Chanukah: A History, In Verse
12/17/2012 - 13:47
Noah Yaffe
A latter-day Chanukah miracle: the world's largest menorah, lit by Mayor Michael Bloomberg in Manhattan. Getty Images
A latter-day Chanukah miracle: the world's largest menorah, lit by Mayor Michael Bloomberg in Manhattan. Getty Images

Of our Chanukah I write, when we drew the swords to fight.
You have heard of the eight nights, but not how they came to light.

It started when Antiochus was out to conquer land,
His new Hellenized empire was all set to expand.
And there were many foolish Jews, supported his command,
They'd give up their religion if deemed popular demand.

The Jewish High-Priest Menelaus promoted a decree,
"No longer will Mosaic law influence you or me.
From shackles of religion you will finally be free,
I'm sure there are no problems I can possibly foresee."

The message spread out far and wide and reached a pair of ears,
That belonged to Mattathias who was rather near his spear.
He killed the town's oppressor as a rebel pioneer,
And started off a war, which would last for many years.

This rebel did not start the war for whimsy or for whine,
He truly did not wish for good religion to decline.
Brave Mattathias would not bend to sacrifice a swine,
For he could only bow alone to the Lord Divine.

Guerrilla war consumed the minds of Maccabean sons,
Judah and his brothers charged the Grecian garrisons.
One by one they all died out, leading till they won,
We're lucky there were five of them born under heaven's sun.

There was a silly instance wherein many rebels died,
Refusing to defend themselves from swords and homicide.
They would not labor on Shabbat, they all held too much pride,
Though biblical King David would have looked at them and cried.

Another touching story is when Hannah's seven boys,
Would not bow to Antiochus or any of his ploys.
They only loved the Lord HaShem and all that He enjoys.
Martyrdom, a new invention, they would not avoid.

Our holy shrine  recaptured from imperial control,
The Temple was rededicated with their heart and soul.
A tardy Sukkot celebration was the people's goal.
The crowd was so astonished when there was enough oil!

A couple generations passed with Maccabean rule,
Though these kings were very evil, so irreparably cruel.
Jerusalem was given up, a Roman-conquered jewel.
But still I thank the Maccabees who saved our Jewish school.

The moral of this story is to fight for the Divine.
And you'll lose all of your presents if you are no longer kind.

Further Reading:
Jewish Literacy by Rabbi Joseph Telushkin
A History of the Jews by Paul Johnson

Noah Yaffe lives in the Los Angeles-SFV Moishe House, holds a degree in Economics from UC-Davis, and thoroughly enjoys life.

 

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