Because we are a community that believes in "Light" in itself, or as a symbol for the divine energy that allows after death communication, loves, heals and creates miracles, I'm presenting the following excerpts from several websites about the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah or Chanukah. This holiday begins at sundown today (Friday, 12/20)
It seems appropriate that those of us who are not Jewish, also set aside a few days to honor such things as miracles, the freedom to believe as we choose, and the "divine light" that weaves through our discussions here, in addition to celbrating Jesus's birth, who is also known as "the Light", and a miracle gift to humanity who performed miracles himself. The next time you light a holiday candle, perhaps you can remember the background for this Jewish holiday, as a celebration of the light itself.
I hope you enjoy these excerpts :)
The Story of Hanukkah
Over 2,000 years ago the Jewish people fought against an enemy who would not allow them to practice their religious traditions. Their enemy destroyed the Temple in Jerusalem which contained many holy objects including a sacred lamp called the menorah. One small band of people, called the Maccabees, was led by a brave man named Judah. He led them in a fight against their enemies. Even though they were outnumbered the Jewish people were brave and won the battle! When Judah returned to the Temple in Jerusalem the first thing he did was restore the sacred lamp. But there was almost no oil left -- only enough for one day. The lamp was filled with this oil and lit. Instead of lasting only one day, it burned brighter, and brighter, lasting eight days -- a miracle!
The lamp was only suppose to stay lit for one night._The 8 days that the oil lamp burned was the "miracle" of long ago.T he precious olive oil for the lamps was almost completely destroyed._It was a miracle that one flask was found that should have provided one day's light. While under the rule of their enemy the Jewish children were not allowed to study the Torah._They continued their studies anyway and when the soldiers saw them, they pretended to be playing a children's game with the dreidel._The Maccabees were determined to retain their beliefs and culture._After their victory they returned to the Temple of Jerusalem and rededicated it.
In remembrance, a candle is lit each of the eight days of Hanukkah. Children receive gifts of gelt (in remembrance of the coins minted by the new independent Maccabee state) or money and play games of dreidel (a spinning four-sided top.) The tradition of receiving a gift on each of the eight days of Hanukkah is fairly recent. Since Christians exchange gifts at Christmas, Jews have come to exchange gifts other than coins at Hanukkah, which comes at the same time of the year.
Light symbolizes Wisdom of G-d
The Menorah gave light. Light is a euphemism for wisdom.
When G-d created the universe, He created a special light that He later hid for the righteous to enjoy in the World To Come. The Rabbis taught that if you wanted to get wise, you should go to the Holy Temple, face the Menorah, and pray for wisdom, because the Menorah represents wisdom. Even the olive oil that went into the Menorah had to be pure, according to the Bible's Commandment. The oil could have no admixtures from outside. So, it was very significant that it was oil that they found! Of all the things they could have had a miracle with, it was the oil. This symbolized the triumph of the wisdom of Torah over the wisdom of the Greeks.
The only real victory was the right to restore the Holy Temple service. So, in essence, what was won from the Greeks at that time was religious freedom. The right to keep our own wisdom, without being forced to keep the wisdom of the Greeks. And that is the real reason for the miracle of the oil and Menorah.
Numerology and Chanukah
What are some of the meanings attached to the number 36?
The Talmud teaches that there is nothing that is not alluded to in the Torah. We do indeed find many Biblical allusions to Chanukah in the Torah. Some are merely oblique allusions, and some are more elaborate.
We find, for example, that the 25th word in the Torah is the word "light," and that is the first occurrence of that word. Chanukah occurred, of course, on the 25th day of Kislev.
In addition, the 25th place in which the Israelites encamped in the desert was "Chashmonah," related to "Chashmonai," the Hebrew word for "Hasmonean" (Numbers 33:29). "Hasmonean" was the name of the Priestly family that led the Maccabees in the fights against the Greeks during the Chanukah period.
Another interesting allusion is that the word can also be a contraction of: Chanu "chof" "heh."
Chanu = they rested/encamped. Chof and heh are the two final letters of the word Chanukah, and have the numerical value of 25.
Kabbala and Chanukah from http://www.inner.org/times/kislev/kislev61.htm
A Torah Message for the Month of Kislev
The Miracle of Chanukah
For the Baal Shem Tov, the founder of the Chassidic movement, Chanukah was his "favorite" holiday -- for Chanukah is the holiday of light, a light that fills the soul and warms the heart.
Although outside it is dark and cold, the radiance of the Chanukah candles penetrates into the depth of the winter night, permeating it with warmth and transforming the darkness itself into a light force.
From where do the Chanukah candles derive their power not merely to dispel darkness, but to transmute it into light?
The first two letters of the word Chanukah spell chen, one of the eight synonyms in Hebrew for beauty. Chen, which literally means "grace" or "favor," represents that aspect of beauty which expresses itself through the aesthetic of graceful symmetry.
The word chen first appears in the Torah in the concluding verse of Parashat Bereishit, the first portion of the book of Genesis. The verse there reads: "And Noah found chen ("favor") in the eyes of G-d." The name Noah is actually the same as chen spelled backwards. By virtue of its first appearing in the Torah as juxtaposed with its "opposite," we are taught in Kabbalah that chen represents balance and symmetry, particularly that which is comprised of two inverse elements reflecting each other.
