Chanukah Miracles and Rededication

rabbi-adam-millerby Rabbi Adam Miller

Winter may not bring extreme cold or snow to our area, but even in Southwest Florida, winter time means less daylight, and more darkness. Perhaps that is why we enjoy seeing the twinkling lights of holiday decorations around our community. This year there are even more lights shining, as the holidays of Chanukah and Christmas overlap.

The simple question, “What is Chanukah?” will elicit a different answer depending on who you ask:

  • The Festival of Lights – bringing brightness at the darkest time of the year
  • A celebration of the Maccabees victory over the Syrian-Greeks
  • Remembering the miracles that occurred – the jar of oil that lasted for eight days, as well as the victory of the few over the many

All three are correct, and reflect the wonderful history of Chanukah. More than 2,100 years ago, the Syrian-Greeks, led by King Antiochus IV, sought to conquer and Hellenize the land of Israel. Demanding that the Israelites not only pay tribute, but also forfeit their culture, religion and ethnicity, led to a rebellion.

Sparked by Mattathias, and in particular his son Judah, a group of Israelite warriors skirmished with the larger Greek forces. Lacking the weaponry and sophisticated military experience of their enemy, Judah employed guerilla tactics to inflict damage and frustrate the oppressors. His courage and strength earned him the moniker – Judah Maccabee, Judah the Hammer.

When it became apparent that cost of victory would be too high, Antiochus conceded, and withdrew his forces. Judah and his followers, the Maccabees, celebrated their miraculous victory over the larger army. But upon returning to the Temple in Jerusalem, they found it badly desecrated. They managed to salvage enough supplies to rededicate the Temple, and observe the eight-day harvest festival of Sukkot, that included festivities around large lit bowls of oil.

Chanukah literally means rededication and refers to the rededication of the Temple,

Generations later the celebration of Chanukah evolved with the addition of a new story about the Maccabees finding a single jar of holy oil. Thinking it would last only one day, the oil lasted for eight nights, until more oil could arrive. Adding that miracle to the holiday, families began lighting Chanukah menorahs, candelabras, adding one candle for each night. A celebration of freedom to practice one’s religion, as well as adding light to the world at a time of darkness. Hence the lights we see in the windows of homes during the holiday of Chanukah. And the same lights that one can see at the Community Chanukah celebration organized by the Jewish Federation of Collier County on December 26th at Mercato.

The theme of rededication, particularly in the face of challenge, is one that resonates with all of us. Whether you celebrate Chanukah, Christmas, or other holidays, may you find the strength of spirit to rededicate yourself to the things that matter most in your life –family, friends, and faith. For the real miracle is that we are here to experience another day.

May all your days in the New Year ahead be filled with light, peace, laughter, and blessing. as well as the renewed rededication of the Israelites to their culture and faith.

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