November 25, 2013


Volume 8, Issue 15 – November 25, 2013



The Story of Chanukkah

All the holidays are falling at odd times this year—the Jewish holidays are the earliest they’ve been since 1899 (and one day off from the earliest ever), and Thanksgiving is quite late, so we will have the odd phenomenon of Chanukkah coinciding with Thanksgiving.  Turkey with potato latkes—sounds good to me!

Chanukkah is (for those who don’t know) the Festival of Lights, celebrating the victory of the Maccabees over Antiochus IV of the Seleucid Empire (Assyria) in the 2nd century B.C.  King Antiochus III had won Judaea from the Ptolemaic Kingdom of Egypt, and had granted its citizens autonomy and religious freedom.  A schism subsequently developed between traditional Jews (Pharisees) and those who adopted a Greek way of life (Tobiads, also known as Sadducees).  Syria was a Hellenic kingdom at the time, and Antiochus IV intervened on the side of the Tobiads, invading Jerusalem and sacking the temple there.  He outlawed Judaism, and ordered a statue of Zeus erected in the temple.

This led to a revolt led by a Jewish priest, Matityahu, and his five sons, collectively known as the Maccabees (“Hammers”, for having hammered the invading forces).  The revolt was ultimately successful, with Judah Maccabee as leader.  The temple was rededicated, but when it was time to light the eternal lamp, there was only a one-day supply of sanctified olive oil.  The miracle of Chanukkah is that the lamp burned for eight days, long enough for new sanctified oil to be prepared.  Today, candles are lit for eight nights in a special menorah (candelabra) known as a Chanukkiya, to commemorate the miracle.  On the first night, the shamash (an “attendant” candle) is used to light one candle, on the second night two candles, and so on until on the eighth night, all eight are lit.  Due to its closeness to Christmas, presents are commonly given on Chanukkah as well.

disneyfreplThe Disney Chanukkiya that we got Mark when he was 2 years old

For you music, art, and history lovers, there are two major operas related to the story of Chanukkah.  The better known is George Frideric Handel’s orotario Judas Maccabaeus (1746, written to celebrate the Duke of Cumberland’s victory in the Battle of Culloden—the last major battle fought on British soil), which tells the story of the Maccabees.  More obscure is Antonio Vivaldi’s orotario Juditha Triumphans (“Judith Triumphant”, written in 1716 to celebrate the victory of Venice over the Turks in the siege of Corfu).  Judith was a Jewish widow who pleads for mercy to the invading Assyrian general Holofernes.  He falls in love with her and she indulges him.  He falls asleep after a celebration banquet, whereupon she kills him and cuts off his head.  When she exits from his tent with his severed head, the Assyrian troops fled in terror, and her village, Bethulia, is saved.  Judith and Holofernes’ beheading appears in many major artworks, a good review of which can be found here.

 800px-Caravaggio_Judith_Beheading_HolofernesJudith Beheading Holofernes by Caravaggio

So, happy Thanksgiving to all, and a happy Chanukkah too.  Victory over tyranny is always worth celebrating.


Bye-bye Bill

Friday marked the last day on campus of Bill Prigge, our Vice President for Business and Finance.  While Bill had been at SPSU for a relatively short time—only about two years—we had become good friends.  Bill could always be relied on for good advice regarding all fiscal matters, and I had enjoyed working with him on a number of projects, most recently the redesign of the Rose Drive property.  There was a nice reception for Bill last Tuesday, which drew a large crowd, proportionate to the many people who enjoyed working with him.  Bill is now off to the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, where he will serve as the Assistant Dean for Administration in the College of Pharmacy.  We’ll miss you, Bill.


New Hires for 2014

One of the topics that came up at the Deans Council last Wednesday related to new faculty hires for Fall 2014.  Given the upcoming consolidation of KSU and SPSU, we are being more consultative about new hires, needing to make sure that they are in the mutual interests of both universities.  I’ll be meeting with Ken Harmon, my counterpart at KSU, as soon as possible about this subject.  I would have done it last week, except Ken has been in Brazil on the same trip that I took with the Fulton County commission two months ago (see previous BLAB’s for details).


Last Week’s Trivia Contest

Last time’s trivia challenge focused on Paul McCartney.  Jenny Rogers was our winner, with a respectable four correct.  Here are the correct answers:

  1. Paul’s hometown.  Liverpool
  2. Group Paul formed after the Beatles broke up.  Wings
  3. Paul owns the copyright to this song about a USG university.  The Rambling Wreck from Georgia Tech.
  4. The original first line for this Paul McCartney song was: “Scrambled eggs, oh, my baby, how I love your legs.”  Yesterday
  5. First classical music work by Paul, performed by his hometown’s symphony and choir in 1991.  Its movements are War, School, Crypt, Father, Wedding, Work, Crises, and Peace.  Liverpool Orotario


 This Week’s Trivia Challenge

Today’s trivia challenge focuses on myths and legends.  No looking up the answers now!  SEND ALL ENTRIES BY EMAIL TO, since if you put them as a response on the BLOG, everyone will be able to see them!

  1. Mythical king of England, headed the knights of the round table.
  2. Sunlight or a stake through the heart can kill them.
  3. Scottish sea serpent.
  4. Raised by a wolf, they went on to found the city of Rome.
  5. In legend, this country was formed when Izanagi and Izanami descended from heaven to a rainbow, and dipped a spear into the ocean.
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