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Chanukkah For Goyim - The True Story of Chanukkah + Bonus Pronunciation Tips

Gather round, children, and I will tell you the story of Chanukkah (which I brazenly lifted from the internet).

Long ago in the land of Judea there was a Syrian king, Antiochus. The king ordered the Jewish people to reject their God, their religion, their customs and their beliefs and to worship the Greek gods. There were some who did as they were told, but many refused. One who refused was Judah Maccabee.

Judah and his four brothers formed an army and chose as their name the word "Maccabee", which means hammer. After three years of fighting, the Maccabees were finally successful in driving the Syrians out of Israel and reclaimed the Temple in Jerusalem. The Maccabees wanted to clean the building and to remove the hated Greek symbols and statues. On the 25th day of the month of Kislev, the job was finished and the temple was rededicated.

When Judah and his followers finished cleaning the temple, they wanted to light the eternal light, known as the N'er Tamid, which is present in every Jewish house of worship. Once lit, the oil lamp should never be extinguished.

Only a tiny jug of oil was found with only enough for a single day. The oil lamp was filled and lit. Then a miracle occurred as the tiny amount of oil stayed lit not for one day, but for eight days.

Gather round, adults, and I will tell you what really happened (as best we know)...

In 334 B.C.E., Alexander the Great conquered Judea along with rest of the Middle East. His reign was notable for religious tolerance, though he imported Hellenistic practices to the lands he conquered and offered tax breaks to grecophones. After Alexander died without an obvious successor, his generals squabbled over the empire and ultimately broke it into three parts. One of the generals, Seleucus, won control of the westernmost part, which stretched from Turkey to India and became known as the Seleucid Empire.

Antiochus IV Epiphanes was the eighth ruler of the empire. He initially continued Alexander's practices of religious tolerance and Hellenist influence, which many Judeans embraced enthusiastically. From the first Book of Maccabees:

At that time there were some evil-doers in Israel who tried to win popularity for a policy of integration with the surrounding nations. It was because the Jews had kept themselves aloof for so long, they claimed, that so many hardships had befallen them. They acquired a following and applied to Antiochus, who authorized them to introduce the Greek way of life. They built a Greek gymnasium in Jerusalem and even had themselves uncircumcised.

The conflict between grecophiles and traditionalists was suffused with political intrigue. When the High Priest died in 175 B.C.E, his pro-Greek son Jason bribed Antiochus to be made High Priest in place of his anti-Greek brother, Onias. Then Menelaus, another grecophile who wasn't even a member of the High-priestly family, bribed Antiochus to replace Jason. When Antiochus left to invade Egypt, Jason took advantage of the opportunity to forcibly win back his position. Upon returning from the semi-successful Egyptian campaign, Antiochus interpreted Jason's move as an insurrection. That's when he outlawed Jewish religious practices and slaughtered those who resisted.

According to the Book of Maccabees, Mattathias, the leader of a conservative priestly clan known as the Hasmoneans, refused to make an offering to Greek gods as commanded by a Greek official. When another Judean attempted to make an offering on his behalf, Mattathias killed him, along with the Greek official, and fled with his five sons to the mountains. His son, Judah, adopted the nom de guerre of Judah Maccabee and launched a holy war against Antiochus, employing guerrilla tactics to defeat the larger Greek-Syrian army. After winning Judean independence, the Hasmonians established a religious dynasty which survived until the Romans interceded and placed Herod on the throne.

As for the miracle of the oil, the first Book of the Maccabees doesn't even mention it.

Some Chanukkah trivia for you:

  • Chanukkah is often spelled with a C because we lack a letter for the Hebrew sound. Imagine that you've just eaten a moldy peach and exclaim, "Yechhhh!" That's the sound. It's part of what makes Hebrew such a beautiful language.
  • There are apparently 16 ways to spell Chanukkah as proven by the internet.
  • The menorah holds 9 candles. The top candle is called the shamush, which means "servant." You're supposed to place the candles into the menorah from right to left, then light the shamush with a match and use the shamush to light the other candles from left to right.
  • The traditional Chanukkah food is the latke, a delicious, fat-sizzled potato pancake usually eaten with applesauce.
  • Jewish parents traditionally tell the story of Chanukkah to their children each year. My grandfather was an artist and illustrated a booklet that my parents put together. He drew the "Greek" idol a large man horns, which led me to have some misconceptions.
  • While there is a tradition of giving money (gelt in Yiddish) on Chanukkah, the gift-giving has been appropriated from the goyim. The gelt tradition survives in the form of coin-shaped chocolates.
  • Dreydel is gambling game. You ante your gelt into the pot and then spin to see who wins it. The dreydel has four sides and your winning is determined by which side lands face-up. The gimmel side gets you the whole pot, hei gets you half, nun gets you nothing, and shin requires you match the pot. I once played strip-dreydel with a shiksa girlfriend. Best dreydel match ever.
  • Contrary to popular belief, we do not sacrifice Christian babies during Chanukkah. We do that on Passover.

