My family has been celebrating Hanukkah for the past four years. As Hanukkah 2016 has just come to a close, I have been reflecting on some memories and lessons brought about by this season. As a family, we have learned a few things along the way regarding the stories behind Hanukkah and meaningful traditions that we have adopted as our own. One of our favorites is making homemade doughnuts although this year Rachel made beignets instead. They were delicious! I have always liked candles so lighting candles at dinner for eight days wasn’t hard to do. However, we did learn not to use beeswax candles in our hanukkiah (a nine-branched menorah specifically used during Hanukkah.) We found that we didn’t have any candles that fit perfectly. It took 3 smaller beeswax candles twisted together in each candle holder. The result was pretty spectacular, although it did set off the smoke alarm and we had to move it outside to the front porch to avoid risking a fire in the house! The end result was a blackened structure that barely resembled the beautiful piece that my girls brought back for me from Jerusalem! We definitely won’t do that again!
On a more serious note…
The story of the Maccabees is the basis for the Hanukkah celebration. My understanding of Hanukkah is very limited but I will attempt to describe it as best I can. The story goes that God gave the Israelites a victory over the huge Greek army by using a small group of people who were unwilling to compromise on their faith. This small group was led by the Maccabee family, Mattathias and his son, Judah, in particular. The Greeks were in control of Jerusalem and had desecrated the temple by sacrificing to idols among other serious offenses. They gave the Jews two choices, convert or die. Mattathias, an influential member of a particular community was approached by a high-ranking member of the Greek army and was offered wealth, safety and provision for his family, a pretty tempting offer. In return, he was required to turn his back on his Jewish faith and sacrifice to an idol as an example to the rest of his town that he was accepting the ways of the Greeks. He refused, and in doing so, ended up killing the officer and a Hellenistic Jew. As in the story of Moses, his actions required him to leave his home and hide out in the wilderness. His family became a guerilla type force that kept attacking the Greek army and eventually won back Jerusalem and the temple. The cleansing, purification, and rededication of the temple, including the legend of the miracle of having only one day’s amount of oil to light the menorah but it lasting eight days, is the foundation of the celebration of Hanukkah.
As the decorations come down and the (correct!) candles get put away until next year, I’m pondering the choice that Mattathias Maccabee made to take the difficult road and refuse the offer of the Greek officer. I’m sure there have been many times in my life when I had the choice to take the “easy” path instead of standing up for my convictions and also many times that I went for easy instead of right. Standing up for what is right is often difficult and causes discomfort both for the person who made that choice as well as the people around them. I guess, at the end of the day, I want to make choices based on what is important to God even if it causes me some discomfort. I’m sure there are many examples of choices that Scott and I have made that put our family in an uncomfortable place, one obvious choice being our move to Missouri. Now as I look back, I can see some of the reasons and the purpose behind being asked to relocate here. At the time, during the decision making, we just had to trust and step out onto what seemed like thin air. I am grateful for the people and places that have been “put on my radar” as a result of that choice. I know I’m not as brave as Mattathias Maccabee but I’ve learned that God’s way is always the best way.