Hanukkah—Expect a Miracle
Do you believe in miracles?
At sunset on Sunday, December 22, 2019, Jews will begin the 8-day celebration of Hanukkah. It commemorates the victory of the Maccabees over the Syrian Greek army, and the subsequent rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and miracle of the rekindling of its menorah.
The story of Hanukkah is a mixture of history and legend. According to history,
In 167 B.C., a Syrian officer brought an unnamed Jew to the temple [Second Temple] and forced him to make a sacrifice to Zeus. A priest named Mattathias witnessed the event. He slew them both, called for all faithful Jews to follow him, he and his sons organized for war against the Seleucids. They swept over Jerusalem, defeated the Syrian army, and secured the city. The Syrian leaders were forced to repeal their ordinances against worship in Israel. Now the temple could be cleansed and true worship could resume.…Modern Jews remember this great event as the Feast of Dedication or Hanukkah.…This 8-day feast is celebrated on the twenty-fifth of the month Chislev. Also known as the Feast of Lights, it is marked by the lighting of 8 candles—one on each day of the feast.
(J. I. Packer, M. C. Tenney, editors, Illustrated Manners and Customs of the Bible, Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1980, pp. 407–410.)
It seems not all historians agree that the Hanukkah miracle actually took place. But, according to the Talmud, one of Judaism’s most central texts, it did. The menorah, a golden lamp of seven branches representing knowledge and creation, was meant to be kept burning every night.
Judah Maccabee and the other Jews who took part in the rededication of the Second Temple witnessed what they believed to be a miracle. Even though there was only enough untainted olive oil to keep the menorah’s candles burning for a single day, the flames continued flickering for eight nights, leaving them time to find a fresh supply. This wondrous event inspired the Jewish sages to proclaim a yearly eight-day festival.
The new festival revolved around “the kindling of a nine-branched menorah…. On each of the holiday’s eight nights, another candle is added to the menorah after sundown; the ninth candle, called the shamash (‘helper’), is used to light the others. Jews typically recite blessings during this ritual and display the menorah prominently in a window as a reminder to others of the miracle that inspired the holiday.”
Is there a miracle that inspires your life, your days, your moments?
We tend to think only grand things can qualify as miracles; this is not so. As Hanukkah shows, a tiny vial of oil may be all that we need to release a miracle in our lives. A miracle occurs when a law of nature is experienced or expresses itself in a way not thought possible or not commonly known to human beings. How can this be? Human knowledge is limited; the Miracle Maker is omniscient. This means miracles could be happening all around us, unbeknownst to us! It is up to us to open the eyes of our heart and mind to see these miracles. Sight requires expectation. Sight also requires us to be mindful of what we are feeling, to pay attention without judging. So, expect a miracle every day, in the ordinary course of living. Make space for miracles in your life and miracles will occur.
And when these miracles occur, grand and small, commemorate them. Celebrate your festival of lights. Do this not only as an act of gratitude or to remind yourself of the event, but to inspire others, for generations.
Here are some tips to remember:
- Expect a miracle every day even in the mundane of life.
- Be mindful; pay attention to what you are feeling—experiencing.
- Don’t stress; instead, create space for miracles, even in a world that is technologically driven.
- Light your candle.
- Create a ritual to remind yourself of life’s goodness.
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