The first night’s reading:
(or read all in one night)
Chanukah is a major holiday for Jews. We also invite non-Jews to
celebrate this holiday with us today. You will learn that with all the legends,
prayers, food and gifts associated with Chanukah, in the end we turn to the
Hebrew prophet Zachariah to teach the true meaning of this holy day. In our
age which often seems devoid of inspirational leadership, the Prophets
words are especially welcome.
In America, Chanukah is celebrated as a children’s holiday, and this is
great for the children, who look forward to many presents.
Chanukah offers other gifts. Remember the Chanukah story predates the
story of Christmas by almost 2 centuries. If our people had assimilated or
been destroyed our story would have ended with Judah the Maccabbee.
It is time to examine the history of Chanukah. The Greek persecution of the
Israelites was a war of a dominant culture against a subjugated minority. The
main battle focused on the Temple in Jerusalem. The Temple was
established on a rock upon which stood the Ark of the Covenant, containing
the original 10 commandments. This Temple was thought of as the gateway
The Temple was illuminated by a huge golden Menorah. The size of the
Menorah was the same as an adult with their arms reaching out. (See Exodus
25:31-40) The Menorah symbolizes the essence of the Jewish religion. The
Menorah burns with 6 lights and an Eternal Light in the middle. This
represents creation and its diversity. Truth has many dimensions. The
Greeks, in contrast, saw culture from only one narrow perspective, by their
The Prophet Zachariah gives us a vision of Peace as the name and spirit of
God and the messianic future of our people. We will see by the light of the
Menorah that this is the true meaning of the holiday Chanukah.
The Second night’s reading:
Zachariah is read on the Shabbat of Chanukah.
First a prayer before reading the Prophet
Blessed is the Lord our God, Ruler of the universe, who has chosen faithful
prophets to speak words of truth. Bless the Lord, for this revelation of Truth:
Zachariah Chapter four:
The angel who talked with me came back and woke me,
He said “What do you see”
And I answered “A lamp stand of gold with a bowl above it, seven lamps on
And next to the Menorah, two olive trees one on the right, one on the left.”
I in turn asked the angel who talked to me, “What do these things mean?”
The angel replied “You really don’t know what they mean?”
“No” I answered.
Then the angel explained “This is the word of the Lord ”
“Not by might
Nor by power
But by my spirit” says God.
The selection of this prophet for Chanukah is meant to teach that the
holiday is above all a vision of a peaceful messianic future. This is the
meaning illuminated by the Menorah. The reason the military victory of the
Maccabeans is not stressed will become evident as we add new light each
night to our understanding of this major holiday.
Each night, after lighting, we traditionally say this prayer:
We light these lights on account of the miracles and wonders, triumphs
and battles God performed for our ancestors through the holy priests in those
days, at this season.
In all other services, including Grace after meals we add:
We thank you God, for the miracles, for the redemption, for the mighty
deeds and triumphs and for the battles which you performed for our
ancestors in those days at this season.
In the days of the Hasmonean Mattathias Ben Yochanan, the High Priest,
a wicked Hellenic government arose against your people to make them
forget your Torah and to transgress its teachings.
Thou, O lord, stood by us in this test, championing our cause, defending
our rights. You delivered the strong into the hands of the weak, the many
into the hands of the few, the impure into the hands of the pure the wicked
into the hands of the righteous and the arrogant into the hands of the students
of your teachings.
All this sanctified your Holy Name in the world, and your people
acknowledge this deliverance until this day.
Then our children’s children entered your home, cleaned your Temple,
purified the Sanctuary and kindled lights in your Holy courtyards. They
designated these eight days for giving thanks and praising your great Name.
For all this you are blessed and exalted forever and ever.
Night Four: The Talmud
What is the miracle of Chanukah? The survival of our people?
A Military victory, the few defeating the many?
In the Talmud the Rabbis tell us specifically what they believe the
miracle to be.
Our source is the Babylonian Talmud, Tractate on Shabbat, page
21 side b:
What is Chanukah? The Rabbis teach that on the twenty fifth day
of the Hebrew month Kislev the eight days of the holyday begin.
During these eight days we do not eulogize the dead or fast.
When the Greeks entered the sanctuary of the Holy Temple in
Jerusalem they defiled all of the consecrated kosher olive oil used
in the Menorah. When the Kingdom of the Hasmonean priests took
power they searched and could only find one container of oil with
the seal of the High Priest, and it contained only enough olive oil
to burn for one day.
A miracle occurred, and they lit with this oil for eight days.
The next year they made these days for a festival, for praise and
Night Five The Menorah asks: What? And Why?
The Menorah is the symbol of Biblical religion, the Temple in
Jerusalem and Rabbinic and Prophetic Judaism.
The Hebrew letters Mem nun vav resh hey, when transposed spell
Which means: light that asks what and why.
1.) What is the miracle of Chanukah?
2.) Why do the Rabbis of the Talmud not mention the military
3.) What does the choice of Zachariah as the reading for the
Shabbat of Chanukah teach?
4.) What ever became of the Maccabbes and the Hasmoneans?
5.) What do we learn from the leadership of Judah Maccabbee,
who in The Book of Maccabbes conducted war according to the
teachings of the Torah?
6.) Why then are the two books of Maccabbes found in some
Christian bibles not in the Hebrew bible?
7.) What is the role of women in the story?
8.) What does Chanukah teach us today?
Night Six: History or A Fable Agreed Upon?
