- Posted by Elaine Zecher
- On December 23, 2016
- 0 Comments
Welcome to Shabbat Awakenings!
Spoiler alert. Hanukkah may not be about the miracle of the oil lasting longer than anticipated. It may not even be about the brave Maccabees who defended their right to be Jewish. It may definitely not be about presents, especially 8 days worth of them.
Tomorrow night, as the sun sets, and we take out our Hanukkah menorah to light the first candle, taste some modern latke concoction lifted from the pages of the Times, and bite into a gourmet donut, what then will we be celebrating? What moment in our religious spiritual history will we be lifting up?
There is some history to tell here of the second century BCE. We turn to two books compiled around 120 BCE, which detail some of the events that occurred years before. The First and Second Book of the Maccabees, found in the Apocrypha, a collection of books not part of the Hebrew Bible, provide a perspective on the origins of Hanukkah. The Judeans, who lived before 168 BCE, brought their harvests to the Temple in Jerusalem as a sacred offering. But they could not get into the Temple since the outside ruling power of the Greco-Syrians had defiled it and prevented the Judeans from entering the sanctuary to observe their holiday. After a long fought battle, which lasted for two years, they managed to gain control. On the twenty-fifth day in the Hebrew month of Kislev, they purified the Temple and could finally celebrate the harvest festival of Sukkot.
“The Jews celebrated joyfully for eight days as on the feast of Booths [Sukkot], remembering how, a little while before, they had spent the feast of Booths living like wild animals in the caves on the mountains…By public edict and decree they prescribed that the whole Jewish nation should celebrate these days [in Kislev] every year.” (First Maccabees 10:6-8)
They called the holiday, Sukkot in Kislev. It then evolved into its own commemoration. These ancient Jews reclaimed their Judaism. They lost it and found it again and powerfully declared it holy. They took what they knew of Sukkot and refashioned it into the holiday of Hanukkah.
Perhaps, that is the greatest miracle we will celebrate starting tomorrow night. As we move from the light of Shabbat into the lights of Hanukkah, we can reclaim our traditions and create great celebration.
Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach!
Qabbalat Shabbat starts at 6 p.m. We will enjoy some latkes and sufganiyot (donuts) at the Oneg to prepare for Hanukkah! Check out Torah study on Shabbat morning for a great opportunity to study together. A short service begins at 9 a.m.
Connect with me here. I welcome your thoughts and reflections.