By Freedom Newspapers
Jews throughout the world have begun the celebration of Hanukkah, the eight-day Festival of Lights that commemorates the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem after Israel regained its independence from the Seleucid or Syrian Greeks in 165 B.C.
After Alexander the Great died, the empire he conquered was divided among his generals, and the portion that included Israel was ruled from Damascus. At first the Syrians or Seleucids allowed considerable autonomy, but when Antiochus IV came to the throne in 175 B.C., he decreed assimilation into Hellenistic ways. Jews in Israel were forbidden to celebrate the Sabbath, study the Torah or practice circumcision. In 168 Antiochus’ troops seized the temple, desecrated it and rededicated it to the worship of Zeus.
Mattathias, a Jewish priest, and his five sons, known as the Maccabees, began a revolt that was a model of successful guerrilla warfare. By 165 the Maccabees had won. When they entered Jerusalem to rededicate the temple, however, they could find only enough consecrated oil to light the menorah for one day, and it would take eight days to produce more oil according to the proper rituals.
According to tradition, however, the one-day supply of oil miraculously burned for eight days.
Families celebrating Hanukkah light one candle or oil lamp the first night of Hanukkah. An additional light is lit successive nights until on the final night all eight candles or lamps are burning brightly. The Hanukkah menorah is traditionally placed in a window or near the entrance to the house, serving as a sign of faith to the outside world. Gifts or money are given to children, and food cooked in olive oil, like potato pancakes or latkes, are traditional at Hanukkah.
Hanukkah’s symbolism is rich and relevant to all of us. Religious liberty is vital to people of all faiths or no faith. Courage to stand up for your beliefs against difficult odds is important.
Light illuminates the darkness outside our safe places as knowledge and faith overcome ignorance and injustice.
May your light increase.