Chag sameach! For the fifth day of Chanukah, we have a story from one of our children’s books, An Angel Called Truth & Other Tales from the Torah. The authors, Rabbi Jeremy Gordon and Emma Parlons retell stories about each Torah portion and the holidays for a middle-grade readership, with Pete Williamson’s fun illustrations! This full-color book is great for the whole family, with discussion questions that will also make parents think.
We’d also like to remind you that our holiday sale is still ongoing! Get 3 books for the price of 2. And make sure to check out our readings for the previous days around the theme of light:
Day 1: Ra’u Or: Essays in Honor of Dr. Ora Horn Preuser edited by Rabbi Joseph H. Prouser
Day 3: Thirty-Two Gates of Wisdom: Awakening Through Kabbalah by Rabbi DovBer Pinson
Day 4: Here Is Our Light: Humanistic Jewish Holiday and Life-Cycle Liturgy for Inspiration and Reflection, edited by Miriam S. Jerris and Sheila Malcolm
And without further ado, here is today’s story…
We Will Burn What We Have
Around 2,200 years ago, the King of the Seleucids, Antiochus, began to persecute the Jews. He ordered a statue of the Greek god, Zeus, to be placed in the Temple, and that pigs should be offered as sacrifices on the altar (both of which were completely forbidden to the Jews). The king’s behaviour resulted in a revolt against the Seleucids, led by Judah the Maccabee. The Maccabees won. And so began a process of cleaning up the Temple, making it ready to be dedicated again (the Hebrew word chanukah means ‘dedication’). We have imagined a tale told by a young boy who has been working with his father on the clean-up project.
“Silence please! Please do sit down. We’ll begin in a few moments.” Dad’s trying to get the crowd to settle, so we can start the dedication ceremony. But everyone wants to congratulate him, and he can’t help being the chattiest person around. “Oh yes! It does look good doesn’t it? Thank you, thank you. It was a team effort really. My boy, yes that’s him over there, very helpful!” He nods in my direction. I swell with pride. “It was a mess, filthy; pigs roaming around, idols everywhere. I wasn’t sure we’d ever get it back to where it is today. Yes, yes, oh, do please settle down, settle down.”The past two months have been amazing. My back hurts from hauling away rubble. My arms hurt from scrubbing. My legs hurt from all the ladder-climbing. But it’s been great fun and the temple looks amazing; everything is shining, there’s not an idol to be seen. Today is going to be great.
Dad is in charge of lighting the Ner Tamid, the everlasting light. He deserves it; he’s worked harder than everyone. As a hush settles over the crowd, he swells with pride.
“Bring forth the sacred oil,” Dad calls out. Nobody moves. We all wait. “Who has the oil?” He calls out again, this time starting to sound a little anxious. Still silence.
Then I realise that no one has remembered to get hold of new oil. We are all in big trouble. No oil, no everlasting light, no dedication. And the oil presses were a four-day donkey ride away – four days there, four days back. Then I remember I have seen a tiny flask of oil, with the sacred seal still attached. Everything else has been thrown out. I push through the crowd to get to the store cupboard and scramble through everyone back to the front of the crowd as quickly as I can. “Dad, we’ve got this,” I say, opening my hand and showing him the tiny vial of oil.
Dad looks unimpressed. “It’s not enough, son – there’s no point.” I refuse to give up. “Go on, Dad,” I say. I’m out of breath and embarrassed, but after everything we’ve been through, I’ve got to believe it’s worth a try. “Don’t quit now. Let’s burn what we have.” And, somehow, it was enough.
Have you ever held yourself back from doing something because you thought you didn’t have ‘enough’?
Do you believe in miracles?
Chanukah doesn’t appear in the Bible. Why do you think it’s such a favourite festival?
Thank you for reading! Next time, we are planning on showing you… prose? poetry? Hmm, how about some PROSE POETRY?