Hanukkah, which began Sunday night this year, commemorates a great Jewish victory over oppression by the Syrian Greeks in 164 B.C.
The Greek king of the Seleucid Empire, Antiochus Epiphanes, imposed a heavy hand against the Jews in the land of Israel, forbidding the free exercise of their religious practices.
Judah Maccabee’s Maccabean Revolt against the oppressors ended in triumph, but it left the entire Jewish community with only a small container of uncontaminated oil needed to light the menorah in the rededicated Jewish Temple in Jerusalem.
But as candles are, that flickering light was more powerful than all the darkness that surrounded it. The power of candlelight is a kind of miracle in and of itself, but it was God’s will to perform a more extravagant miracle that first Hanukkah by allowing that little bottle of oil to last for an astonishing eight days, until new oil could be prepared under conditions of ritual purity.
That miraculous intervention was an indication to the people of Israel that it was God who rescued them. Yet this miracle – unlike the miracles celebrated during other Jewish holidays like Passover or Yom Kippur – began with the people, not God. They took the first step to rebel against this injustice and then God miraculously intervened.
Now, here we are ages later. Jews around the world every year remember this story of God’s intervention at the people’s initiative in a moment of persecution.
Each Hanukkah, I often have it in my heart to pray for and to act on behalf of those who suffer persecution for their own faith. For it seems the spirit of Antiochus Epiphanes is alive and well in Iran’s imprisonment of Christians or in Boko Haram’s massacre of Christians in Nigeria.
I think of Jews in the United States who were murdered in Jersey City recently and those in Europe whose synagogues require maximum fortification.
I remember the Yazidi women who still nurse the wounds inflicted upon them by ISIS.
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SOURCE: Christian Post, Yael Eckstein