Fribble Thursday, December 9, 1999

A Fool Looks at Chanukah

By James J. Vornov (Doc Jimbo)

I know that April Fool's Day is the official Foolish holiday. It's certainly appropriate that Fools should celebrate a day where humor is used to point out the truth. I'd like to suggest that we look at Chanukah as another very Foolish day, especially for Jewish Fools throughout the world.

You may have some idea of the story commemorated by the day. In about 165 BCE, the Jews took back control of their country from those who wished to eliminate their traditional values and practices. The Jews were led by a family, the Maccabees, who defeated the Greek-backed Syrian occupiers, who were allied with Jews who wanted to assimilate and abandon their long-held beliefs. It was more than just a military victory, it was a spiritual victory, in which values that still guide Jewish thought and philosophy were preserved.

When Jews light the eight candles of the menorah on Chanukah, they recreate a miracle that occurred at the time of the victory. The holy Temple in Jerusalem was and is the spiritual center of the Jews. It had been occupied and subverted by these foreign forces with foreign ideas. When it came time to rededicate the Temple, there was only enough pure oil to last for one day. Miraculously, it continued to burn, day after day until more oil could be prepared, eight days later.

There's a few funny things that have been noted about the story by Jewish commentators through the centuries. First of all, why do we celebrate eight days? The first day wasn't really a miracle at all. The oil would normally have burned for that first day. Maybe we really should just celebrate the seven days of miraculous oil burning.

No, it has been suggested that it was a miracle that there was anyone there to rededicate and light at all.

It's an idea that's also very Foolish. In 1995, when I stumbled into a little area of AOL called The Motley Fool, I knew I had found a principled band of fighters who wanted to take on the Wise. They valued honesty and knowledge.

The second odd thing is that the miracle was a very private event, limited to those who were involved in rededicating the Temple. But it is in the nature of miracles today that they are private, noticed only by those sensitive enough to understand their significance.

And again, this is an experience I've had participating over the years in The Motley Fool community. There are tens, maybe hundreds of thousands of people participating in the community. The personal growth and exploration encouraged by Foolish principals touches them, their families, and their friends. It tends to be a quiet, thoughtful process, but it's manifested in many ways as you read the message boards and essays.

Jews now light the Menorah in our windows to publicize the miracle. To remind each other what happened more than 2000 years ago, to let the world know that we rededicated ourselves to our values then and we continue to rededicate ourselves to those values year after year. Thousands of years now.

Jews, living according to the laws and principles of our Torah, strive to be light for the whole world, illuminating dark places and repairing the world, making the world more like the perfect place it should be.

As a Jew, I feel close to the Foolish mission, where, through the power of the Internet, individuals can come together, share information, educate each other, and make the world better.

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