The first evening of our first Chanukah in the Holy Land. It is a balmy 64 degrees and beautiful, and there is much to celebrate. This night the Jews begin an eight-day long celebration of a miracle that happened in the Temple back in the time of the Maccabees (2nd Century BC). The sacred menorah in the Temple, which was lit to commemorate its dedication, burned for eight nights during a siege when they only had enough oil to keep the menorah burning for one night. Their menorah looked like this one, which they have rebuilt according to historical standards just in case there’s ever a Temple again for them to put it in. It sits on a hill outside the Temple Mount; you can see the Western Wall way in the background.
It is as tall as a person; can you imagine how much oil it took to keep it lit?
Our first miracle of the day is the miracle of hot water. For the past few days, our hot water has not been working, and today it finally got fixed! After a few days of freezing in the shower, hot water feels like Chanukah Miracle No. 1.
The second miracle is that the package my mom and sister sent nearly a month ago finally arrived!
We were beginning to fear the worst, when it finally arrived today. It’s definitely been opened at least once, if not more, and it’s full of presents that have all also been opened by customs and gingerly re-taped repeatedly. But it’s here! Chanukah Miracle No. 2.
And, finally, completely unexpected, there was a knock on our door right around nightfall. It was our neighbors, who invited me up, along with the rest of the building, to light the Hannukiah (menorah) in their window and eat some delicious sufganiot (Chanukah doughnuts). Chanukah Miracle No. 3.
Chanukah is also called the Festival of Lights and Feast of Dedication. In fact, the Bible mentions Chanukah in the story of the life of Jesus, a Jew who, in all likelihood, celebrated Chanukah (see here). It probably looked much different then; fewer doughnuts and not a sevivon (dreidel) in sight, but lighting the candles each night of Chanukah is something that God’s people have done for centuries. It’s not so different from lighting the candles on an Advent wreath, or lighting candles in prayer. So Happy Chanukah to all my Jewish and Christian friends alike!