The brief life of a new Chanukah myth

The brief life of a new Chanukah myth

There have long been many origin stories for the festival of Chanukah.

There’s the version from the Book of Maccabees, that has the Judean rebels celebrating a delayed Sukkot-in-Kislev after they purified the Temple.

There’s the several-centuries-younger version in the Talmud that tells of a miraculous menorah that burned for eight nights, with only one night’s worth of certified pure oil to fuel it.

And there are the competing 19th-century interpretations of the holiday as symbolizing either American-style religious liberty (credit to Henrietta Szold and her friends for fostering this one) or proud Jewish self-defense (the Zionist version).

And now there is the version, briefly posted on a social media page belonging to Douglas Emhoff, the husband of Vice President Kamala Harris, that celebrates Jewish resilience after “the Jewish people were forced into hiding.

“During those eight days in hiding, they recited their prayers and continued their traditions. That’s why Hanukkah means dedication. It was during those dark nights that the Maccabees dedicated themselves to maintaining hope and faith in the oil, each other, and their Judaism,” the post continued.

This version echoes the Anne Frank story, as well as II Maccabees 6:12, which tells of Jews who gathered in caves to observe Shabbat secretly, only to be discovered by the Greeks and burnt to death because they would not profane the Sabbath to fight for their lives.

No word yet on who wrote the post, or who decided to remove it as soon as its errors — though we prefer the term creativity — were noted and widely mocked. We suspect a staffer’s improvident use of Chat-GPT or similar “artificial intelligence” is to blame.

Certainly, the post echoed Chanukah themes Emhoff has cited in the past.

“The story of Chanukkah and the story of the Jewish people has always been one of hope and resilience,” he said at the National Menorah lighting ceremony in front of the White House at the beginning of the holiday, in remarks proudly reposted by the official account. “We will rededicate ourselves to embracing our faith and practicing our traditions. We cannot live in fear or be afraid. We must always live openly and proudly as Jews.”

read more: