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Friday night marks the first night of Hanukkah, which in 2012 begins at sundown on Dec. 8 and ends on Dec. 16. This festive Jewish holiday may sound simple to an outsider — just light a candle for eight nights. But as someone who was raised Jewish, I can tell you that the background story is what makes this ritual interesting.
The word, which means “dedication,” commemorates the re-dedication of the holy Temple in Jerusalem following the Jewish victory over the Syrian-Greeks in the second century BC.
Let’s take a step back. In 168 BC, the Jewish temple in Jerusalem was seized by Syrian-Greek soldiers. Their emperor then made it punishable by death to observe Judaism and tried to force the Jews to do things they didn’t believe in, such as worship Greek gods. Jewish resistance began, and one man in particular, Judah Maccabee, stood up to them. After attacking some of their soldiers, he and his family went into hiding, where they were joined by other Jews who wanted to fight. This group of rebels, called the Maccabees, fought the much larger Greek-Syrian army and won back control of their land. When they got back to their temple in Jerusalem, it was defaced and defiled.
The Jewish people wanted to purify the temple by burning ritual oil for eight days in the menorah. They had just one day’s worth, but the oil, miraculously, lasted eight.
Not only were the Maccabees able to defeat a much larger army and return to openly observing their faith, but there was a miracle of light. Today, we light a candle in the menorah at sundown for eight evenings in honor of this event. In most Jewish families, the children receive a gift each night, though they can be very small. We also eat latkes, which are delectable potato pancakes cooked in oil. Some people also play dreidel.
While I was raised Jewish, I am not a religious person. What I love about Hanukkah is that it actually carries some great secular messages: Stand up for what you believe in. Don’t be afraid to fight for what’s right. Stick it to the man if you’re being stepped on. Don’t let someone make you do something you don’t want to do. These messages can apply in all areas of life, from love to work to personal finance. Let them inspire you for the next eight days and nights.
Now I’ll turn you over to my roundup of my favorite personal finance blog posts from the past week!
1. Club Thrifty reflects on the recent lottery drawing, which made him question how much money is enough.
2. Money Under 30 explains how understanding the five love languages makes it easier to give the right gift and not waste your money on things they’ll never use.
3. Blonde & Balanced questions the sanity of some people who are extreme cheapskates, but she reveals a few of her most extreme ways of saving money.
4. My Personal Finance Journey offers a financial guide for late starters. Whether you are knee-deep in debt or already have some savings, this will help you start planning for retirement.
5. Money $mart Guides uses the saying “money doesn’t grow on trees” to show how you really can plant metaphorical seeds and grow your own tree of financial strength.
6. Give me back my five bucks explains how “the latte factor” — the thought that cutting out a small regular purchase like a daily latte makes a huge difference over time — makes sense, but doesn’t tell the whole story.
7. 20Something Finance discusses five life lessons he learned from living through the Great Recession and how they will better prepare him for the next economic collapse.
8. So Over This shares a guest post from a man who gave up on his dreams of being a rock star when he found himself sinking in debt.
9. Money Crashers advises readers on what to do if a debt collector comes knocking for debt that you don’t owe.