On Miracles of Oil and Jewish Survival
Looking at the chanukiah tonight after lighting for this final night of Chanukah, watching the flames flicker in their cups, and thinking vague, almost-but-not-quite-poetic thoughts about Chanukah, miracles of oil, and Jewish survival through the ages.
There’s a metaphor in there, somewhere. And I can’t quite put it into the words I want, but...
One tiny flask of oil, which should have burned out in one day... yet, eight days later, was still burning against all reason.
One tiny nation, which should have been wiped out long since... yet, thousands of years later, is still holding fast against all reason.
When I think about it, logic dictates that I should not exist. One of the innumerable attempts throughout history to eradicate my people, by genocide or assimilation or some combination thereof, should have been successful. Whatever the case, we most definitely shouldn’t still be around and celebrating Chanukah. Even if we did manage to survive all the physical threats, at some point over the past couple thousand years — a minority, in exile, facing persecution after persecution — we must surely have lost our communal identity, assimilated beyond recognition. Ceased to be Jews, ceased to be a people, ceased to be the Jewish people.
Except, we didn’t. And it’s decades, centuries, millennia later, and we’re still alive, still Jews, still here to commemorate those past attempts. To retell our stories. To kindle our flames. To... eat fried foods and do some light gambling. Um. Anyway.
B’chol dor vador omdim aleinu l’chaloteinu; in every generation they stand against us to destroy us. And despite that, here we are now and still, after so much, after so many generations. Gathering together (or gathering apart, in pandemic times), lighting our oil (or lighting candles, for the modern folks) — and still, still, still, burning on against all the odds.
Call it a miracle. Call it the stubbornness of a stiff-necked people. But here we are.
Take that, Antiochus. (And take that, Pharaoh, and Haman, and the Crusaders, and Hitler, and and and...)
Am yisrael chai. To my tiny handful of Jewish followers, chag sameach.
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