In becoming the Beloved Community, it is good for us to learn about the celebrations of other faiths. This month, Christianity isn’t the only faith group celebrating a holiday. Our Jewish siblings are celebrating Hanukkah, the festival of lights that is celebrated this year from the evening of December 18th through the evening of December 26th. The word ‘Hanukkah’ means ‘dedication’ and the festival was initiated in 2nd century B.C.E. after a small band of Jews defeated a great army of Syrian-Greeks and reclaimed and rededicated the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.
Hanukkah is not the most important Jewish holiday; it falls far behind Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur in prominence. It is the only Jewish holiday not named in the Hebrew Bible. It’s origin story is found in books 1 and 2 of Maccabees, which are not part of the Jewish canon of the Hebrew Bible. However, it is mentioned in John 10:22 (noted as ‘The Feast of Dedication.’) It is significant for its importance in celebrating the liberation of the Jews from oppression.
As God’s people who long for the liberation of all from oppression, Hanukkah can remind us that with God, the light always conquers the darkness. It also provides a strong argument in favor of freedom of worship and religion. As Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks says, “For though my faith is not yours and your faith is not mine, if we are each free to light our own flame, together we can banish some of the darkness of the world.”
What is Chanukah? – A short video explaining the history and spiritual significance of Hanukkah
The History of Hanukkah – A short article
For Children and Those Young at Heart – a “fairly” accurate video of the Hanukkah story