The word “Channuka” means “dedication”. It refers, of course, to the dedication of the Temple that took place when the Hasmoneans recaptured the Temple from the Syrian-Greeks, purified it and rededicated it for the service of God.
The fact is that this was not the only Temple-dedication that our nation witnessed. We dedicated the Tabernacle in the wilderness, we dedicated the Tabernacle at Shiloh, the First Temple under Solomon and the original dedication of the Second Temple. The Hasmonean dedication that we commemorate on Channuka was only a rededication of the Second Temple that had been defiled by the Syrian-Greeks. So why is this dedication singled out to be celebrated with a national holiday?
We must understand the historical context of this particular dedication. All the other dedications took place while God still spoke to us through the prophets. The spirit of God that had come to dwell with us through the dedication of the Temple allowed the prophets amongst us to hear God’s voice. We lost that gift.
When prophecy ceased, the Jewish people were devastated. Their heavenly Father was no longer talking with them. They felt that God was no longer with them. Then the persecutions began. Now God was not even allowing them to keep His Law! But under the leadership of Matisyahu, the remained loyal. They fought back and God crowned their efforts with victory.
Now they entered the Temple. How they wanted to light the Menorah! But they encountered an obstacle. They only had one little bit of pure oil. They did not give up, they did what they could. And God reached out and miraculously made the oil last. How their hearts were filled with joy! Their Father was with them! The gift their Father had given them was the ability and the opportunity to serve Him. They then realized that every time we fulfill one of God’s commandments – it is an embrace from God! Our Father is giving us the opportunity of serving Him! We saw that God could remove that ability from us in an instant. The fact that we can observe His commandments is the greatest gift He could give us.
Although we lost the Temple, we still have the gift of being able to fulfill God’s commandments. That gift still shows us that wherever we are God is our miniature sanctuary in exile (Ezekiel 11:16).
The lights of the Menorah testify that He is always with us.
If you found this article helpful please consider making a donation to Judaism Resources by clicking on the link below.
Judaism Resources is a recognized 501(c) 3 public charity and your donation is tax exempt.
Yisroel C. Blumenthal