“Put on your yarmulke, here comes Chanukah.” These catchy lyrics from Adam Sandler’s “Chanukah” have permeated American culture, but popular culture tends to neglect the true essence of Chanukah.
In fact, the story of Chanukah and the idea of pop cultural assimilation are adverse entities. The translation of Chanukah means dedication, in honor of a group of Jews who fought bravely for their freedom.
MSU Hillel’s Rabbi Elazer Meisels said that “Chanukah is the only Jewish holiday not found in the Tanach and the only one rooted in a military campaign. And yet, its focus is almost entirely spiritual, not physical. For example, there is no feast associated with Chanukah, the way there is with Passover and Purim, the two other Jewish festivals of deliverance. Its religious observance is concentrated on flame, nothing more”.
In the second century B.C.E., the Maccabee rebels fought for religious and cultural freedom from King Antiochus IV, a Greco-Syrian monarch. Judas Maccabee led the Maccabees to a victorious recapture of the Holy Temple, despite Antiochius’ overwhelming army. The book, Chanukah-Eight Nights of Light, Eight Gifts for the Soul describes Judah Maccabee as the leader with “stubborn tenacity that literally saved the Jewish people and the Jewish way of life.”
The miracle of Chanukah occurred when the Maccabees returned to the Temple. There was only enough oil to last for one night, but the lantern burned brightly for eight full days.
Chanukah, for many, holds distinct memories, smells and tastes. They can vividly recall choosing the colors for the candles that filled the menorah each night and excitedly lighting the candles with the guidance of parents, mouth-watering smell of latkes wafting from the kitchen and games of dreidal played with chocolate gelt.
But because Chanukah this year starts December 9th and goes through finals, many Jewish MSU students’ celebration will be in a more low-key manner than they would at home. Pre-Med Freshman Samantha Dresser said: “I brought a menorah, candles and a dreidle back with me for Chanukah. I’ll probably get together with some of my friends in Case and have some mini Chanukah parties.”
Dresser said that one thing people should realize is that “Chanukah is not the Jewish Christmas. The High Holidays and Passover are the most important Jewish holidays.”
But even though Chanukah is not the most important Jewish holiday, Meisels said that “[Chanukah] is intrinsically a special time.”
Hillel will be hosting Chanukah events. To get more information check out www.msuhillel.org.

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