Our Jewish friends are celebrating the Festival of Lights - Chanukah (or Hanukkah) from December 1 through 9. Theirs is rich heritage; a legacy we as Christ Followers inherit.
Chanukah 2010 Guide for the Perplexed (portions)
December 1, 2010
George Washington first learned of Chanukkah while at Valley
Forge, Pennsylvania, 1778: "Perhaps we are not as lost as our enemies
would have us believe. I rejoice in the Maccabees' success, though it
is long past...It pleases me to think that miracles still happen."
"In God We Trust" was inspired, also, by the Maccabees’ battle
cry, which adopted Moses’ battle cry against the builders of the
Golden Calf. A literal translation of Moses' battle cry is “Whoever
trusts G-D; join me!”
The Maccabees' sacrifice and political-incorrectness inspired
Patrick Henry's "Give me liberty or give me death" and New Hampshire's
"Live Free or Die." The Maccabees followed in the footsteps of
Abraham, Phineas the High Priest, Joshua & Calev, King David and
Elijah the Prophet, who walked against the grain, in defiance of the
establishment and conventional wisdom.
Inspiration to Benjamin Franklin's "Rebellion against Tyrants is
obedience to God." The Maccabees prevailed
due to their principle-driven, determined and can-do state-of-mind and
adherence to roots and long-term vision against any odds. (They) became a role-model for the US' Founding Fathers, including Paul Revere
(who was referred to as a "modern day
Maccabee") and the organizers of the Boston Tea Party.
The heroic (and tactically creative) battles conducted by the Maccabees,
were consistent with the reputation of Jews as superb warriors, who
were hired frequently as mercenaries by Egypt, Syria, Rome and other
global and regional powers.
Key geographic Maccabee sites are located in Judea and Samaria:
Mitzpah (also Samuel's burial site), Beit El mountains (Judah's first
headquarters), Beit Horon (Judah's victory over Seron), Hadashah
(Judah's victory over Nicanor), Beit Zur (Judah's victory over
Lysias), Ma'aleh Levona (Judah's victory over Apolonius), Adora'yim (a
Maccabees' fortress), Elazar & Beit Zachariya (Judah's first defeat),
Ba'al Hatzor (Judah defeated and killed), the Judean Desert, etc.
Jerusalem (beyond the "1949 Lines") was the Capital of the Maccabees.
The legacy of Shimon the Maccabee (is that he) succeeded Judah and Yonatan
the Maccabees, while responding to an ultimatum by the Syrian emperor,
Antiochus (Book of Maccabees A, Chapter 15, verse 33): "We have not
occupied a foreign land; We have not ruled a foreign land; We have
liberated the land of our forefathers from foreign occupation." Thus
he responded to a super-power's ultimatum to end "occupation" of
Jaffa, Jerusalem, Gezer, Ekron and Gaza.
Chanukah is the longest Jewish holiday (8 days) with the most
intense level of Light (8 consecutive nights of candle lighting).
The origin of the name Chanukah is also education-oriented.
According to the first book of Maccabees, Yehuda (who succeeded
Mattityahu) ordered the Jewish People to observe an eight day holiday
on the 25th day of the month of Kislev, 165BCE, in order to
commemorate the inauguration (Chanukah, , in Hebrew)
of the holy altar and the Temple, following Syrian desecration.
A key feature of Chanukah is education of the family (Chinuch, in Hebrew).
The Hebrew word, Chanukah, consists of two words, Chanu, (they rested/stationed) and Kah, (25 in Hebrew), which refers to the fact that the Maccabees re-consecrated (aka dedicated) the Temple on the 25th day of the month of Kislev (purging it from the idolatries installed by the Syrians/Seleucids).
Some have suggested that the celebration of Christmas on December 25th and the celebration of the New Year 8 days later (January 1) have their origin in the 25th day of Kislev (which always “accompanies” December) and the 8 days of
Chanukah as well as the 8 days of circumcision.
The first day of Chanukah is on the 25th day of Kislev,
the month of miracles (e.g. Noah's Rainbow
appeared in Kislev). The first and last Hebrew letters of Kislev -
equal (in Jewish numerology) 26, which the total sum of the Hebrew
spelling of Jehovah. Moses completed the construction of the Holy Ark
on the 25th day of Kislev, as was the date of the laying the
foundation of the Second Temple by Nehemaya. The 25th (Hebrew) word in
Genesis is Light (OR, , in Hebrew).
A Jewish metaphor for the Torah is light.
Eight days of Chanukah represent divine capabilities and
optimism. The ancient Temple Menorah consisted of seven branches,
which commemorated the seven days of creation. The Chanukah Menorah
has eight branches, reflecting the additional level of divine
capabilities over and beyond human expectations: The victory of the
few over the many and the lasting of one day supply of oil for eight days.
Chanukah symbolizes the victory of monotheism over paganism,
conviction over convenience and opportunism/cynicism (sometime
presented as "realism" or "pragmatism"), compassion over egotism,
self-control and restraint over temptation and promiscuity, endurance
Happy Chanukah to all, and to all a good light!
Blessed are You, our God, Creator of time and space,
Who enriches our lives with holiness, commanding us to kindle
the Chanukah lights.
So now we know ...
When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said,
“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never
walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
Then Jesus cried out, “Whoever believes in me does
not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me.
The one who looks at me is seeing the one who sent me.
I have come into the world as a light,
so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.