As we celebrate Hanukkah, which manifests for many the happiest and most delightful Jewish Holiday, we will introduce in the next few days some of the symbols and customs of this joyous festival. We hope that these words will illuminate this upcoming holiday with a brighter light that the Hebrew language can offer to us all, Jews and Christians alike. After all, it is the Festival of Lights to celebrate the light that illuminated the Temple in Jerusalem for eight miraculous days. Our theme for the next nine days will encompass different aspects of light, both physical and spiritual. May this beautiful light continue to chase away darkness and brighten your life this year and for many many years to come.*
*Chasing away darkness both physically and symbolically is one of the purposes of Hanukkah. These words are sung every Hanukkah by every child in Israel for generations. Here is a quick translation of the first verse of the famous song: ‘We Came to Chase Darkness Away’:
We came to chase darkness away,
carrying light and fire in our hands,
each one of us is a small light,
but together we are a steadfast shining,
move away, darkness! disappear, blackness!
vanish, for the light is here!
Hanukkah (also spelled Chanukah) has several names but it is best known as: Festival of Lights, Feast of Dedication. It is an eight-day Jewish holiday commemorating the rededication of the Holy Temple (the Second Temple) in Jerusalem at the time of the Maccabean Revolt against the Seleucid Empire of the 2nd century BC. It comes from the root ‘chet, ‘noon,’ ‘chaf’ which means to dedicate, to inaugurate, to consecrate and to educate.
A useful derivative is the word for a house dedication: ‘Cha•nu•kat Ba•yit.
Chanuka is not an Old Testament holiday but it is mentioned in the New Testament:
‘It was the Feast of the Dedication at Jerusalem’