Yet another celebration of judaeo-christian significance will be celebrated this week a little differently than usual, Hanukkah.
Hanukkah, like Christmas this year will not be celebrated in normal fashion with large family gatherings and travel, but it makes the observances no less significant, and possibly even more so.
Hanukkah, also spelled as “chanukah” is a festival that has been celebrated within the Jewish faith since the 2nd century BC in celebration of the rededication of the second temple after it had been desiccated by the Seleucid Empire who repressed the practice of Judaism.
The Maccabees were what Mattathias the Hasmonean, a rural Jewish priest and his sons were called. It comes from Matthathia’s son Judah’s nickname, Maccabbeus, taken from the Jewish word for “hammer”.
The revolt lasted for seven years, but Hanukkah is the celebration of the recapturing of the Temple. The menorah needed to be relit, was was decreed in the books of Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers. The problem is that there was only one small container of undefiled oil left, and it would only be enough for one day. It would take 8 days to be able to produce pure oil again, as the Maccabees needed to go through ritual purifying themselves after returning from the battlefield which would take seven days. After that they would need another day to produce the new pure oil.
They in faith went ahead and lit the menorah, hoping to find pure oil in the meantime. The small container which should have only had enough for 1 day of burning ended lasting the whole eight days, allowing for new pure oil to be made.
Since then, the “Festival of Dedication” or festival of the lights as it’s been lovingly referred to continued to be observed, though not as a major holiday. It is largely an informal holiday, with some liturgical changes made but little else. Everyone is allowed to work and carry on with normal lives except for on the Sabbath.
It always begins on the 25th of Kislev and ends on 2nd and 3rd Tevet, which generally falls sometime in late November to early December to late December.
Jesus himself celebrated Hanukkah, as referenced in John 10:22-23. It is here that Jesus proclaimed he and the Father were one.
22 At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem. It was winter, 23 and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the colonnade of Solomon. 24 So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” 25 Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. 27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me,[a] is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”
After the diaspora, jews scattered around the world kept celebrating the festival, although the temple who’s rededication it celebrated lay in rubble. It was a reminder that even when it seems impossible, God provided in miraculous ways, and holding onto their traditions and faith was just as important as it was to the Maccabees. This message gave them hope for generations and continues to today!
Today, in 2020, what better message is there? That even when it doesn’t seem possible God will provide what is needed when it is needed in ways we don’t expect if we keep Him first. Amen!
This year, consider even if you are not Jewish to light a menorah to remind yourself about his provision and importance of not letting your faith and following of the Lord be eroded by the circumstances around you.
For more fun observances of the eight days, there are few things you can do.
Food. The Jewish culture is nothing without food of significance for celebrations! Hanukkah is no different. Here’s some food to enjoy:
- Latkes- Fried potatoes in oil, to remind you about the oil of that lasted!
- Jelly Donuts- As if you need a reason to enjoy a jelly donut, this tradition began in the Middle Ages.
- Brisket- A delicious cut of meat enjoyed by many a Jewish families who are all convinced their mother has the best recipe.
Play the Dreidel. While this might seem like just a child’s game, there is thought that it might have had a much deeper meaning at the time. Because studying the Torah was outlawed, those doing so would quickly start playing with a dreidel to distract from what they were actually doing. Dreidels now are marked to say “A Great Miracle Happened Here” unless you are not in Israel, at which time they will instead say “here”.
We hope you have a very Happy Hanukkah!