When I was growing up, like most (if not all) of you reading this, I was told that the reason we celebrate Chanukah was that the single cruse of oil the Maccabees found when they regained the Temple somehow lasted for eight days. The so-called miracle of the oil! It was not until I went to rabbinic school that I found out that this story was invented by the rabbis of the Talmudic era. There, in tractate Shabbat 21b, they ask the question, “Mai Chanukah?” What is Chanukah? Apparently, this holiday that we love so well, had not been celebrated for hundreds of years and may have been forgotten altogether. After all, the near-contemporary historical accounting in the two Books of Maccabees was NOT included in the Hebrew Bible known as the TaNaCh. Why was that? If we do take a look at the Books of Maccabees (best place to find them is in the Catholic Standard Bible…yes, Catholic, not Protestant) we read that there was, in fact, a war fought in the second century before the Common Era. However, rather than being a full-out battle against the Syrian Greek armies, it was more like a Civil War with the Syrians aiding the priestly families in charge of the Temple. Apparently, there was a great deal of assimilation with Greek culture (modernizing?) going on at the Temple and for the priest named Mattathias, it had gone too far. His sons, led by Judah, began a guerilla warfare campaign, and against incredible odds, were successful! No this is NOT the version they taught us in Hebrew School. When the Maccabees finally regained the Temple, they celebrated for eight days. Why eight? Because they fought throughout the Fall and could not pause to celebrate the Sukkot holiday. How long is Sukkot? Eight days! And while I am certain part of the celebration was lighting the Ner Tamid/Eternal flame each morning, there is absolutely no mention of a single cruse of holy oil lasting eight days in either Book of the Maccabees. Why the rabbis chose to suppress this story is anybody’s guess. Clearly, something about it made them very uncomfortable. And so (centuries later) when they chose to talk about it at all, they downplayed the militaristic aspect, were silent about the civil war, and turned it into a miraculous story about oil. And since the vast majority of us never read the contemporary accounting (remember, it is in the Catholic Bible) we believed our rabbis. Nevertheless, there is a real miracle contained in Chanukah. And that is, against all the odds of history, we, the Jewish people are still here! And not only that, but in the last two thousand years we have contributed mightily to every society and civilization which has allowed us the freedom to do so. The Winter solstice reminds us that darkness threatens all of us, literally and figuratively. We can allow ourselves to be engulfed, or we can stand up, be true to ourselves and our faith tradition, and light lights. Each of the world religions, in a variety of ritual ways, encourages us to not give into, to be a stand against the darkness. We are one family on earth with much more that unites us than separates us. Or to paraphrase our teacher, Gandhi, “On this Chanukah, Christmas, Kwanza, et al “Be the light you wish to see in the world”. Happy holidays!