Sunday, November 18, 2007

Conversion Class

In class, we talked about Hanukkah, and we covered a lot of the same information I had written in my previous post on the topic.
New information:  Hanukkah or Chanukkah are the most correct transliterations of the word.  If you want to be as correct as possible, it should be spelled without the C, but with a dot underneath the H.  Nobody does it that way, though.
A menorah is different from a hanukkiah, which is the menorah used on Hanukkah.  The menorah was a ritual item found in the Temple, and it had 7 branches.  A hanukkiah is meant as a callback to that item, but it has 9 branches and is specifically tasked for the celebration of Hanukkah.

We talked about the two miracles of Hanukkah, and that the military victory story is probably the most true.  The Rabbi pointed out that when Hanukkah was first celebrated, the Jews were under oppressive Roman rule, and a victory against the ruling military would, at that time, have seemed like a miracle.  Eventually, the story of the cruse of oil was invented in order to create a "legitimate" miracle.

The Rabbi also pointed out that Hanukkah doesn't appear in the Torah, but it does appear in the apocrypha.  They talk about the Maccabee rebellion in I and II Maccabees, including the idea that Hanukkah was originally celebrated as a kind of belated Sukkot.
Because the Rabbi is so very interested in history, he pointed out that the story of the Maccabees' rebellion indicates that the Greek army was very disorganized, and that the victory was...more than a little bit based on luck.

The Rabbi also said that he likes to ask his classes about why we celebrate Hanukkah.
He said that the most common answer is "to celebrate the miracle of the cruse of oil burning for 8 days".
After he asks, he likes to continue the class discussion for a few minutes, and then ask, "who believes in miracles?"  He says that nobody ever raises their hands.
I would have.  I totally believe, but I also believe that miracles aren't always supernatural events.  I believe that "miracle" is another word for "luck".  I just don't understand how people can have hope if they don't believe in miracles.  Lucky there's a holiday just to celebrate miracles.

No comments: