The Jewish Celebration Of

Jews and Christians have a distinct point of divergence in faith. Even this significant difference for most in both communities isn’t personally alienating. Friendships are built around the many things they have in common.

An admirable aspect of the Jewish faith is the way they perpetuate their heritage. Use of ancient symbols and customs are used to pass the faith from one generation to the next admirably.
One of Judaism’s best teachable moments is Hanukkah also known as the Festival of Lights. It isn’t a Biblical celebration but it is a celebration of Jehovah’s intervention on behalf of their ancestors. It was instituted in 165 B.C. to celebrate the success of the Maccabean Revolt which resulted in the reconsecration of the Temple in Jerusalem and the dedication of the new altar.
Also associated is the miraculous extended burning of the cruse of oil for eight days. It is from this the tradition of the lighting of the multi branched candle-stand known as the
Menorah comes.

The Syrian, Seleucid, leader Antiochus Epiphanes banned traditional Jewish worship. The elderly patriarch of the Maccabean family, Mattathias, defied the order to sacrifice a pig on a portable pagan altar. He killed the man who did and the king’s representative. With the battle cry of “Whoever is for God, follow me.” He and his five courageous sons lead the revolt.

When they, now known as the Hasmoneans (Maccabees), re-occupied the Temple they found it desecrated. All the oils were defiled except one jar with the High Priest seal still unbroken. It was enough oil for one day yet it lasted eight days. It was considered a miraculous symbol of God’s pleasure.

One purpose of modern day lighting of the candles is the “illumination of the house without.” Lights are placed so passers by can see the lights in Jewish homes and be reminded of the celebration.

On a couple of our 40 visits to Israel my wife and I have gone alone. Once with a native guide we searched all day for the graves of the Maccabees. We finally found them virtually unmarked in a wooded area. Today they are more visibly marked in that remote spot.

The heroism involved in the Maccabean brothers leading the revolt against the Seleucids and the establishment of the Hasmonean dynasty is fascinating. Another book about a different Jewish revolt is entitled “Cast A Giant Shadow” — absorbing. It relates to the 1948 war. Don’t read the end till the end.