The grecophiles "even had themselves uncircumcized?"

Forget that stuff about the oil; there's your real miracle.

Please don't use the expression 'goyim' for gentiles.  It's potentially as offensive as 'nigger'.

From Wikipedia:

In modern Hebrew and Yiddish the word goy is the standard term for a gentile.

...

In Yiddish, it is the only proper term for Gentile and many bilingual English and Yiddish speakers use it dispassionately.

So it's offensive only to the uneducated.

No, you have it wrong.  It's offensive to non-jews.  Do you like non-jews calling you kikes?

Who are you to be labelling other people?

I'm Genghis

No you're not.

I'm Ghengis!

There's only room on this blog for one Genghis (by any spelling).

You can be Genghis Sycophantic Poser #42, Esq.

Genghing up on people again, eh?

That's "poseur", to rhyme with "loseur"

The Esq. is short for "esque", as in "Genghesque" or "Grotesque" or "Demonesque" or "Creme Besque", the man (ascribed loosely) who put the "Sick" in "Sickophant".

And since he's learning to be a goiter slinger, we're going to have to strum along a bit in harmony, hum if you don't know the words. Just wait till he gets his own mariachi band - north of the border. The Herb Alpert of Manitoba, if that thought doesn't excite you.

And we knew him before he was almost famous. Almost brings up tears, no?

Arggghh, you uneducated schmuck - you deliberately cut out the relevant part.

In modern Hebrew and Yiddish the word goy is the standard term for a gentile. ...

In English, the use of the word goy can be controversial. Like other common (and otherwise innocent) terms, it may be assigned pejoratively to non-Jews. To avoid any perceived offensive connotations, writers may use the English terms "gentile" or "non-Jew".

In Yiddish, it is the only proper term for gentile and many bilingual English and Yiddish speakers use it dispassionately or even deliberately.

Not that I care about the word or feel offended - I think I sometimes use the term in a Jewish context, Or maybe it's just the Yiddish in me that brings out the shicksa in you?

But if the Free Dictionary and Wikipedia note a word being offensive in English, then there's probably a reason and it might ought be avoided [unless you're a standup Jewish comedian or an irreverant blogger], no? 

[and no, I don't buy that it's as offensive as n******]

[and 'gentile' comes across as 'sissy' in my head]

[and linguistically, I think 'CH' is a single letter - some languages treat the combination as a single letter in their alphabet - ...f g h ch i j k.....]

[and then there's 'goyls' and 'gargoyls']

Yeah, leaving out that bit is extremely misleading. I think the word "uneducated" isn't accurate, however. "Dishonest" might be better.

That said, I think knowing Genghis the way we do, we can be quite certain that no offense was intended and on these border-line cases I think that's enough for me. Some words can be rehabilitated, and I think this is one of those words, if for no other reason than its comedic value. (I might be wrong, but I suspect that I value comedy more than you.)

No, *YOU'RE* the Vulgarian.... [please Google before comment]

I'm not sure which definition you're going for, so I'll say either, yeah, I'm the vulgarian, or no, it's clearly jr.

 

 

Humerus - not just a bone in your arm.

Interesting how an essay spammer brought this three-year old thread back to life. Oh, how I miss Jorn Barger. What a great goy!

PS If you're out there googling, Jorny, we're still here.

I have to say that having written Blowing Smoke in the interim, I now understand Mr. Barger's comment in a whole new light.

Jorny is a self-hating anti-Semite who projects his own feelings of intolerance onto Jews. In other words, his obsessive campaign against the G-word is an effort to rationalize his own bigotry.

I like that turn of phrase, "potentially as offensive as." Really, what label is not "potentially as offensive as 'nigger'?" Take a label, add a pejorative connotation, sprinkle in a few centuries of oppression and degradation, and voila, instant radical offensiveness. Just the other day, Orlando was complaining about an Iraqi spokesperson who said of the shoe-thrower, "He cried like a woman" (while he was getting the shit kicked out out of him). So there you go. The guy used the word "woman" pejoratively, we've already got the centuries, nay millenia of oppression and degradation. I hereby declare "woman" to be as "potentially as offensive as 'nigger'," and I forbid anyone from using it on this site. Orlando may use it among her female friends, but if anyone who is not a female person uses it on this site to refer to people of the opposite gender, I will ask someone to scrub it from the record.

