When did Chanukah become a holiday? When did the Sages declare the 25th of Kislev the beginning of an eight-day celebration?

The Talmud1 describes the events of Chanukah and concludes: "The following year they established these eight days as a festival."

When does a war end? When the last shot is fired? When there is a signed armistice? Neither. Only in retrospect can victory be declared. On the year when the war ended, on the original 25th of Kislev, there was calm, yet uncertainty. Had the Greeks surrendered, or just gone to summon fresh troops and more war elephants? Only in the following year were they able to determine that the 25th had indeed marked the conclusion.

When do we know we have made the right choices in our daily battles?When do we know we have made the right choices in our daily battles? When can we be positive that we've done right? When is it time for a victory lap?

How do parents know they made the right decision to send their children to a Jewish day school? It's not evident after the first semester. It may be years later when the child marries Jewish that every tuition penny seems worthwhile.

Today is tomorrow's history. It's the seeds for all of the "shoulda, coulda woulda" that can become weeds of regret. Yet at times it seems that the flowers that blossom from our choices take too much time to blossom.

The Greeks argued, "What you can feel is all that's real"; revel in the immediate. If it can't be debated or seen under the microscope I'm not interested. Infinite and ethereal are interesting but don't tell me to put down my popcorn and leave the theater.

The Maccabees declared that there is no power like G‑d; no Greek sensory stimulus competes with the Infinite. Trust in G‑d and avoid the enticement of the merely tangible.

By focusing on the Eternal, the Jew is vulnerable to scorn. The truly valuable can't be appreciated in the right now; it must be nurtured and seen only in the comforting glow of retrospect. Celebrate after the accomplishment; the hard choices of life rarely are made with absolute conviction.

It's been too long since we've celebrated. Along the treacherous road of galut we have encountered plenty of Greeks, all selling their instant-cure snake oil. But we have held strong to the battle cry. We have avoided the scents and seductions of the "right now," for our G‑d is Eternal and so are our values. Now the world is ready to cash in its chips and celebrate the 'end of the beginning' with Moshiach now!