בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הַעוֹלָם, שֶׁהֶחֱיָנוּ וְקִיְּמָנוּ וְהִגִּיעָנוּ לַזְּמַן הַזֶּה׃
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה', אֱ-לֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, אֲשֶׁר קִדְּשָׁנוּ בְּמִצְוֹתָיו, וְצִוָּנוּ לְהַדְלִיק נֵר שֶׁל חֲנֻכָּה.
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה' אֱ-לֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, שֶׁעָשָׂה נִסִּים לַאֲבוֹתֵֽינוּ בַּיָּמִים הָהֵם בַּזְּמַן הַזֶּה.
Blessed are You, Adonai our God, Sovereign of all, who has kept us alive, sustained us, and brought us to this season.
Blessed are You, Adonai our God, Sovereign of all, who hallows us with mitzvoth, commanding us to kindle the Hanukkah lights.
Blessed are You, Adonai our God, Sovereign of all, who performed wondrous deeds for our ancestors in days of old at this season.
Last night was the first night of Hanukkah. The first candle was lit, the three blessings above were offered. The celebration will last for eight days and nights, from the evening of December 22 through the evening of December 30.
It is, ultimately, a time of remembrance, a celebration of God's provision. In a time when there was no judge, no prophet, no word from God, He was still at work. He was still performing miracles, protecting His people. To make a single day's supply of oil last for eight days.
It's a reminder that God is always at work. Even when He is silent, even when He seems far away, God is still working. God still cares for His people.
I've felt that this year. I have both heard God and felt that I was going unheard. And through it all, there have been reminders. Reasons to remember. To celebrate.
We're lighting the lights this year primarily because Avalyn is studying Israel this month. Each month, she learns about a different country and its culture. Through media, through food, through study. October was Japan. November was France. January will be China. Since she is studying Israel, we thought celebrating Hanukkah would be an appropriate way to show her a bit of the culture of Israel.
I feel I'm celebrating this year because I have a greater appreciation for the festival - our God provides. Jehovah Jireh.
To my Jewish friends and all who are celebrating, Happy Hanukkah! May it be a blessed time for you and yours.
צ'ג אורים סמח
For those who would like a bit more background information, I've included the passages on Hanukkah from the books of the Maccabees and the Megillat Antiochus. The first passage relates to a reflection on Nehemiah's rededication of the temple and its own miracle. The second passage, on Judah Maccabee's rededication of the temple and the dedication of the festival. The final passage contains the story of the oil.
For when our ancestors were being led captive to Persia, the pious priests of that time took some of the fire of the altar and secretly hid it in the hollow of a dry cistern, where they took such precautions that the place was unknown to anyone. But after many years had passed, when it pleased God, Nehemiah, having been commissioned by the king of Persia, sent the descendants of the priests who had hidden the fire to get it. And when they reported to us that they had not found fire but only a thick liquid, he ordered them to dip it out and bring it. When the materials for the sacrifices were presented, Nehemiah ordered the priests to sprinkle the liquid on the wood and on the things laid upon it. When this had been done and some time had passed, and when the sun, which had been clouded over, shone out, a great fire blazed up, so that all marveled. And while the sacrifice was being consumed, the priests offered prayer—the priests and everyone. Jonathan led, and the rest responded, as did Nehemiah. The prayer was to this effect:
'O Lord, Lord God, Creator of all things, you are awe-inspiring and strong and just and merciful, you alone are king and are kind, you alone are bountiful, you alone are just and almighty and eternal. You rescue Israel from every evil; you chose the ancestors and consecrated them. Accept this sacrifice on behalf of all your people Israel and preserve your portion and make it holy. Gather together our scattered people, set free those who are slaves among the Gentiles, look on those who are rejected and despised, and let the Gentiles know that you are our God. Punish those who oppress and are insolent with pride. Plant your people in your holy place, as Moses promised.'
Then the priests sang the hymns. After the materials of the sacrifice had been consumed, Nehemiah ordered that the liquid that was left should be poured on large stones. When this was done, a flame blazed up; but when the light from the altar shone back, it went out. When this matter became known, and it was reported to the king of the Persians that, in the place where the exiled priests had hidden the fire, the liquid had appeared with which Nehemiah and his associates had burned the materials of the sacrifice, the king investigated the matter, and enclosed the place and made it sacred. And with those persons whom the king favored he exchanged many excellent gifts. Nehemiah and his associates called this 'nephthar,' which means purification, but by most people it is called naphtha."
2 Maccabees 1:18-36
Then Judas and his brothers and all the assembly of Israel determined that every year at that season the days of dedication of the altar should be observed with joy and gladness for eight days, beginning with the twenty-fifth day of the month of Chislev."
1 Maccabees 4:52-59
"...After this, the sons of Israel went up to the Temple and rebuilt its gates and purified the Temple from the dead bodies and from the defilement. And they sought after pure olive oil to light the lamps therewith, but could not find any, except one bowl that was sealed with the signet ring of the High Priest from the days of Samuel the prophet and they knew that it was pure. There was in it [enough oil] to light [the lamps therewith] for one day, but the God of heaven whose name dwells there put therein his blessing and they were able to light from it eight days. Therefore, the sons of Ḥashmonai made this covenant and took upon themselves a solemn vow, they and the sons of Israel, all of them, to publish amongst the sons of Israel, [to the end] that they might observe these eight days of joy and honour, as the days of the feasts written in [the book of] the Law; [even] to light in them so as to make known to those who come after them that their God wrought for them salvation from heaven. In them, it is not permitted to mourn, neither to decree a fast [on those days], and anyone who has a vow to perform, let him perform it."