Hanukkah is the fun Jewish holiday. Most of us associate Hanukkah with deep-fried foods like potato latkes and sufganiyot, parties with friends and family, playing dreidel and opening gifts. These are traditions whose origins, interestingly, have been extensively debated. They are not religious commandments per se.
Hanukkah is a minor Jewish holiday. It is celebrated at home, not in the synagogue, without the solemnity or ritual of some other Jewish holidays. In fact, the only commandment for Hanukkah is to light the menorah for eight nights.
Everyone loves when the underdog wins. Seeing the small and righteous defeat a powerful ruler is a story that resonates profoundly in our collective psyche. It is a theme that we see over and over in fairy tales, the bible, classic novels and Hollywood movies. For the Jewish people, Hanukkah is our story about the underdogs (the Maccabees) who overcame all odds, defeated the mighty Syrian army and were rewarded with a miracle.
There Was a Young Rabbi tells the story, in playful rhyme, of a family getting ready for Hanukkah, including cooking a 10-pound brisket and flipping latkes up to the ceiling. The one dark page in the book shows guests arriving down a snowy street, cake and gifts in hand, but that darkness is juxtaposed by the warm and cozy house with the menorah glowing in the window.
Celebrating the unlikely hero is indeed a fun way to light up the world.