Sunday, December 21, 2008

Happy Hanukkah!

Tonight is the first night of Hanukkah!

I served my mission in New York and there I learned to love the Jewish people and their customs. It was there that I first celebrated Hanukkah.
At first I thought that this was just a nice way to give the Jewish kids some relief during this season - how would you like to be surrounded by all this Christmas stuff and be unable to participate? Yikes! But I quickly learned that I was wrong - the holidays may fall near one another, but each deserves its own place in our hearts.

Christ celebrated Hanukkah, the festival commemorating the re-dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem. It's a beautiful story, full of hope and faith.

If you've not heard it before here is the short version: The Syrian-Greeks had taken over Israel and had desecrated the temple in Jerusalem as a way of subjecating the Israelites. Finally an Israelite leader, Judas Maccabee, arose and was able to kick the Syrians out. The people rushed to the temple and began to clean and prepare it for worship.
One of the key elements of the original temple was a huge menorah (think of it as a candle holder) in the sanctuary. This menorah had seven arms and seven flames (not candles in those days, but oil lamps), and was kept burning at all times - an eternal flame. In the ransacked store rooms of the temple only one cruse of consecrated oil was found - just enough to light the menorah for one day. It took eight days to press and consecrate new oil! However, they lit the oil in faith and the tiny cruse lasted eight long days until new oil was prepared.

For Hanukkah we use a menorah with 9 arms. Eight candles or oil lamps for the eight days of the feast, and one lamp known as the shammas - this is the light that is used to light all the others.

What do I learn from Hannukah?
I learn of the great faith of a people who loved God and wanted to worship him.
But more, I am reminded of my savior. Christ is my shammas. He gives me of His light and His own is never diminished in the giving. He stays bright and steadfast at all times, drawing me to that which is pure and holy.

The next time you see a Hanukkah menorah look for the shammas - it is always set a little apart from the other lights - either higher in the center or on one side - and think of what the faith of the Israelites can teach us, and of our loving brother and Savior, the Light of the World.

During the eight days of the feast families gather every night to light the candles and celebrate. Gifts of money (gelt) may be given and many people give money to charity during this time. But mostly it's about food and family! (Yes some people now decorate Hanukkah bushes in blue and silver or white, but we won't go there. heh.)

Since the point of the story is the oil, you'll find LOTS of dishes the incorporate oil in Hanukkah celebrations - the more the merrier! Latkes (fried potato pancakes) and sufganiot (fried donuts filled with jam or cream cheese) are staples.
Here's a wonderful store house of recipes that can get you started.

May these next nights be filled with light for you and your family as we remember the faith and strength of good people everywhere, and the Light of the World, our Lord, Jesus Christ.


The Churches said...

That is very interesting! I have always been very fascinated by the Jewish people and their culture without ever learning much more about them. I really like the symbolism of the shammas. Thank you for sharing that.

Christy Herbert said...

I love getting a sneak peak into that mind of your and hearing little fascinating facts about traditions, cultures, and history. I enjoyed this story and understand a little bit more about this holiday.

Aleathea :o) said...

Thank you so very much! This is great. You are so right. Each has there own place and need recognition. Big Hugs :o)