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by Norman McEvoy
The Festival of Chanukah 
(the story of light)

Every year, approximately during the month of December, people of the Jewish faith observe what is called Chanukah.  It wasn’t an important holiday in the Jewish calendar but is one to remember and to celebrate, if for no other, because it commemorates an important time in the life of the Jewish people and has significance also for those who are not of the Jewish faith since without the story of Chanukah, probably there would be no Temple of Solomon nor would there be a resulting Masonic fraternity based upon the story of King Solomon.

Let’s go back a bit and see what it is all about.  The year was about 165 B.C.E. and Antiochus Epiphanes was the king of Syrian-Greeks.  He bore down upon his Jewish subjects ruthlessly, having previously occupied what was Israel.  He defiled the Holy Temple by filling it with pagan idols and sacrifices of pigs.  He forbade the Jews to observe the Commandments of circumcision, the New Moon and the Sabbath.  He wanted the Jews to lay aside their Torah and substitute it with Hellenistic Greek culture, including idols of which the Greeks had many.

Then, one courageous old man names Matisyahu turned the tide.  He saw someone bowing down to the idols set forth by the Greeks rather than refusing to do so as most of the Jews did.  He struck the errant Jew and knew that he now had to run away and with the rallying cry of “Whoever is for God, come to me!” he called the people to rebellion.  A pitifully small number responded at first but his five sons led the way.  They fought the Syrian-Greeks, retreated to the mountains and began a guerrilla war against them.  Soon their father passed the leadership to his second son, Judah the Maccabee, mighty warrior and charismatic leader.

Outnumbered a hundred to one, Judah and his men won many battles.  More Jews came to join him.  In a few years he had defeated the mightiest armies that Syria could send against them.  Victory belonged to the Jews, the pure, the righteous and the loyal defenders of the Jewish world.

The 25th day in the Jewish month of Kislev, the fighters made their way to the Holy Temple where they beheld the idols strewn with the filth and impurity the Greeks had left behind.  They rummaged through  

the ruins seeking at least one flask of pure olive oil with which to light the makeshift menorah they had hastily put together, representing the “Eternal Light”.

Flask after flask—they found every one of them defiled, until finally, a small jug, sufficient for only one day was found with the purity seal intact.  It would be eight days before they could manufacture more oil for the next lighting, but meanwhile they lit what they had.

But the flames of the menorah did not go out the first day.  The flames of the menorah burned, and burned, and burned.  For eight days they burned, until more oil was brought.  And those eight days were  chosen as the eternal symbol to commemorate the miracle of Chanukah, the eight-day long Festival of Lights, when Jews light the Menorah each evening, publicizing the miracle of light our Great Creator performed for us 2000 years ago.

The Chanukah lights shine their radiance into the street, reflecting our task in this world.  Each of us, Jew or not, must bring light, morality and holiness, not only inside our own homes, but also outward into the world.

“But,” one may claim, “the problems out there are so vast and global: terror, environmental damage, natural disasters, countries and continents afflicted by poverty and disease.  The impact we can make feels inadequate due to the sheer scale of these tragedies.  How then can you and I make a difference?”

To this, Chanukah has something simple but quite significant to say.  We repair the world in small steps, light by light, act by act, day by day.  Our Creator asks us to do what we can, when we can.  Each act mends a fracture of the world.

“A little light” said the Jewish mystics of old, “drives away much darkness.”  When light is joined to light, mine to yours and yours to others, the dance of the flames, each so small yet so beautiful together, begins to bathe the world in the glow of the Divine Presence.  You and I can make a difference.

As I suggested, Chanukah is an eight day holiday—each day beginning at darkness the previous night, as is the custom for Jewish holidays.

We easily define each night by a different word and a different action.  The Festival of Chanukah is about overcoming darkness, both physical and spiritual.  The Talmud relates that the beginning of any struggle is strenuous.  Would it not be easier to simply avoid the darkness and let it be?

The first night is called the Challenge.  The inner calling of each Jew is to illuminate the world.  For only by meeting the challenge do we tap our inner source of light and fulfill our potential.

Another lesson of this night: dispelling darkness begins with one candle.  The smallest act of good is enough to overcome a world of night.

For the second night we use the word Increase.  One could technically fulfill the Chanukah obligation by lighting a single candle each night, but the universal Jewish custom is to light an additional candle each

night.  This teaches that if man is spreading light it is not enough to fulfill the minimal obligation.  Our darkness is overcome with a constant increase of light.  As long as even one corner of the world remains concealed in darkness, our mission is not complete.  The second night’s candle teaches us not to reserve the light of Chanukah for ourselves.  Light must increase and spread over the entire earth.

