Gut Yontev!!



The letters on the Chanuka dreidl,


   "shin"           "hey"     "gimmel"   "nuhn"

stand for the Hebrew phrase "nes gadol haya sham" meaning "A great miracle happened there."


The Chanuka Story
(The Maccabee Miracle)

re-told by Railroad Rita

     In 332 BCE, Alexander the Great of Macedonia entered Jerusalem, capital of Judea, prepared to battle for conquest and annexation. To his surprise there was no resistance. The Jews didn't much care who claimed to "own" the land they lived in, or to whom they paid taxes. Yesterday a Persian king, today a Greek king-- who cares? All they asked was to be left to govern themselves at the local level and to follow their own religious teachings. Most of their many "conquerors" had no problem with that, and Alexander was no exception. In fact, he was intrigued by their devotion to studying and literacy, and hired tutors to teach him Hebrew and Jewish philosophy. He remained convinced of Greek cultural superiority, though, and appointed tutors to go throughout Judea teaching Greek language, philosophy, science, and culture, assuming that with the passage of time the Judaic culture would fade away of its own accord as Jews had a Hellenic awakening.

     For over a century after Alexander's death the Jews were left in peace by Ptolemic rulers. Some Jews actually did "come to believe" in Hellenic culture, and disavowed Judaism. Most, though, became bilingual in Greek and Hebrew while retaining their own culture and belief system.

     In c.215 BCE power changed hands again and the Seleucids (Hellenized Syrians) seized control of Judea. The Syrians were much more insistent on total Hellenization of Judea, partly out of a sense of superiority and intolerance of other ideas, and partly because it was thought that acceptance of Greek superiority would encourage Judean participation in an invasion of Egypt. The third Syrian ruler of Judea, Antiochus IV, flat out decreed that "unenlightened" Jewish ways of living and thinking were henceforth outlawed in favor of "superior" Greek ways. Statues of Greek gods and of Antiochus himself were placed all over Jerusalem and Jews were expected to bow to them, which is expressly forbidden by Jewish law. The Jews protested, pointing out that they had always respected the king, obeyed his rules, and paid their taxes, but they could not practice idolatry. Some of the Jews who had voluntarily undergone a "Hellenic enlightenment" were appointed to convert the unenlightened by whatever means necessary, and met with some success. The traditionalists, fearing the total destruction of their way of life, started to become more militant. After one revolt in which Greek statues were tossed out of the Great Temple in Jerusalem, Antiochus reacted first with a massacre, then with a decree of death for anyone observing the Sabbath, studying Torah, following Kosher laws, or practicing circumcision.

     At first, traditional Jews were safe in small farming villages. Eventually, soldiers began to invade villages to check for "loyalty to the king" i.e. acceptance of Hellenism and rejection of Judaism. In 168 BCE, a patrol entered Modi'in, northwest of Jerusalem, and ordered the village elder, Mattathias, to prove his loyalty by slaughtering a pig they had brought, roasting it, and eating its flesh. Mattathias responded that the eating of a pig's flesh is forbidden to Jews. Another villager, terrified of retribution, voluteered to eat the pork. A melee broke out and the entire patrol was killed, along with the volunteer. Mattathias and most of the villagers fled to the mountains.

     Word spread of the revolt, and soon the group of freedom fighters expanded, led by Mattathias' son Judah. They became known as the Maccabee ("hammer") Army, and though they were poorly equipped and greatly outnumbered, they were determined, and had the tactical advantage of knowing the countryside far better than Antiochus' military forces. After a 3-year guerilla-style war, the Maccabees defeated the Syrian Army and reclaimed the Temple in Jerusalem. After a massive cleanup, the Jews lit the Temple's Eternal Lamp:

and on the 25th of Kislev in that year celebrated Chanuka (Hebrew for "dedication"). The Maccabee Revolt is reputed to be the first known instance of a war fought solely for religious freedom.


See Ya,



This card personally created by Railroad Rita, in simple HTML.