The Hanukiah

One of the things I’ve said ever since my youth is, “You don’t know what you don’t know until you know what you don’t know and then you don’t not know it anymore, ya know?”  But I would like to add to this that even then a person never really truly knows.  Most knowledge is based upon assumption.  How does that make you feel?

This post is not a discussion of knowledge but an introduction to what I would like to talk about today and in the future.  One thing I have realized and that I have been telling my son is that you shouldn’t strive to acquire knowledge, you should strive to connect with the One who knows all.   Then, in this regard, you can be bigger than yourself though you are not; you are simply reaching your full potential.

Chanukkah is on the horizon and often presents itself before Christmas.  Once upon a time, about twenty-two hundred years ago, the Greeks, under the direction of Antiochus Epiphanes and the guise of peace, infiltrated Jerusalem, raided the second temple, erected a statue of Jupiter, and ate a ham dinner.  The Maccabees revolted and about three years later took Jerusalem back.  They then proceeded to cleanse the temple and the holy things which had been profaned.  Allegedly, while cleansing the temple, a flask of holy oil sufficient enough to the ignite the Menorah for one day was found.  Miraculously, the oil lasted eight days while they cleansed the temple and made more oil.

From this succinct summation came the traditions associated with Hanukkah today.  The most well known is lighting the Hanukiah which is a nine-branched menorah.  Fried foods are also eaten, the most common of which are latkes.  Dreidel, though not surmised from the story, is also said to have originated then.  All in all, it is a really fun holiday!  The giving of gift during this time did not come about until more recent times.

My wife, Julia, and I have been discussing this holiday a lot as of late.  I have been celebrating it for about fifteen years and her for about four.  As you may or may not know, holidays today are grossly adulterated.  The aura that surrounds Judaism is that her children are solid in their traditions and strictly follow the Torah or Law of Moses.  But some time spent in that world reveals that the leaders of Judaism apply the same philosophy as the leaders of Christianity and Islam.  Basically, that the lay people are vulnerable and ignorant so they decide and dictate what is what, and they imagine that they have the authority to change Scripture.

A desire that courses through the veins of all humanity, at least in one’s youth, is to know the origin of things.  It feeds curiosity and emotionally establishes a foundation that a person can build their views, opinions, and life upon.  The Hebraic definition of truth, emet (אמת) is: “A firm foundation upon which to build one’s life.”  Jesus relays this idea in the parable of the wise and foolish person.  In short, the wise person built his house upon a rock while the foolish person built his house upon the sand.  When the trials if life sweep over, the wise person will endure but the foolish person will be destroyed.  Hence, the foundation upon which you build your life makes all the difference in your world.  While ignorance is bliss, a person may not always have the luxury of remaining ignorant.


Today I would like to discuss the origin of the Hanukiah.  Hanukiah comes from Chanukkah (הנכה), which means to ‘dedicate’.  It is typically a nine-branched menorah (which is Hebrew for ‘lamp’) with one candle elevated above the other eight.  The candle that is set apart from the eight is called the shamash (שמש) which means ‘sun’.  It is referred to as the ‘servant candle’ because it is lit first and then used to light the other candles.  Pretty cool huh?

But the Hanukiah didn’t always look like this.  Back in Jesus’ day, eight clay lamps were lit.  The first real mentions of lighting lamps during Chanukkah is thanks to the differing opinions of rabbi Hillel and rabbi Shammai who lived back then.  Josephus addresses Chanukkah as the Festival of Light but never tells us anything about lighting any lamps.  It wasn’t until about the 1500’s that a ninth candle became part of the Hanukkiah.  This candle was given the name ‘shamash’ and was elevated above the rest of the candles.  The hexagram, aka Star of David, didn’t appear on the Chanukkiah until the nineteen hundreds.

There are many other halakah laws (how to do something) in regards to lighting a Hanukiah, but we don’t need to discuss those.  Despite all the research that has been done, no one has discovered where the tradition of lighting lights during Hanukkah came from.  Some like to go off the deep end and associate it with pagan rituals that were most likely unknown at that time in the Middle East.  The rabbis take the opposite extreme and say that one day’s worth of oil lasted eight days.  Neither of which can be proven true or false and are unlikely.  That’s a nice way of saying that they are a lie.  In other words, they are sand in the foundation, not rock.

It is a little known fact that during the middle ages Jewish magic emerged though Jewish mysticism has existed since the Babylonian captivity.  It was towards the end of the middle ages that the shamah candle was added.  This is when the tradition of lighting the Hanukiah became adulterated.  Sun worship is previlent throughout the world.  Jews, Christians, and Muslims are commanded not to worship the celestials.  Thus, the question must be asked, was the introduction of the shamah, sun, candle a subliminal way or transforming the lighting of the Hanukiah into a form of sun worship?  Is this when Chanukkah started to become a Jewish version of Christmas?

This is the question my wife and I are pondering.  Personally, we have no desire to worship that which is created but to connect with the Creator and reach our full potential.  It may seem like a small thing, but as Paul tells us, “We don’t wrestle against flesh and blood but against principalities, powers, against rulers of darkness of this world, and against spiritual wickedness on high.”  We don’t know how these little things may or may not affect us, but I have found that in life, it’s the little things that make the biggest difference.




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