December 5, 2007


Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, began at sundown last night. It goes for 8 days. I pick a night for a family meal and we burn a small menorah and eat a meal with latkes (potato pancakes) served with applesause and sour cream. And we talk about it's story.

It's story reminds us that miracles can still happen. It happened between the Old and New Testament around 175 BCE and is a festival the Jews have added to their calendar (from the original festivals in Lev 23). Jesus was at this festival in John 10:22-42. Hanukkah means "dedication".

The Syrian ruler Antiochus IV preferred the Greek culture over the Hebrew and eventually made life miserable for the Hebrew, forbidding everything that was their life. Besides massacring thousands of people, he offered sacrifices of pigs on their temple's altar, profaning the temple. And dedicated it to Zeus worship.

A small band of Jews lead by Judas Maccabee, who had fled to the mountains with caves, were called the Maccabees ('hammers'), and with God's help after years of battles finally drove the Syrians out of Judea. The story is in I Maccabees 4:36-59 and II Maccabees 10:1-8, still in the Old Testament of the Catholic Bible.

The Maccabees began cleaning the temple and purifying it. A totally new altar was built and consecrated. The Jews celebrated their victory and the temple re-dedication. The temple's lampstand has 7 branches and reminds them that God is with them.

In cleaning they had found only a small amount of oil, thinking it enough for just one day. To everyone's amazement, the lampstand miraculously burned for 8 days. So Hanukkah's menorah has 8 branches with a 9th taller candle for lighting the others called the shammesh or "servant" candle.

Do we live believing miracles can happen? that they are all around us? Do we have hearts and eyes to see miracles in our ordinary everyday?
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