For the curious viewing audience, goy is a Hebrew word for nation, and the Bible actually uses the term to refer to the Jewish people. But over time, the connotation has changed, so that in Hebrew and Yiddish, goy essentially means gentile or gentile nation, as GeoffreyKzhn notes in the prior comment. Goyim is the plural form.

But some argue that when used by English speakers, goy can have negative connotations and is therefore as potentially as offensive as "nigger." Alan Dershowitz, in one of his many books, The Vanishing American Jew, offers up a particularly odious example: "In the 1985 film The Last Dragon, billed as a kung-fu comedy, some of the action takes place in a noodle factory named 'Sum Dum Goy'." Shocking, no? That's like a Chinese slur and a gentile slur all rolled up into a giant stinking potentially as offensive as "nigger" ball of political incorrectness. It's a shande!

So to all my gentile friends and readers and other passerby, please accept my heartfelt apology. I did not mean to refer to you perjoratively. Whenever I think of you non-Jews, I feel all happy and tingly inside. I love you goys!

Stop whining. You sound like a girl.

I got a goiter for Channukah.

Thanks Ma.

So this is pretty fascinating. Our new friend, Jorn Barger, is the guy who coined the term weblog, or else he's spoofing the guy who created the term weblog. But the link in his username does go to Barger's blog, and Barger has a history of antisemitism. If you google "Jorn Barger goyim", you'll see that this guy has been going around offering variations of the same comment on other blogs that use the term, goy. I plan to write a full post on this later.

Barger does seem oddly fixated on the word, even objecting to a blogger who announced, "Merry Christmas to my goyim friends and readers." What an unpardonable slur!

Blogging can range from coolly reasoned and third-person to informal, personal, even intimate. Dagblog trends toward the latter. I read your headline as shorthand for, "I'm Jewish, you're probably not, but I have something to tell you from that perspective." Cramming lots of data into a five-letter word. (As do most borrowings that gained some currency in English: shiksa, mensch, yenta. Why five letters? I dunno.)

Could goy or goyim be "potentially offensive?" Sure, in an inappropriate context, like a serious discussion of the Gaza crisis. If I hit that word there, I would read it as, "OK, non-Jews, you can stop reading now. I'm not talking to you any more."

Still, despite Barger's claim, you'd have to surround the word with lots of pejoratives for it to come even remotely close to being as offensive as the unadorned word "nigger." I have some sympathy with rappers who have tried to take possession and rehabilitate that word, but unless Obama himself starts using it, I don't think it'll make into the mainstream. Of course, I didn't give "queer" much chance either, and it has battled its way back to quasi-respectability.

Finally, this whole digression was worth it just for the line, "I love you goys."

 

Thanks I loved this page. The comments I'm not sure about.  I too consider the term goyium as offensive.  Not as offensive as the "N" word but still offensive enough.  If I am really your friend how come the connotation? I like to say hello to my friends? no, my GOYIUM friends.   Which could be seen similar to someone saying.  I like to say hi to my BLACK friends.  Why not just friends?  Do you refer to people that don't have an understanding of your job with a word as well?  If so is it a derogitory term?

I have no doubt that the OP meant it in the best possible way .  I'm just saying it elicits the same response that I would get if I refered to you as Pagan.  You probably would have no problem with the word but might be bothered that I keep refering to you with that label.  As if that label says all I need to know about you to make a judgement.

acanuck - The word is offensive because it is used that way.  If I called a jewish person a goy they would not only correct me they would be deeply offended.  Why? because of the way it is used and understood inside jewish culture.  same way I would be offended if I was called a pagan all the time by my Christian friends.  Not because of the word itself but because of what it means to person using it. Unfortuantely as the rappers found out.  You can't use a label or word a certain way and expect the way it was used and still is used in some parts to be forgotten or void of its intently negative connotation.

That said. I think it was appropiately used in this article.  It is obviously an article for people that don't understand the meaning and celebration of the jewish holiday so it appropiately is addressing the "non-jewish" reader.  I wouldn't be offended in this instance as it seems a proper use of the term.  However, this not how I hear it used most of the time.  Thanks for the information and best wishes for us all.

The Chinese word for foreigner - 'gweilo' - means 'foreign devil'. The Japanese term 'gaijin' is now often avoided because of pejorative connotation.

Strangely enough, terms of exclusion often come across negatively. Go figger.

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