Alexander the Great respected the Jews. He didn't war against tiny Judea, only required heavy taxes. The Talmud details conversations young Alexander had with the Sages, many of whom traveled to Greece to tutor royalty.

Alexander's death, in 323 BCE, split his kingdom into three: Greece, Egypt, and Syria. The rulers of Syria, called Seleucids, were not interested in co-existence, but assimilation.

The Talmud, Book of the Maccabees, Josephus, and other works detail what happened. The Seleucid government sent ministers to force their Hellenistic views upon the people. Most Jews went along. What could one do against the Empire? The Zohar says of this period, "the Greeks darkened the eyes of Israel with their decrees."


Chanukah is about not being afraid of the dark. We need that even more today, when the enemy is terror itself. Our own media fuels the fire, spreading fear throughout the land. Yet we go on with life, refusing to be terrified. And in a precious country half way around the world, our brothers and sisters defend themselves from an enemy that has no borders and knows no rules.

Our challenge, whether we are manning the front lines or fighting rush hour at home, is to strike a match and light up the dark. That's all it takes to discover that this is not a dark closet after all. It is a magnificent creation, full of wondrous things. In fact, that is why darkness was allowed in this world to begin with: So that we would learn the power of the light each one of us holds within, and appreciate the beauty that stands around us.