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Friday, December 15, 2006

Happy Hanukkah to our Jewish friends and neighbors!



Interestingly enough, the festival is not recorded in Hebrew Bibles (which is no big deal, of course). For the curious, though, the holiday's origin is located in Catholic and Orthodox Old Testaments. The most detailed account is in 1 Maccabees 4 (an unjustly neglected book even by those who venerate it as inspired). Starting at verse 36:

36
Then Judas and his brothers said, "Now that our enemies have been crushed, let us go up to purify the sanctuary and rededicate it."
37
So the whole army assembled, and went up to Mount Zion.
38
They found the sanctuary desolate, the altar desecrated, the gates burnt, weeds growing in the courts as in a forest or on some mountain, and the priests' chambers demolished.
39
Then they tore their clothes and made great lamentation; they sprinkled their heads with ashes
40
and fell with their faces to the ground. And when the signal was given with trumpets, they cried out to Heaven.
41
Judas appointed men to attack those in the citadel, while he purified the sanctuary.
42
He chose blameless priests, devoted to the law;
43
these purified the sanctuary and carried away the stones of the Abomination to an unclean place.
44
They deliberated what ought to be done with the altar of holocausts that had been desecrated.
45
The happy thought came to them to tear it down, lest it be a lasting shame to them that the Gentiles had defiled it; so they tore down the altar.
46
They stored the stones in a suitable place on the temple hill, until a prophet should come and decide what to do with them.
47
Then they took uncut stones, according to the law, and built a new altar like the former one.
48
They also repaired the sanctuary and the interior of the temple and purified the courts.
49
They made new sacred vessels and brought the lampstand, the altar of incense, and the table into the temple.
50
Then they burned incense on the altar and lighted the lamps on the lampstand, and these illuminated the temple.
51
They also put loaves on the table and hung up curtains. Thus they finished all the work they had undertaken.
52
Early in the morning on the twenty-fifth day of the ninth month, that is, the month of Chislev, in the year one hundred and forty-eight,
53
they arose and offered sacrifice according to the law on the new altar of holocausts that they had made.
54
On the anniversary of the day on which the Gentiles had defiled it, on that very day it was reconsecrated with songs, harps, flutes, and cymbals.
55
All the people prostrated themselves and adored and praised Heaven, who had given them success.
56
For eight days they celebrated the dedication of the altar and joyfully offered holocausts and sacrifices of deliverance and praise.
57
They ornamented the facade of the temple with gold crowns and shields; they repaired the gates and the priests' chambers and furnished them with doors.
58
There was great joy among the people now that the disgrace of the Gentiles was removed.
59
Then Judas and his brothers and the entire congregation of Israel decreed that the days of the dedication of the altar should be observed with joy and gladness on the anniversary every year for eight days, from the twenty-fifth day of the month Chislev.

Enjoy those eight crazy nights!

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