The seven Chanukahs

The seven Chanukahs

Rabbis answer the burning questions.

The sages surely thought hard and long before fixing on the name “Chanukah”. They must have discarded a number of alternatives, finally choosing the name used from the dawn of Jewish history to denote a feast of dedication.

The Midrash says there are seven Chanukahs:

  1. The Chanukah of the creation of the world, when God completed His work and launched humankind on the arena of history.
  2. The Chanukah of the Tabernacle in the time of Moses, when the princes of the tribes brought offerings to the Sanctuary.
  3. The Chanukah of the First Temple, erected and dedicated by Solomon.
  4. The Chanukah of the Second Temple, erected by exiles who had returned from Babylon.
  5. The Chanukah of the wall of Jerusalem, completed in the days of Nehemiah.
  6. The Chanukah celebrated by the Maccabees.
  7. And the Chanukah of the time to come, when the world will be illumined more brightly than on all the Chanukahs of ages past.

Each has a symbolic meaning, particularly relevant for an age when principles are discarded and values devalued.

The Chanukah of creation tells people that, God-like, they should devote their energies to constructive ends.

The Chanukah of the Tabernacle suggests that, like the princes of the tribes, people should bring their best to every worthwhile cause.

The Chanukah of the First Temple declares: “Set aside time and place for worship, joining heaven to earth as your prayer ascends upwards.”

The Chanukah of the Second Temple, built by returned exiles, tells people to work for the day when everyone will be free and no one subject to harassment or hatred.

The Chanukah of the wall of Jerusalem, which gave security to the City of God, shows people how to find anchorage in times of fear and uncertainty: “Find protection,” it says, “in the encompassing Providence of God!”

The Chanukah of the Maccabees, possible because the few stood up against the many, assures people that they need not be afraid to stand up and go it alone against the negative tendencies of the age.

The culminating Chanukah, when the messianic end of days will dawn, is one which we can begin to build now, without delay. The first step in building it is to learn to live at peace with yourself. The second is to learn to live at peace with your fellow.

The Messianic Chanukah will arrive when we succeed in making the earth a temple of peace.

This is what we pray for in “Ma’oz Tzur “– the day “when You will cause all slaughter to cease,” and we “shall complete with song and psalm the dedication of the altar”.


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