Happy Hanukah! Today is the 5th of 8 days in which Jews commemorate the miracle that happened 2,172 years ago in Jerusalem: after ejecting the armies of the Hellenistic Syrian King Antich IV, the Hasmonean Macabees found only a day's supply of oil in the Temple Menorah, but the oil lasted for 8 days.
An act of God? (If so you'd think His Omnipotence would stretch our oil supply now that we REALLY need it.) More likely, it's a great example of early day entrepeneurship, because Judah Macabee was nothing if not a scrappy entrepeneur. He recruited a great team and executed more nimbly than the much larger, incumbent Syrian army. With only a day's supply of oil, he likely teased that fire, closed the Temple doors to mitigate wind and oxygen levels, and restricted the flame to peak hours of animal sacrifice. Judah, inventor of the low burn rate, knew better than anyone how to Get Big Cheap!
I anticipate a flood of comments and emails accusing me of hypocrisy as I celebrate Hanukah while rejecting faith. But you don't have to believe in mythological deities to participate in cultural events or reflect on history. For descendents of the Judean nation, Hanukah is as good an excuse as any for families to gather, eat, sing, play games and exchange presents. My rebbe Richard Dawkins agrees--when I asked him his opinion of Jewish cultural traditions, he gave me his enthusiastic "blessing" to celebrate them with as much joy as July 4th or Thanksgiving.