Though the Chanuka story is well known, here is a little background just in case:
During the time when the Greeks controlled Israel, Jews began hellenizing, or trying to become more like the Greeks. Many adopted Greek names, stopped keeping Shabbat and Kashrut, and idol worship was taking place in the Beit HaMikdash. In the year 169 BCE, Antiochus decreed that anyone caught observing Shabbat, Chagim and receiving a Brit Mila would be punished by death. Nevertheless, many of the Jews, especially in private, continued to practice and believe in Hashem. Jews who were known as Metyavnim, (were sitting on the fence between being a Jew and a Greek) often told the palace of those Jews who were not following the orders of Antiochus. Soon after, Mattityahu and his sons led a rebellion whose purpose was to fight the Greeks and rid them from Israel and to teach the non-observant Jews a lesson. Eventually the rebellion became a full fledge war against the Greeks, and after many clashes, the few defeated the many. The Chashmonaim reclaimed and purified Yerushalayim, and smashed the image of the Greek god Zeus, thus returning the holy city back to its original splendor and glory.
Game 1: Running Bases
Choose two chanichim to be the two infielders. All other chanichim should be divided between two bases on either side of the room. Make the bases away from the wall so that kids don’t run into the walls. The goal is to run back and forth between the two bases. Anyone tagged while not touching a base is out. Everyone must run at least every five throws. The two fielders throw the ball back and forth and try to tag anyone moving from base to base. Play for a bit, a few rounds, but make sure to change the fielders often.
Game 2: Celebrate
This is an odd game we learnt in Camp Stone from Jim and Tim. (As they say in Israel, Hamevin Yavin. If you don’t know who they are, don’t worry.) This game won’t last very long, but it’ll help to illustrate the same point as Running Bases. Have all the chanichim stand in a circle. Choose one chanich to go into the middle and say something that s/he thinks is cause for celebration. Everyone who also enjoys that thing (ie. Getting 100% on a test, eating ice cream, having the Red Wings win the Stanley Cup…) has to go into the middle and celebrate. When the madrich says so, everyone must return to his or her spots, and the person initially in the middle tries to get someone’s spot. Whoever remains has to give the next cause of celebration.
Discussion: So, how are these two games related? Most likely in running bases, the game proceeded as a few people would run a lot and others would eventually follow their lead. In Celebrate as well, people probably were very reluctant to go and celebrate in the middle. But when other people start doing it, they will follow their lead.
Similarly, the Maccabim began their revolt without much help. Very few people joined them, and they were incredibly outnumbered. However, after winning a few battles, other Jews joined the rebellion. As the Maccabim had more victories and captured more weapons, even more people joined, and eventually they were able to defeat the Greeks entirely. It is often the hardest thing to be the first person to do something, to lead the way and not know if people will follow you or not. You need a certain amount of bravery to do so, which clearly the Maccabim had. If anyone has seen the movie Braveheart, it always reminds me of the Chanuka rebellion, as both happened in a similar way – a small local rebellion that spread until they succeeded in attaining freedom. The root of Chanuka was that the Chashmonaim needed to convince the other Jews to support Judaism and not to join the Greeks. Of course, as any Bnei Akiva madrich knows, the best way to convince is to lead by example. Once you begin, others will join you. Which is exactly what happened in Chanuka.
There are probably tons of games that would also emphasize this point. Blob would work well. If your chanichim are interested, it could be good. This time the Blob would be the good guys.
Why was Chanuka so significant?
It is widely known that during Bayit Sheni there were many Chagim that were celebrated, but after Churban Bayit Sheni they were all discarded, except for Purim and Chanuka. These two were kept because the Jewish People were saved during them. Ask the Chanichim who the Jews were saved from in Chanuka. They may answer that the Greeks were attacking them, but in fact the Greeks only attacked militarily after the Jews rebelled. The Jews were actually being attacked spiritually, both by the Greek laws and the Hellenizing Jews. This led to military revolt, and the real miracle of Chanuka is that they were able to win this war. The miracle of the oil only came as a confirmation that Hashem was behind the Chashmonaim.
Game 3: Judaism
Give each Chanich one of the cards on the following pages. They must get themselves into order according to importance, in regards to what makes somebody Jewish (and conversely, what if outlawed would keep you from being Jewish?) Madrichim must help facilitate debates and make sure everyone is involved. If there are extra cards, simply take some out. If there are more, make two sets and divide up into two groups. Or add your own.
Wearing a Black Hat
Giving boys a Brit Mila
Keeping the laws of Kashrut
Going to the Beit Keneset
Fasting on Yom Kippur
Having your Tzitzit Hang Out
Giving children Jewish Names
Using Hebrew Words
Listening to Jewish Music
Having a long Beard
Gives Money to the Jewish Federation
Living in Israel
Going to a Jewish School
Discussion: Obviously some of these are more serious than others. Hopefully the chanichim will put the active mitzvot ones, which you would expect, as the most important, and the appearance/external ones last. Emphasize this distinction to them. While Jewish appearance may add to Jewish identity, the real important ones are keeping the mitzvot and observing Halacha. The Jews during Chanuka were willing to put up with Hellenism until it threatened their observance of Halacha, until Antiochus outlawed Brit Mila, Shabbat, and Chagim.
Even More Background:
Make sure the chanichim know where this story fits into History. The Jews got independence on Chanuka, and this lasted until the story of Masada that we studied two weeks ago. That, in effect, was the reverse process of what we’re doing today. Who were greater Giborim, the Maccabim or the people at Masada? In truth this is an unfair question, as both were heroic in their own way as dictated by the situation.