Chanukah - The History Of This Beautiful Jewish Celebration
Shamash, the one who guards and watches above us all. The light with
which all the other lights of the Menorah are lit. The Light Above.”
By Dell Hill via Daniel Greenfield
most Christians, Chanukah is “what Jewish people celebrate at about the
same time as Christmas”. We know little about its history, but know
it’s a very meaningful religious event that’s celebrated over eight days
Daniel Greenfield has an excellent post at Canada Free Press, that
helps explain Chanukah to us all.
the eight days of Chanukah, it is common to see a candelabra with eight
lights and one light above it, shining here and there, in the windows
of stores and hallways, in people’s homes and even on intersections.
Some are filled with oil, while others are topped with candles. Some
tower high overhead and some are child sized. But all have eight lights
and one above it, and all commemorate the same occasion.
nations have religious holidays and days of national liberation and
independence, however rarely do the two come together quite in the way
that Chanukah does. That is because Chanukah is a commemoration of
national liberation from the rule of the Syrian-Greek empire ruled by
Antiochus IV and a commemoration of the hand of divine influence in
inspiring and accomplishing that liberation.
Jews throughout history have had a way of getting in the way of great
empires. The Egyptians, the Philistines, the Assyrians, Babylonians and
Persians had all tried to enslave and destroy the Jewish people. A few
thousand years ago after an Egyptian Pharaoh had first gotten the bright
idea to clap chains on the Jewish refugees who had been serving as his
faithful shepherds and send them off to build the pyramids, Antiochus
IV, like so many kings before him, decided that ruling over his empire
would be simpler and easier without the Jews in it.
Pharaoh had embarked on that process by throwing male Jewish babies
into the Nile, to please one of his many gods while carrying out a
genocide that was meant to destroy the Jewish people and integrate what
was left into Egypt—Antiochus IV focused not on physical extermination,
but cultural annihilation. The fundamental books of Jewish life, the
scriptures that gave the Jewish people meaning and identity were
destroyed.and banned. Some accepted the decree out of fear or even with
enthusiasm. Others however rose up and resisted.
came between the handfuls of Jewish Maccabee partisans and the armies
of Antiochus IV’s Selecuid empire. A war that had its echoes in the past
and would have it again in the future as lightly armed and untrained
armies of Jewish soldiers would go on to fight in that same land and
those same hills and valleys against the Romans and eventually the
armies of six Arab nations. The Syrian Greek armies were among the best
of their day. The Maccabees were the sons of the priesthood living in
the backwaters of Israel, members of a nation that had not been
independently ruled since the Babylonian hordes had flooded across the
land, destroying everything in their path. Since then a shifting mass of
nations and rulers had sat on their thrones while the Jews had bowed
the wilderness of Judea a band of brothers vowed that they would bow to
no man and let no foreigners rule over their land. That no alien ruler
would hold sway over the earth and water of their homeland, and none
would be permitted to take away the legacy of their fathers and the
books of their God. And while empires may and do laugh at such oaths,
that band of brothers went on to destroy and wreak havoc against the
might of an entire empire.
brought his Samaritan forces against the brothers, and Judah, first
among the Macabees, killed him, took his sword and wore it for his own.
Seron, General of the army of Coele-Syria, brought together soldiers and
renegade Jewish mercenaries and was broken at Beit Haran. In his place
Antiochus IV commanded the Governor of Syria who dispatched two
generals, Nicanor, and Gorgias, with forty thousand soldiers and seven
thousand horsemen and orders to conquer Judea, enslave its inhabitants,
utterly destroy Jerusalem and abolish the whole Jewish nation forever.
So certain were they of victory that they brought with them merchant
caravans to fill with the Hebrew slaves of a destroyed nation.
walked among his brothers and fellow rebels and spoke to them of the
thing for which they fought; “O my fellow soldiers, no other time
remains more opportune than the present for courage and contempt of
dangers; for if you now fight manfully, you may recover your liberty,
which, as it is a thing of itself agreeable to all men, so it proves to
be to us much more desirable, by its affording us the liberty of
worshiping God. Since therefore you are in such circumstances at
present, you must either recover that liberty, and so regain a happy and
blessed way of living, which is that according to our laws, and the
customs of our country, or to submit to the most opprobrious sufferings;
nor will any seed of your nation remain if you be beat in this battle.
Fight therefore manfully; and suppose that you must die, though you do
not fight; but believe, that besides such glorious rewards as those of
the liberty of your country, of your laws, of your religion, you shall
then obtain everlasting glory.
yourselves, therefore, and put yourselves into such an agreeable
posture, that you may be ready to fight with the enemy as soon as it is
day tomorrow morning.”
those few words were the heart and soul of the Jewish nation fighting
to be reborn, and that for which they fought, for their God, the freedom
of their faith and country, and to stand as men of honor in defiance of
a tyrannical empire. And though the Macabees were but three thousand,
starving and dressed in bare rags, the God for whom they fought and
their native wits and courage, gave them victory over thousands and tens
from battle, bloodied and standing among heaps of the enemy dead, the
Macabees did not flee back into their Judean wilderness, instead they
went on to Jerusalem and its Temple, to reclaim their land and their
God. But through the armies of the Seleucid Empire may have fled, and
their traitorous Jewish collaborators along with them, the Temple and
the capital stood in ruins. And the brave rebels who had bested an
empire entered the holy city only to confront the devastation and
disgrace that their enemies had imposed on it.
Macabees had fought courageously for the freedom to worship God once
again as their fathers had, but courage alone could not make the Menorah
burn and thus renew the Temple service again. Yet it had not been mere
berserker’s courage that had brought them this far. Like their ancestors
before them who had leaped into furnaces and the raging sea, they had
dared the impossible on faith.
in a God who watched over his nation and intervened in the affairs of
men. And so on faith they poured the oil of that single flask in the
Menorah, oil that could only last for a single day. And then having done
all they could, the priests and sons of priests who had fought through
entire battalions to reach this place, accepted that they had done all
they could and left the remainder in the hands of the Almighty.
they had won by the strength of their hands alone, then the lamps would
burn for a day and then flicker out. But if it had been more than mere
force of arms that had brought them here, if it had been more than mere
happenstance that a small band of ragged and starving rebels had
shattered the armies of an empire, then the flames of the Menorah would
sun rose and set again. The day came to its end and the men watched the
lights of the Menorah to see if they would burn or die out. And if the
flame in their hearts could have kindled the lamps, they would have
burst into bright flame then and there. Darkness fell that night and
still the lamps burned on. For eight days and nights the Menorah burned
on that single lonely pure flask of oil, until more could be found, and
the men who for a time had been soldiers and had once again become
priests, saw that while it may be men who kindle lamps and hearts, it is
the Almighty who provides them with the fuel of the spirit through
which they burn.
are the eight days we remember every Chanukah. Not the long wars that
came before or after. For life is struggle and few lives are lived at
peace and without difficulty. But it is those eight days, the days in
which we see that we are not alone in our struggles, and whether we are
lost in the wilderness of Judea or the cities and towns of any land,
there is a light above us waiting to light our way. The windows behind
which the Menorah stood were narrow on the inside and wide on the
outside. For it is not the Menorah or the Temple that needs the world,
but the world that needs the light of the Menorah. And so above the
eight oil lamps or candles that we light throughout Chanukah is a single
light. The Shamash, the one who guards and watches above us all. The
light with which all the other lights of the Menorah are lit. The Light
From an elderly Catholic Green Mountain Boy to all of my Jewish Friends - HAPPY CHANUKAH!!