The third night is Consistency.  We did it once because we were inspired; the second time, because it felt good; this third candle we do because we are committed.  In Jewish Law, permanence and consistency are established by repeating an act three times.  In geometry and physics, three is the number of stability and balance.  A one-or two-legged table can’t stand without an external support, but a three-legged table stands on its own.  The third night’s inspiration is consistency.  Upon lighting the third candle we express our persistence and our commitment to dispel darkness with light.

Upon lighting the fourth candle, we are halfway through the Chanukah process of conquering darkness.  As in any process keeping an eye on the goal is imperative.  Along the way, secondary opportunities may sidetrack us.  At each stage of the journey we should ask ourselves, “does this help me achieve my goal?”

The four candles teach us that we remain focused on our goals, and that is the word for the day, Focus, the details along the way will not bog us down.  Moreover, the feeling of gaining ground fills the traveler with the joy and energy to overcome obstacles along the way.

Majority is the word for the fifth night of Chanukah, representing the epitome of the darkness of exile.  As such, the fifth night never falls on the Sabbath evening, a “taste of the Messianic Era,” which overshadows all darkness.  Thus, the lighting of the Chanukah candles on this night is especially significant.  Tonight we express our ability to bring light to the darkest of realms where negativity and darkness seem to have a stranglehold.  The fifth night also is the first night that a majority of the eight candles are lit; signifying that most of the journey toward our goal is complete.

The word Infusion is our word for the sixth day.  We are told in the Holy Word that the world was created in six days, “Six days shall you labour and do all your work,” we are told.  Six represents the labour of working and perfecting the world.  Upon lighting the sixth candle, we articulate that the world and all its mundane workings must be infused with spirituality.  When the Deity is brought into every aspect of our lives, each act becomes of importance,  each act becomes something of which to be proud.

The seventh day is the Sabbath of Creation when “the heaven and earth were completed.”  Just as there is a time to create, there is a time to reflect, and that is the word of this day, Reflection.   The Sabbath is when we rest from our labour to reflect its purpose, thus allowing the labours of the preceding week to actualize their potential.  When lighting seven candles, we allow the illumination of the six previous candles to fulfill their potential and fill all of creation with purpose and meaning.

Then the eighth and last day, the day of Miracles.  Eight represents that which is higher than nature.  This is why the symbol for infinity is the figure eight.  On this eighth night the true essence of the Chanukah observance shines, for the greatest teaching of the Chanukah holiday is that miracles can and do happen, and that in the future, the miraculous will become the commonplace.  The ultimate miracle is the fusion of the finite physical world with the infinite light of our Creator.  This is why the last day of Chanukah is

called Zot Chanukah, meaning “this is Chanukah.”  As we light the eighth candle, let us pray for the ultimate era of peace and light, the era of our redemption when “the earth will be as filled with knowledge of our Father as the waters that cover the sea.”

Indeed, this is a holiday of light, but the lights as they shine into the street, remind each one of us that our task is to bring light, morality and holiness, not only within our homes or our lodges, but also out into the world.  But as we indicated in the beginning, the problems out there are so vast and global, consisting of terror, environmental damage, natural disasters to countries and continents afflicted by poverty and disease, we, each of us, can make an impact, even though it is the sheer scales of these tragedies that seem to make it impossible. 

How can we make a difference?  Just by being brothers, one to each other, recognizing that we have the same heritage from the beginning of time, that we, Jews, Christians, Muslims or something else, have the same Father, however we may recognize Him and pray to Him.

I wish for you our brothers of all faiths, that just a little light will drive away much darkness and you and I and all of us together can make a difference.  We are Masons.  We are the children of the Great Creator.  We have a definite pattern to follow and that is the life and love of Freemasonry.  At this time of the year, some of us observe Chanukah, others observe Christmas, and still others Kwanza.  Whatever your faith, whatever your tradition, we wish you a happy holiday as brothers and as children of one Creator.

Comment

Personally I have found this a very beautiful story and once again emphasizes that magnificent principle of Freemasonry namely “{The Universality of Man)” We are all more alike than sometimes we care to acknowledge.

Leadership   This is from a little book called “Bits and Pieces” and written by Catherine Zeeb (Therapist)

“Illuminator”

Radiate the light from within into your work and into the World.

Experience the light within you and then shine it out for all to see.

They may not know what is hitting them, but they will like it.

They don’t have to know where it is coming from or why, but they will like it.

Go now into service.

Smile laugh and know that everyone, everything you touch is enlightened by the light from within you.

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