Hanukkah is a beautiful holiday on the Jewish calendar. The celebration begins on Kislev 25, which this year falls on November 28th at approximately 4p.m. It is a celebration that lasts 8 days in which we celebrate by lighting lights. Hence the other name "Chag HaUrim", festival of lights.
The history that gives rise to this holiday is not of Biblical origin. In fact, we find it in Maccabees I and II, apocryphal books that did not enter the Jewish biblical canon or Tanach. The prescription for the celebration of the holiday is found in the Talmud, a book from which the Halachah or Jewish law is extracted.
The story dates back to 167 BC. When, after 2 years of occupation of the territory of Judea by the Hellenistic Syrians, with part of the Hellenized Jewish people, Antiochus IV raised the stakes in its conquest and desecrated the Great Temple of Jerusalem and the smaller altars of the populations all around. When the soldiers entered the village of Modiin, to comply with that decree, the local priest, Matityahu of the Hasmonean family prevented the desecration and thus began the revolt against the oppressors.
Matityahu and his 5 sons faced the Syrian power in a guerrilla war which the people joined. They understood the path they chose was not the correct one in the eyes of the Creator.
On Hanukkah, “the miracle” is celebrated, which in fact there were more than one. The miracle of a group of peasants facing an organized army and faced with the alternative of winning or ending in the total destruction of the people, traditions and modus vivendi, manage to win.
The miracle of the few who unite against the many and succeed. The miracle of a divided people who, in the face of adversity, unite and change destiny.
Finally, the miracle that we remember is when they recovered the Temple. They entered and found only a vessel with the consecrated oil that contained enough to illuminate for a single day.
However, the oil lasted eight days. Which was necessary to prepare more oil and to keep it balanced and continue to maintain the flame for the temple.
We as a united Beth El Community are in our own reopening. With this inauguration that we celebrate on Hanukkah, any shrine that we inaugurate refers to the book of Shmot where the Creator directed the people to build a shrine so he would reside among them.
Our sages wondered what that phrase meant. Some mystics speak of the Shechinah, one of the manifestations of God that came down to earth at certain times and some chosen could feel it.
I prefer to believe that the divine manifestation is not reserved for a few. That each one of us has the possibility of opening his heart to that light that the Kadosh Baruch Hu gives us. The mere fact of reopening our Sanctuary opens the door to US, and not to divinity, to reside in Community, approaching the mitzvot, enlarging the spirit of our people in the daily commitment to build a better world. In this way, he will surely reside as in other times among us and we will have a thriving Community in which we can grow individually and together, celebrate together, laugh together and cry together.
Happy reopening and Chag Urim Sameach!