Tonight we begin celebrating Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights also known as the Festival of Dedication. Here's a little review of this special and spiritual holiday.
noun: Hanukkah; noun: Chanukkah; noun: Chanukah; plural noun: Chanukahs
a lesser Jewish festival, lasting eight days from the 25th day of Kislev (in December) and commemorating the rededication of the Temple in 165 BC by the Maccabees after its desecration by the Syrians. It is marked by the successive kindling of eight lights.
from Hebrew ḥănukkāh: ‘consecration.’
In the Hebrew language, the alphabet often symbolizes many things within a specific word. The very name, Hanukkah, can be broken down into
חנו כ"ה, "[they] rested [on the] twenty-fifth". (The festival begins on the twenty-fifth of Kislev, which was the day that the Jews ceased fighting.)
Most people are familiar with the Hanukkah menorah (or hanukkiah). Tonight, as the sun sets, the first candle will be lit and one is added every night until the menorah is full. This tradition illustrates the miracle of the oil used to rededicate the temple. After defeating their enemies and reclaiming the temple, the Jews found that there was only enough purified oil left to keep the temple's menorah burning for one day. But the oil miraculously burned for eight days, which was the exact amount of time needed to produce new purified oil.
One candle usually sits higher in the menorah. It is called the shamash, which is Hebrew (שמש) and means "attendant". This candle is used to light each candle, thereby providing an object lesson of how one day's oil lasted for eight days of light.
As we enter into this season that has become overly commercialized for both Jews and Christians, take some time to light a candle - even if you are not Jewish. And reflect on this: G-d provides for his people and that miracles do happen!
This menorah was presented to State of Grace by Rabbi Jonathan Katz at Congregation Achduth Veshalom, the oldest synagogue in Indiana, as a thank-you gift for our Hanukkah presentation in 2002.