Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Chanukkah: The Feast of Lights

**Celebrating the Miracle of the Oil**

Also known as "Feast of Lights," this 8-day celebration is not actually discussed in the Old Testament. However, it is a celebration worthy of notice, because it is another example of how God can work miracles in people's lives.

The attribution of this celebration to the victory of the Jews over Antiochus IV's rule is incorrect. Chanukkah is a celebration of God's miracle of the oil, not of the military victory as many people believe. Jews do not celebrate war or the spilling of blood.

Alternative Spellings:
There are a number of proper spellings of this holiday. Much of the differences come from varying translation of the hebrew, but all of these spellings are considered correct:

Hanukkah (most common in the U.S. )


During the reign of Alexander the Great, the Jews were allowed (like many of the people that Alexander conquered) to continue practicing their religion and live with relative autonomy. However, a successor to Alexander, Antiochus IV, was not so benevolent. He oppressed and massacred the Jews. He desecrated the Temple by placing a Hellenistic priest in it and allowing the sacrificing of non-kosher animals on the altar.

Two groups opposed Antiochus. There was the group led by Mattathius the Hasmonean and Judah Maccabee, his son. There was also a group then known as the Chasidism, which eventually became the Pharisees. Together they formed a revolt against the assimilation of the jews and oppression by the government. They succeeded and regained control of the Temple.

However, during the rededication of the Temple there was a shortage of undefiled oil. In the Temple, the menorah was to burn through the night. It would be eight days before fresh oil could be prepared, and there was only oil for one night. Miraculously, the oil lasted for eight days.**

Significance of the Holiday

While a majority of the world knows about Chanukkah, it is actually a minor holiday in comparison to other Jewish holidays like Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, or Passover. The minor significance may be due to the fact that the story is not related in Jewish scripture, but instead in the book of Maccabbees, which Jews do not accept as scripture.

Celebrating the Holiday

The Jews commemorate the holiday by lighting candles on a candelabrum known as a menorah. The menorah has space for nine total candles. There is one candle for each night and one "servant" candle known as the shammus.

On the first night of Chanukkah one candle is placed in the first holder on the right. The shammus is lit, and and three blessings are recited. The shammus is then used to light the first candle. Then the shammus is placed in its own holder, and the candles are to burn out on their own (but they must remain lit for at least 30 minutes). Every night one candle is added to the number of candles on the menorah. So the second night there would be two candles placed from right to left. By the last night, eight candles are being lit.

Other Chanukkah Traditions

While lighting candles is the primary tradition of the holiday, other activities have been added over the centuries. Some families play dreidel, a gambling game played with a square top market with hebrew letters.

There is also a tradition of eating fried foods. The most common food includes latkes, which many non-jews know as potato pancakes. It is also common for children to receive chocolate coins that are referred to as "gelt." Traditionally "gelt" was the only gift of the holiday, and it was actually small amounts of money. Today many parents give their children gifts to celebrate the holiday.

Are There Lessons for Christians in Chanukkah?

When God works in people's lives there are always lessons. God is a provider of miracles, and even though this celebration is not included in the Bible most Christians use, it should not be overlooked as "just a Jewish holiday." Christians around the world are being persecuted for their faith, and Christianity is being placed in a box in many other areas of the world. Yet God has a way of offering people strength. When the Jews faced a lack of useful oil for the Temple, it did not mean that God was not there to provide. God has the capabilities to provide whatever His people need. Chanukkah reminds us that, with a faith the size of a mustard seed, anything is possible with God.

Matthew 17:20 - "He replied, "Because you have so little faith, I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you." (NIV)

Matthew 19:26 - "Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." (NIV)

By Kelli Mahoney

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