burned Jewish books. The Catholic Canon includes the book[s] of Maccabees [I Maccabees 1:53-56] which notes:
“And they made Israel to hide themselves in every place of refuge which they had … And they rent in pieces the books of law which they found, and set them on fire”
The lighting of the Chanukah menorah in part symbolizes not only the joy of a festival of lights, but a repair (tikkun) for the destructive fires that are recounted in the Book of Macabees which purposely destroyed the most important symbol and indeed lifeblood of the Jewish people, represented in the ideas contained in the Torah scroll that continue to nourish Jewish learning and behavior as a compass of ethical guidance (see Reverence-Love-Cherishing of Jewish text).
May we all discover not only the beauty of the Chanukah lights this upcoming Chanuakh Holiday, but the moral and mystical significance for the proper way of their kindling for the complete “8” days, 8 symbolizing le-malah le-teva (beyond nature) of Chanuakah.
Contributed by: Dr. David B. Levy, Librarian, Lander College for Women