On the Third Night of Hanukkah, My True Love Gave to Me . . .

On the Third Night of Hanukkah, My True Love Gave to Me . . .

This is the time of year when many sweet non-Jewish friends ask if my parents are going to visit for Hanukkah, and I explain that, unlike Christmas, in the scheme of Jewish holidays Hanukkah is kind of a minor one. Moreover, it’s not a gift giving holiday. That’s just something Jews in the West did for their kids so they wouldn’t feel left out at Christmas. However, I still think it’s a cool celebration with an interesting history, and I probably wouldn’t be saying that if it weren’t for a gift I received about a dozen years ago.

That gift was a woman who loves celebrating holidays. Before Briana, I tended to forget about holidays, but when we got married, she was so thrilled to have acquired dozens of new (Jewish) holidays, that I began to give these special days more thought and I realized there’s nothing to lose and much to gain by celebrating more often.

In the case of Hanukkah, Briana asked me, “How do Jews decorate their tree?” and I realized there are probably lots of people out there who have no idea what it’s about. So, here’s the story. Around 170 BC, Israel was part of the Syrian-Greek empire. The ruler at the time, Antiochus IV, was rash and cruel. He sought to unify his kingdom by forbidding the practice of Judaism. The Jews’ main temple in Jerusalem was desecrated and turned into a shrine to Zeus. Antiochus had altars to the Greek gods installed in Israel and demanded that the Jews make sacrifices to them.

When the Jews rebelled, Antiochus sent an army to subdue them. Thousands of Jews were killed, but one fierce group, called the Maccabees, held out. Under the leadership of Judah (“The Hammer”), a man of legendary strength, the Maccabees led clever attacks on the increasingly large armies that were deployed to wipe them out, and eventually the Jews prevailed. Actually, the whole thing was a lot more messy than that, but let’s keep it simple.

When the Jews returned to Jerusalem, they reclaimed the temple and cleaned it up. According to Jewish tradition, there must always be a lamp burning in the temple, but they could only find a few drops of oil. Miraculously, the flame was still going by the second day. And the third day. And the fourth day. In all, that tiny bit of oil lasted for eight days, which was taken as a sign of the end of this dark period. For this reason, Hanukkah is the eight-day Festival of Light. As I see it, the flame symbolizes the presence of the Divine in our lives – even in dark times – as lightness, love, virtue, and hope.

Tonight is the third night of Hanukkah, and as we near the darkest time of year (at least in the northern hemisphere), what better a time to ponder and appreciate the light. Traditionally, Jews light one candle on the first night, two on the second, and so on, until there are eight (plus the “helper” candle that lights the others). Whatever your spiritual inclinations, I encourage you to try lighting a candle tonight (or several) and consider what “lightness” means to you. We use the word light to mean the opposite of both heavy and dark. What are the sources of light in your life? How can you bring more lightness into the world? Are there any parts of your life that need illumination?

De-light-fully yours (you can groan, it’s okay),

Dr. Peter Borten

  • Donna
    Posted at 17:43h, 11 December Reply

    Lovely explanation should be submitted to the newspaper!

    • Peter Borten
      Posted at 16:18h, 16 December Reply

      Thanks, Donna!

  • Aliza
    Posted at 20:58h, 08 December Reply

    Just in case people are unaware, this beautiful article was written last year. This year, the first night of Hanukkah is on December 24th.

    In light,
    Aliza Grosh

  • Thank you, Peter. Light is really needed at this difficult time in our country. I will light a candle tonight when I pray for peace.carol
    Posted at 22:32h, 08 December Reply

    Thank you, Peter. Light is really needed at this difficult time in our country. I will light a candle tonight when I pray for peace and ponder how I can bring more light into the world.

  • Bonnie MacGregor
    Posted at 02:08h, 09 December Reply

    Thank you or sharing.

  • Marlene Moses
    Posted at 05:20h, 09 December Reply

    Thamks for the story! I’m going to save it for my Grandkids! Happy Merry Holidays!!

  • Dianne Rizzo ONE LIFE Coaching Services
    Posted at 18:56h, 09 December Reply

    De-light-fully yours! Good one! Happy Hanukkah!

  • Marguerite
    Posted at 18:58h, 09 December Reply

    What a beautiful way to go into my day! Thank you Peter! a dear Jewish friend and I have list touch fir the past month or so and thus us a gentle reminder for me ” to light my life with my friend” … we are gathering fir a family meal together this coming Sunday because everyone will be doing their own thing for Christmas so I have been preparing my home all week… after reading this lovely story, I won’t forget about spreading light throughout… blessings to you and yours on thus musty morning ?~ Marguerite

    • Peter Borten
      Posted at 20:23h, 15 December Reply

      Thanks for sharing, Marguerite! Be well.

  • Kate Manz
    Posted at 21:19h, 09 December Reply

    Thank you for the amazing insite.

  • Darlene Wallo
    Posted at 02:44h, 10 December Reply

    Life on this earth is short. Make a clelebration as often as possible. Bring family and friends and even strangers together to share food, drinke, music and laughter . Life is short. Spend whatever time your given i n a celebration of something!

  • Suzanne O'Mullan
    Posted at 21:16h, 11 December Reply

    Happy Hanukkah!!!! Thank you for sharing!

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