The Feast of Dedication

Chanukkah, which means “Dedication,” is an 8-day celebration commemorating the rededication of the Temple following its desecration by the Greeks army. Chanukkah is also known as the “Festival of Lights” because of the re-lighting of the sacred Menorah in the Temple which miraculously burned for 8 days with only one day’s worth of oil.

Chanukkah begins at sundown on the 25th of the Hebrew month of Kislev - typically in the month of December. For 8 days, a candle is lit at sundown representing each day. On the first night one candle is lit, then two on the second and so on until eight candles are burning on the final night.

A Brief History

Around 333 BCE - Greek forces led by Alexander the Great, conquered the entire known world including the Babylonian empire which Judea was part of.

When Alexander died, his empire was divided among four generals. Judea fell under control of the ruthless general, Antiochus IV. Antiochus referred to himself as “Epiphanes” or “god (Zeus) made manifest”. He outlawed the Jewish faith, the worship of Jehovah and forced assimilation of the Greek culture upon the nation, with all its pagan rituals and worship of false gods.

Many courageous men and women boldly stood against their oppressors; the most famous was an elderly priest, Mattathias and his five sons “ the Maccabees”. A pivotal confrontation erupted in their small village of Modin that sparked a revolt.

Grecian soldiers had built an altar to Zeus in the village and ordered Mattathias to sacrifice a pig upon it. Mattathias boldly refused! When an apostate priest approached the altar to proceed with the sacrifice, Mattathias grabbed an officer’s sword and slew both the solider and the apostate priest. His sons seized the moment, slew the remaining soldiers and destroyed the pagan altar. Along with the faithful of the city they fled into the Judean hills and began a 3 year war to reclaim their country.

Within the first year of war, the aged Mattathias grew sick. On his deathbed he passed leadership to his oldest son, Judah Maccabee, “the Hammer”. Though greatly outnumbered by the better trained and equipped Greeks, the Jewish rebels struck with guerrilla warfare. After three years, the Maccabees gained a stunning victory over the Greek army.

Victoriously re-entering the city they discovered the Temple gates burned, the courtyards overgrown with weeds and an idol of Zeus erected in the Temple. They immediately began cleansing and restoring the Temple. On Kislev 25, 165 BCE, exactly 3 years to the day, the Temple was rededicated to GOD.

According to tradition, the Maccabees found only one small container of unpolluted oil in the Temple... just enough to supply oil to the Menorah for one day. It would take 8 days to properly prepare more oil. Miraculously, this oil burned for 8 days until the new supply could be consecrated.

Observing Chanukkah Today

Today Chanukkah is observed by nightly lighting a special 9-branched menorah called a “Chanukkiah.” The ninth candle is the "Shamash or servant candle." The Shamash stands higher than the other eight candles and is used to light the others. To commemorate the miracle of the oil, fried foods are typically eaten. The most common are latkes (potato pancakes cooked in oil), and jelly-filled doughnuts.

Because the Jews were forbidden to study Torah during the days of Antiochus, they developed a ingenious way to openly study while appearing to the Greeks to be gambling. Using a 4-sided top, called a “dreidel”, they would put money in a pot, spin the dreidel but discuss Torah. Today the dreidel has one of the Hebrew letters nun, gimel, hey or shin on each side. These stand for a “Great Miracle Happened There.”

May this miraculous "Season of Lights" illuminate you with the wisdom and grace of the Almighty GOD.