The Rabbis of the Talmud agreed to stress the miracle of the Menorah over
the military victories for good reason. Hundred of years after the event the
Rabbis knew they could not extol the virtues of the Hasmonean dynasty
which ultimately became corrupt as the Priests waged wars of conquest. The
two books of Maccabbes were not canonized as the Rabbis asserted their
own authority and created the legend of the miracle Menorah and its oil.
This legend has helped our people survive the dark night of history. The
Temple in Jerusalem is twice destroyed, first by the Babylonians, and then
The Greeks in the Chanukah story converted the Temple into a pagan palace.
Symbolically we are left with a drop of olive oil. With faith sufficient only
for one night we survive and dream of a better future. The miracle continues.
Judah the Maccabbee was, in a way, our first Rabbi. Fundamentalists of his
time refused to protect themselves on the Sabbath since scripture gives no
clear direction on this in Deuteronomy Chapter Twenty. Judah understood
that a higher, fundamental, principle would save his people. The Torah
teaches that the covenant was cut to live by the teachings, not to die by them.
He taught self defense on the Sabbath and in this Rabbinic law begins.
Today we may marvel at the insight of the Rabbis as the Menorah continues
to illuminate with its message. We are back in our homeland. For those
living in Israel Chanukah is a major holiday. Many Israelis see themselves as
modern day Maccabbes. Each and every year the prophet Zachariah is
resurrected and his message chanted: The Menorah teaches not might, nor
power, but the light of salvation.
We pray that all people of faith understand that the Temple in Jerusalem is
anointed with the olive branch of Peace. The Temple is a home of Peace and
a house of Prayer for all people.
Also, the return of the Sechinah glory, Gods feminine presence in history, is
a reminder of women’s role in the original Chanukah story as we shall see
on days seven and eight of Chanukah.
Night Seven: Chag Ha Banote
Welcome to our celebration of women in our history. We call this version
herstory.We invite Sarah Rebecca Rachel and Leah, Yael Judith and Bruria.
These seven are models of virtue and courage. On Chanukah we tell the
story of Judith.
Judith means Jewess in Hebrew, she represents every woman. In ancient
times her entire book was read as part of the Chanukah celebration. Before
she tells her story, a few words of explanation are in order. The book takes
on the establishment, which was not politically correct, so Judith refers to
Antiochus as Nebuchadnezzar (the Babylonian) so she could speak freely.
(This reading is from
A Merging of the Two Jerusalems, One Old and One New; by The Aria:)
History and Herstory: A Dialogue (Selections)
History: I am history, the narrator originator and generator of civilization.
Patrimony is the legacy of every nation. The Fathers of philosophy:
Aristotle, Socrates and Plato. The Masters of art Michelangelo, da Vinci to
Even the Lord, of course, a man.
Herstory: History a pompous diary, crusades, world wars, tirades, young
boys dying for their Fatherland. Bowing to the blasphemy of God “A man of
History the “has been”, documentation of oppression and fear of the future,
as the cycle repeats again. Remember 90% of this and you get an A.
Now women draw near, for it is time to hear the voice of our matriarch,
resonant, and clear:
A Psalm of Judith:
My God is the One
Who crushes war
Cruelty and slaughter.
Warrior against history
The murderer of our sons
The raper of our daughters.
I Judith Thank Thee My Lady
Who made me a women
One bold and without fear, who
In the time of Nebuchadnezzar
Took on the mighty terrorist General Holofornes
Who surrounded our homes
To starve our children and bury our village
In its own tomb
Then I, Judith
Enticed Holofornes with my curves
And comeliness of form
Till he beseeched me to his bed
And promised the safety of my people
If I did, so, instead of cowering
Like our leaders
I plied the Babylonian with wine
Drew near to the bed
Took hold of his hair
And with two strong hacks
Severed his head
And took it for a trophy
In my sack.
Night Eight: A Kabballahistic Haggaddah
A Kabballahistic Haggaddah means a telling and retelling of the
Chanukah story that enlightens and reveals secrets. We invite the
prophet Jeremiah as one of the eight leaders of our people:
Call to me and I will answer you and I will tell you about extraordinary
Secrets you have not known. For thus says the eternal Being, the God of
Concerning the houses in the city and the palaces of the leaders of Judah… I
am going to bring her relief and healing. I will reveal to them an abundance
of Peace and truth. (Jeremiah 33:3-6)
The truth of peace is revealed first in our homes and then in the palaces. Our
homes are holy sanctuaries, marked by Gods word written on our doors and
this Menorah, which we light for eight nights.
We begin with a meditation:
For the unification of Gods holy name, which is Shalom,( Peace), the joining
Of the Hebrew letters yould hay and vav hay,the male and female
dimensions of divinity, we pray for unity. Hear O Israel, the Lord and God is
one. So shall we be one nation upon Gods Earth. With reverence and love,
Lord our God, we ask you to answer us on this day that we call out to you.
As we light these eight lights may we be receptive to the secrets revealed
and darkness illuminated by their light. The original Menorah was the size of
a human with arms reaching out to teach us that we are all Menorahs
awaiting the anointing of the oil of Shalom. The Torah the Menorah teaches
is the Zion of Peace, when no nation lifts up weapons against another, nor
learns or teaches war any more.
O Lord our Lady , we pray for this Eden, for the Menorah is A Tree of Life and Light.
We pray for Eden, and not Armageddon.
(In the Kabballahistic tradition you may add: Psalms 90:17 Psalm91 Psalm