Each day of Hanukkah, our editor Sara Himeles, who recently graduated from rabbinical school, is sharing a teaching and reflection prompt focusing on different themes of the Hanukkah story. Journal your response or simply reflect on each prompt. We hope these teachings and prompts make your Hanukkah brighter and more meaningful.
Hanukkah literally means “dedication” in Hebrew, and commemorates the rededication of the Temple after it was defiled by the Syrian Greeks in 164 B.C.E. (If you are not familiar with this story, check out our Hanukkah guide.)
It’s fitting that this holiday is called “Dedication” because this is a defining theme of the story: When King Antiochus IV forced the Jews to assimilate into Hellenist culture, and made observing Judaism a capital offense, the Maccabees refused to accept this decree.
This group of Jewish revolutionaries was so dedicated to Judaism and the freedom to practice it that they launched a revolt against the Syrian Greek superpower. They did this even though they realized that their chances of winning were slim to none. This was their mission, and they were willing to risk everything to carry it out.
Because of their dedication to this cause, and refusal to cave in to the oppressive empire, they won the war as well as the freedom to practice Judaism again.
Following their military victory, the Maccabees’ first stop was the Temple. They wept when they saw it in a state of degradation from years of being in the control of the Syrian Greeks. Over the next eight days, they cleaned, purified and rededicated the Temple, and restored it to its former glory.
Just like the Maccabees restored and rededicated the Temple to Judaism, during Hanukkah, we too have the opportunity to rededicate to our goals and ideals. As you light the menorah on the fifth night, reflect on the vision you hold for yourself. What do you want to rededicate yourself to? This could be a cause you’re passionate about, a goal you would like to achieve, or a value or relationship you hold dear. How will you rededicate yourself to this in the coming year and how will you stay dedicated?
Missed a Hanukkah prompt? Read the prompts for Day 1, Day 2, Day 3 and Day 4.