The celebration of Chanukah has begun throughout the Jewish world. Last night Vered and I were entertained by a parade sponsored by the local Community Center that included bright lights, Chanukah songs and a multitude of children in tow with multi-colored flashlights.
Just to clear a bit of muddied water, let me say that (1) Chanukah is not the “Jewish Christmas” even though Christmas and Chanukah share a common thread of deliverance and salvation. Another shared trait is that neither are festivals with biblical commands, though unlike Christmas, Chanukah is mentioned in Scripture; John 10.22, notes that Yeshua was in the Temple, in winter, during the Feast of Dedication, which is Chanukah.
A continual question about Chanukah is why eight days. The Sages of the Babylonian
Talmud explain that a single jar of purified oil, enough for one day, was found unopened, but a miracle occurred in that that one jar of oil kept the menorah burning for eight days (BT Shabbat 21b). However, neither 1st or 2nd Maccabees, Josephus, or the Jerusalem Talmud record this story. First Maccabees states that after the Temple was purified and restored, and a new altar built, the altar and Temple were dedicated, and the celebration lasted for eight days. From this is derived the idea that the first commemoration of eight days was to celebrate Sukkot, which they could not do earlier in the year because of its defilement by the Greco-Syrians. For whatever reason we observe Chanukah for eight days, our celebration focuses on the deliverance and salvation of Hashem. The additional prayer during Chanukah, said in the Thanksgiving section of the Amidah during, expresses this nicely.
על הנסים We thank you also for the miracles, the redemption, the mighty deeds, and the victories in battle which You performed for our ancestors in those days, at this time.
בימי מתתיהו In the days of Mattiyahu, son of Yohanan, the High Priest, the Hasmonean and his sons, the wicked Greek kingdom rose up against Your people Israel to make them forget Your Torah and to force them to transgress the statues of Your will. It was then that You in Your great compassion stood by them in the time of their distress. You championed their cause, judged their claim, and avenged their wrong. You delivered the strong into the hands of the weak, the many into the hands of the few, the impure into the hands of the pure, the wicked into the hands of the righteous,and the arrogant into the hands of those who were engaged in the study of Your Torah. You made for Yourself great and holy renown in Your world, and for Your people Israel You performed a great salvation and redemption as of this very day. Your children then entered the holiest part of Your House, cleansed Your Temple, purified Your Sanctuary, kindled lights in Your holy courts, and designated these eight days of Hanukkah for giving thanks and praise to Your great name.
Regardless of the reason we celebrate for eight days, let’s remember that Hashem is not only our God, but He is our Deliverer, our Shield, our ever-present help in times of trouble (Psalm 46.1) and the Father of our Messiah, Yeshua.