The opposites that form the graceful symmetry of Chanukah are those of darkness and light, or as referred to in the Aramaic idiom of the Zohar -- "transforming chashocha (darkness) into nahora (light)," whose initial letters themselves spell chen.
We can now begin to understand how the Chanukah candles succeed in transforming darkness into light:
Reflective symmetry is the result of two inverse elements possessing a hidden reference to each other. By defining themselves in perfect contradistinction to one another, such elements enter into a symmetrical bond which attests to an underlying unity forming their common source. So it is with darkness and light. Just as light itself possesses the potential to blind one with its radiance (thus testifying to the source of "darkness" included within light), so too does darkness hold within it the potential for illumination (the power of the color black to "shine").
In truth, the hidden light inhering within darkness is infinitely more beautiful than the revealed light which we naturally experience. This is apparent as well from the verse in Ecclesiastes (2:13) which reads: "As the advantage of light over darkness, so is the advantage of wisdom over folly." Although this is the accepted understanding of the verse, a purely literal reading of the words suggests an alternative interpretation: "As the advantage of light from darkness, so is the advantage of wisdom over folly" -- the implication being that the light which emerges from within darkness itself is the true source of wisdom's superiority.
The hidden light which inheres within darkness must be "sparked" into consciousness if it is to transform the opaque realm of Creation into a translucent expanse of Divine light. Herein lies the secret of redemption, expressed in Kabbalah as the process of redeeming those fragments or "sparks" of Divine light which were scattered throughout the universe when the primordial vessels of light fashioned at the dawn of Creation shattered, descending into the lower realms. Parallel to the cosmic restoration of these Divine sparks, there takes place a process here below whereby the lost souls of Israel are aroused to reembrace their people, their land, and their G-d.
The miracle of Chanukah represents the ability to revive the Divine spark of light which resides hidden within the soul of every Jew, regardless of how oblivious he or others may be to its existence. It is told that in his early years, the Baal Shem Tov walked small Jewish children to and from their local cheder (school). It was his custom to place his holy hand on each child's heart, and bless him that he grow to be a "warm Jew"(in Yiddish: a varemer yid). Even a heart as cold as stone could not help but absorb the fiery love of G-d and man, and the burning desire for redemption, which radiated from his touch.
The secret of chen as it relates to Chanukah implies that although Jews may appear to be in total conflict with each other, in truth -- in the innermost point of faith, rooted in Jewish being -- they are one. In their apparent opposition, they are actually mirroring each other. The opposing natures and positions which emerge from the endless internal dialogue spanning the history of the Jewish people provide the elements out of which the beautiful tapestry of Jewish existence will display itself at the end of days.
The classic example of antagonism suffused with chen is that of the ongoing opposition between the Talmudic schools of Hillel and Shammai. One of their most famous disputes concerns the order by which we light the Chanukah candles. According to the school of Hillel, we begin by lighting one candle on the first night of Chanukah and then continue to add an additional candle on each successive night. The school of Shammai takes the opposite position, stating that one should light all eight candles on the first night and then progressively eliminate one candle each night thereafter, until one is left with one single candle on the eighth and last night.
In this dispute we encounter the ultimate expression of chen symmetry. Although diametrically opposed to each other, both positions have validity. Common practice nowadays dictates that we conduct ourselves in accordance with the opinion of the school of Hillel. However, it is said that in the world to come, the law will be in accord with the school of Shammai. In truth, both positions assert themselves simultaneously, just as the reality of this world and that of the next are not separated in time but rather parallel each other. The difference is one of conscious emphasis. The power of chen inherent in Chanukah enables us to harmonize the radical contradictions which accompany us through time to the threshold of the Messianic era.
12-19-2003, 09:18 AM
Thank you for that. Every year at this time, on my way home from work when I pass the synagogue, I watch to see that the next candle on the Menorah has been lit. I say a prayer for our Jewish community and for the light it represents. Last night for some reason,when I noticed the Menorah once again in its place, it just really moved me.
Thanks so much for the articles.
A blessed Hanukkah to all our Jewish JEFriends.
My very good neighbor and friend, Sharon, who is Jewish and a strong believer in what John does, brought me over a Christmas present yesterday. I asked her if she was ready for Hanukkah today. She looked surprised because she forgot it was starting so soon.
A week ago she stopped by and happened to see a book my husband's brother recently loaned me because it is so good. Sharon burst out laughing at the title, "Judaism for Dummies". It's written by Rabbi Ted Falcon, Ph.D. and he calls it "A Reference for the Rest of Us".
I let her borrow it and she loved it. There were things in it that she didn't know. It's well written, very informative, and has a lot of humor Her son is marrying a Catholic girl and she thought it would be a great book to give her. I would recommend it to anyone on here.
I got on the internet and ordered a copy for her as my Hanukkah present to her. There are other "Dummies" books on other religions too.
I guess I don't need to tell you what my present from her was. :D
Pam, thanks so much for posting those en"light"ening articles.
Gail -- Judaism for Dummies -- what a great idea! :D
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