By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, December 9, 2009
Chanucah celebrates the Jewish victory over the Yevanim, the Greeks. The name Yavan goes back to Genesis 10:2, which lists Yavan as one of Yefet’s sons, from whom, the Torah tell us, the “maritime nations branched out”. In Greek mythology, the father of the Ionians, an ancient group of Greeks, was called Ion — a name not too removed from Yavan. Sanskrit refers to Greece as Yavana.
At the time of the Hasmonean revolt, the Jews who welcomed the Greek circuses were called mityavnim. The reflexive suffix mit turns yavan into a verb of becoming. Lehityaven is to become Greek.