Wednesday, December 21, 2011

What is Hanukkah?

By Mary Vee


This year, 2011, the Hanukkah celebration started yesterday, Tuesday, December 20 and will continue until Wednesday, December 28.

Many years ago I heard about Hanukkah.

I didn't know what it was, why it was celebrated or even what the word Hanukkah meant.

Today I will share with you a little about Hanukkah.

Two hundred years before Jesus was born, The king of Syria conquered the land where Israelites lived.  He allowed the Israelites to keep their customs and celebrations while living under his rule.  

Twenty-five years later Antiochus IV and his army conquered Jerusalem. They forced the people to follow the Greek customs, dress like Greeks, and speak the Greek language.  The invading army brought statues of Zeus and other idols and set them in the Temple. They told the Jews they could not dress, eat, or follow Jewish customs any more.

A Jewish priest name Mattathias became angry.  He refused to eat, dress, and speak the language of the new ruler. Mattathias chose to only follow Jewish customs, dress, and speak as a Jew no matter what anyone said.  He talked to many Jews about his choice and they agreed to do the same. Those men formed a small army.  They hid in mountain caves and attacked Antiochus IV's army units. One by one the Jews won small battles conquering every army the Greeks sent until one day, they won the war.

Judah, Mattathias' son, called the army together and led them into the Temple. His heart ached. In the center of the Lord's Temple stood an idol of Zeus. As he walked throughout the Temple he found broken furniture and trash. The men became angry. They called for other Jews and together worked to clean the Temple and to prepare it for worship.

In the clean up Judah realized the lamp did not have oil. God said the lamp must always be lit. He searched for oil to put in the menorah (a lamp like the one in the picture above). In a small corner, tucked behind other broken things, Judah found one small, sealed container of oil.  

He poured the oil in the lamp and lit the wick. The flames flickered tall and bright. Judah turned to the workers, "Hurry, start the process to make new oil. This oil will run out soon." 

"But, Judah. It will take at least eight days to make more oil."

Judah folded his arms. "I know. But we must try. God knows our hearts. Hurry, the menorah must stay lit."

A group of men left the Temple as ordered while others stay to clean and rid the Temple of everything that didn't belong. 

One the second day, Judah came to the temple expecting the light to be gone.  To his surprise the menorah shone brightly. And on the third day the lamp still shone. One the eight day, the lamp grew dim. 

Judah stood by the menorah and watched the flames weaken. Moments later, a group of men ran into the Temple. "Here! Here is the new oil."  Judah poured the new oil into the menorah. He stepped back with the others and watched the flames grow.  

The men cheered for God's miracle of light.  

After cleaning, making new furniture and utensils, and preparing the people for worship, the priest rededicated the Temple to God.  The Jews held a celebration to praise God for the miracle of light in the Temple. This celebration was named Hanukkah which means "dedication".

If you know a Jewish person, be sure to tell them Happy Hanukkah. 

If you are a Jewish person, Happy Hanukkah! 

Here is a link to Hanukkah games:  Hanukkah Gamesl

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We like to read what you learned about the story today. Remember, God loves you very much!