25th Kislev – 3rd Tevet / 24th December (evening ) 1st January (day)
Chanukkah celebrates freedom from oppression. In 167 BCE, the Jews of Judea rose up in revolt against the oppressive regime of the Seleucid Emperor, King Antiochus IV, known as ‘Epiphanes’, the ‘Revealed’. The revolt was led by Judah the Maccabee (‘Hammer’), the eldest son of Mattathias, the priest of Mod’in. In 164, Judah and his followers recaptured the Temple in Jerusalem, which had been turned into a pagan shrine, cleansed and rededicated it, and re-lit the M’norah. The event was marked by an eight-day celebration, resembling the Festival of Sukkot (‘Tabernacles’), which they had missed. In later centuries, the rabbis taught about the miracle of a supply of Temple oil only sufficient for one day that lasted for eight days (Talmud: Shabbat 21b) in order to emphasise that the triumph was ultimately spiritual: ”Not by might, nor by power, but by My spirit declares the God of hosts” (Zechariah 4:6) . The principal ritual of Chanukkah concerns the kindling of flames by a ‘servant’ candle (shamash) on a nine-branched Chanukkah M’norah, night after night: one flame on the 1st night, two on the 2nd, three on the 3rd, and so on. The candles are placed from right to left, and lit from left to right to give pride of place to the candle for each day. Ideally, the lit Chanukkah M’norah should be put in the window, in order to proclaim the miracle. Whether or not one believes in ‘miracles’, the accumulating flames of Chanukkah celebrate the miracle of the triumph of the human spirit over the forces of tyranny and persecution.
You may wish to dedicate the candle-lighting each night to those who suffer persecution and oppression in our own day, in the hope that they, too, may experience liberation. And so, for example:
On the first night: We dedicate this flame of hope to the people of Tibet.
On the second night: We dedicate these flames of hope to the peoples of Syria and Iraq.
On the third night: We dedicate these flames of hope to the people of Yemen.
On the fourth night: We dedicate these flames of hope to the people of Eritrea.
On the fifth night: We dedicate these flames of hope to the Israeli and Palestinian peoples.
On the sixth night: We dedicate these flames of hope to LGBT people, persecuted by homophobia & transphobia.
On the seventh night: We dedicate these flames of hope to all victims of slavery, torture and illegal confinement.
On the eighth night: We dedicate these flames to all those in-flight from persecution and tyranny.
May the Festival of Chanukkah inspire us to kindle flames of hope in our hearts and hearts of others, so that we may continue to work for a world in which all live in freedom and security, justice and peace.
Before kindling the Chanukkah lights recite:
Ba-ruch A-tah Ado-nai E-lo-hei-nu Me-lech ha-olam a-sher ki-d-sha-nu b-mitz-vo-tav v-tzi-va-nu l-had-lik neir Cha-nu-kah.
Ba-ruch A-tah Ado-nai E-lo-hei-nu Me-lech ha-olam, she-a-sa ni-sim la-avo-tei-nu ba-ya-mim ha-heim ba-z-man ha-zeh.
Blessed are You, Eternal One, our God, Sovereign of the universe, who has sanctified us with commandments, and commanded us to kindle the light of Chanukkah.
Blessed are You, Eternal One, our God, Sovereign of the universe, who performed miracles for our ancestors in those days, at this season.
Recite on the first night only:
Ba-ruch A-tah Ado-nai E-lo-hei-nu Me-lech ha-olam, she-he-che-ya-nu, v-ki-y-ma-nu, v-hi-gi-a-nu la-z-man ha-zeh.
Blessed are You, Eternal One, our God, Sovereign of the universe, who has kept us alive, sustained us, and enabled us to reach this season.
After the candles are lit, say:
Ha-nei-rot ha-la-lu a-nu mad-li-kin al ha-ni-sim, v-al ha-t-shu-ot, v-al ha-nif-la-ot, she-a-si-ta la-avo-tei-nu. V-chol sh-mo-nat y-mey cha-nu-kah ha-nei-rot ha-la-lu ko-desh; v-ein la-nu r-shut l-hish-ta-meish ba-hem, e-la lir-o-tan bil-vad, k-dey l-ho-dot l-shim-cha al ni-se-cha, v-al nif-l-o-te-cha, v-al y-shu-o-te-cha.
We kindle these lights in remembrance of the wonderful deliverance you performed for our ancestors. Throughout the eight days of Chanukkah, these lights are sacred, and we are not permitted to make use of them, but only to look at them, so that their glow may move us to give thanks for Your wonderful acts of deliverance.
Then, sing Ma’oz Tzur:
Ma-oz tzur y-shu-a-ti, l-cha na-eh l-sha-bei-ach
Ti-kon beit t-fi-la-ti, v-sham to-dah n-za-bei-ach
L’eit ta-chin mat-bei-ach, v-tzar ha-m-na-bei-ach
Az eg-mor b-shir miz-mor Cha-nu-kat Ha-miz-bei-ach [X 2]
Refuge, Rock of my salvation, to You our praise is due.
Let Your house become a house of prayer and thanksgiving for all peoples.
When by Your will bloodshed ends and enemies cease to scream hate:
Then we will shall celebrate with joyful song the true dedication of Your altar.