13 December, 2009

The Festival of Lights

Photo Compliments: wikipedia.org

Christmas is not the only celebration in December which is filled with lights. In fact, Hanukkah, also considered "The Festivals of Lights," began yesterday. This festival is Jewish and commemorates the rededication of the Holy Temple at Jerusalem after the Maccabees drove the Greco-Syrians out of Judea.

The story goes that about 2200 years ago, Greek kings, who reigned from Damascus, ruled over the land of Judea and the Jews living there.

One Greco-Syrian King, Antiochus Epiphanes, forbade the Jewish people from praying to their God, practicing their customs, and studying their Torah. Antiochus forced the Jews to worship the Greek gods. It is said that he placed an idol of the Greek God Zeus on the alter in the Holy Temple of Jerusalem.

In response to this persecution, Judah Maccabee and his four brothers organized a group of resistance fighters known as the Maccabees. They fought against paganism and oppression.

Against great odds, after three years of fighting, the Maccabees succeeded to drive the Greco-Syrians out of Judea.

The Maccabees reclaimed the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. They cleaned the Temple, removing the Greek symbols and statues. When Judah and his followers finished cleaning the temple, they rededicated it. On the 25th day of the month of Kislev in 164 B.C., the Temple was purified and rededicated.

It is said that when the Maccabees entered the Holy Temple, they discovered that the Greco-Syrians had defiled the oil which was used to light the Temple's menorah. Only one vat of purified oil remained - enough for only one day. It would take the Jews a week to process more purified oil. Then a miracle occurred. The Maccabees lit the menorah and it burned for not one, but eight days, by which time the new, purified oil was ready. This is why the Hanukkah Menorah has eight candles (not including the shamash candle used to light the others) and one reason why Jews celebrate Hanukkah for eight days.

An account of this is given in the books of 1 & 2 Maccabees. These books can be found in the Catholic Bible but are not considered canonical in most protestant churches.

Photo Compliments: Wikipedia.org
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/2/2e/ Tiffany_glasswork_Hanukkah_ menora02.jpg/685px-Tiffany_glasswork _Hanukkah_menora02.jpg

One significant ritual of Hanukkah is the kindling of Hanukkah Lights. Eight candles are lit to represent the eight days which the Menorah in the Holy Temple stayed lit for. Each night, for eight nights, an additional candle is lit on the Menorah. Hence, one candle is lit on the first night, two on the second night etc. These lights are to be used for nothing else than to publicize and meditate on the Hanukkah Story. Therefore, an additional candle called the Shamash is also included on the Hanukkah Menorah in case any additional illumination is needed. Some light the Shamash first each night and use it to light the others.

The Menorah is placed at a window or near or door so that passers-by would see it and be reminded of the miracle of Hanukkah.

Happy Hanukkah
Cheers! ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


  1. very interesting article! thanks for sharing this! I already heard of this but never really had the time to read it in the details that you made available. Keep doing what your doing. waiting for your next post

  2. Always happy to share. Merry Christmas!