On a brisk, clear December evening, at the height of the Roman Empire and precisely two thousand, one hundred and sixty-seven years (and two days) before the fourth season finale of The Sopranos, a small band of Hebrew fighters led by Judah, son of Matthias of Modin, faced near insurmountable odds as they began a campaign to free their homeland from the evil tyranny of the Assyrian king Antiochus Epiphanes. Antiochus had decreed that no religion should be practiced in the Holy Land, and even banned outright the consecration of the Sabbath, as well as the practices of kashrut and circumcision. Unwilling to accept this assault upon his faith, Judah -- a man whose moniker would be the envy of any modern mafioso (Judah Maccabee, a.k.a. Judah The Hammer) -- led his ragtag band of soldiers out of the hills and into a climactic confrontation on the outskirts of Jerusalem. Though vastly outnumbered and ill-equipped for combat, they miraculously prevailed upon the field of battle, and soon recaptured the Holy Temple built by Solomon so many years before. They found, however, that it had been desecrated and defiled almost beyond repair during the reign of Antiochus, and within the Kadesh Hakodeshim -- The Holy of Holies itself -- the Ner Tamid (Eternal Flame) had long since been extinguished. A search of the temple turned up only enough sanctified oil to light the flame for a single day, when even the most optimistic of sages believed that it would take at least a week to purify. And so they lit the flame, using what little fuel they had, and to the surprise of everyone it burned not for one day, but for eight. And so the miracle of Chanukah was inscribed in the book of Maccabees, and is celebrated even today as a festival of joy and remembrance.
But what, you may ask, has this to do with The Sopranos? Well, aside from the obvious analogy of stretching a single episode's worth of plot across an entire thirteen-week season, there is also the notion of the ragtag storyline of Carmela's marital discord surviving to triumph against the overwhelming odds of an army of tertiary characters. But mostly, this is simply a time to give thanks, and to remember the miracles of days and seasons past. For as we say on each of the eight nights as we light the menorah candles, "Baruch atah David Chase, elohenu melech ha'HBO, shay-asa nissim lavoteinu, bayamim hahem, lazman hazeh." Blessed art thou, David Chase, ruler of HBO, who performed wondrous deeds for our ancestors in days of old at this season.