Thursday, 2 December 2010
THE MEANING OF CHANUKAH TODAY.
The Jewish festival of Chanukah is a retelling of an event in Jewish history. It is the festival of lights when families for eight days light candles on a Menorah (Chanukiah).
This commemorates an event in Jerusalem at the time of the Revolt of the Maccabim who defeated the Syrians and recaptured the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem.
In dedication of reclaiming the holy shrine, and recapturing the ancient Jewish capital they lit the altar flame. Though it only contained enough oil for one day it continued to burn for eight days until the Jews were able to produce enough olive oil to supply the torch.
This miracle has been celebrated in Jewish homes for centuries during the weeklong festival of Chanukah. It resounds with the message of Jewish hope and redemption in their eternal home.
As the ancient Jewish historian Josephus recorded of Antiochus, the Syrian king:
"The king being thereto disposed beforehand, complied with them, and came upon the Jews with a great army, and took their city by force, and slew a great multitude of those, and sent out his soldiers to plunder them without mercy”.
When the Second Temple in Jerusalem was looted and the services stopped, Judaism was effectively outlawed. In 167 BCE Antiochus ordered an altar to the god Zeus erected in the Temple. He banned circumcision and ordered pigs to be sacrificed at the altar of the temple.
His actions were designed to remove any traces of Jewish history to the Temple in Jerusalem by rededicating it to a false god. His actions provoked a large-scale revolt led by Mattathias, a high priest and his sons, Jochanan, Simeon, Eliezer, Jonathan, and Judah. Judah became known as Yehuda Maccabi (Judah the Hammer). By 165 BCE the Jewish revolt had been successful, the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem was restored, and the nation of Judea was reclaimed as a Jewish sovereign nation.
Jews never forget their history. It has a habit of resounding through the years adding great significance to Jewish lives.
The festival of Chanukah, in all its detail, has remarkable likeness to what is happening with Israel today.
There are those who are coming to dispossess Israel of its sovereign rights. They would also deny and wipe out any vestige of Jewish heritage over its holy places. Palestinian pronouncements are frequent that Jews have no ownership of Jerusalem or the land. Just like Antiochus they claim that the Jewish Temple never existed.
Only by standing up to these assaults, and safeguarding our spiritual home, will the miracle of the Jewish flame keep burning.