Hanukkah is my favorite Jewish holiday. As a child, the best part of the celebration was hearing my father’s rendition of the story of Hanukkah.
You see…my father (so he claims, and I think I believe him) was alive over two thousand years ago and was a member of the Maccabee gang. His tale always contained intricate details (that only an insider could have known!) of his friendship with Judah, the Jews’ struggle for religious freedom, the rebellion of the brave little band against the Syrian soldiers, and the risks that he and the Maccabees took to freely live their lives according to Jewish laws and values.
At the conclusion of his lengthy but mesmerizing narrative, my father was quick to point out, however, that the focus of the story was not on human achievement or the success of a military campaign. Rather, it highlighted the spiritual aspects of the occasion. That, while Hanukkah is a festival which symbolizes the Jews’ survival against great odds and their fight for religious freedom, it should be remembered that success was not achieved by the Jews’ own strength, but rather by the helping hand of God. Then, to celebrate the Jewish victory, and the phenomenal recall of my father’s aging memory, we ate and opened presents!
Hanukkah means “dedication” and is celebrated (starting this week) to remember the rededication of the Temple in Jeruslem to God. It also is called the “Festival of Lights” to remind us of the miracle of the lamp, symbolizing the eternal covenant between God and the Jewish people, and the continuity of tradition through the generations.
So what does “dedication” really mean? Webster’s dictionary defines the word as:
1: an act or rite of dedicating to a divine being or to a sacred use
2: a devoting or setting aside for a particular purpose
3: a name and often a message … in tribute to a person or cause
4: self-sacrificing devotion
The Maccabees dedicated themselves to God and to the preservation of Jewish tradition and identity. They were willing to die for their cause.
In our modern day lives, how do we demonstrate devotion or commitment to God, to traditions, to Israel, to family, to community, or to other important causes? What sacrifices are we willing to make? What causes are we willing to die for? How do we teach all of this to our children? As we approach a new year, I hope you formulate answers that you will live by.
Here’s to wishing you and your loved ones a wonderful holiday season.