The eight-day Jewish holiday of Hannukah begins at sundown tonight.
People who observe the holiday will be lighting candles in nine-branch candle holders, or menorahs, to celebrate the victory of the Maccabee rebels over the Seleucid empire in Jerusalem.
The Seleucid empire was founded by a Greek general who had served under Alexander the Greek. The Jews in ancient Palestine liked Alexander the Great, but they hated the way the Seleucid empire had treated the Jewish temple in Jerusalem. One problem was that the empire had let the lights in the temple’s menorah go out.
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The Maccabees found enough sacred oil to light the temple’s menorah for one day. The holiday of Hannukah lasts for eight days because the oil actually lasted for eight days.
In addition to lighting candles in a menorah, customs associated with the holiday include eating potato pancakes and other foods fried in oil, eating chocolate coins, and gambling for pennies with a top called a “dreidel.” A dreidel has four flat sides. Depending on which side is facing up when the dreidel falls, the player gets all of the pennies in the pot, half of the pennies or no pennies. About one out of four times, the player has to put a penny in the pot.
Here are three ideas about implications of Hannukah for modern financial professionals from all cultures.
1. Learning a little about probability is good for everyone.
There’s nothing like playing with dreidel (or dice, or cards) to get a feel for the importance of risk management.