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Dedication of the Temple, Feast of


The Jewish Feast of the Dedication, called in Greek τ γκαίνια and in Hebrew ănukkâ (hence the modern Jewish name Hanukkah), is celebrated for eight days, beginning on the 25th of Kislev (early December). Its origin is related in 1 Mc 4.3659. On the 25th of Kislev, 167 b.c., the Syrian monarch antiochus iv epiphanes had desecrated the Temple by sacrificing to Zeus Olympios on a pagan altar erected in its sanctuary. Three years later the successful revolutionary leader Judas Maccabee rededicated the altar of the Temple in a joyous ceremony and decreed the annual observance of the feast. (see mac cabees, history of the.)

Ancient Customs. In addition to this account, 2 Mc1.110.8 has, as its main purpose, the historical justification of the feast and the imposition of it upon the Jewish world. Here the feast is called "the Feast of Booths of the month of Kislev" (2 Mc 1.9; see also 10.6), and the similarity to the ancient festival is stressed. [see booths (tabernacles), feast of.] The comparison may be an afterthought because of some similar ritesduration of eight days, a procession with palms, the joyous atmosphereor it may have been thus intended by its founders. The Jewish historian Josephus mentions the feast (Ant. 12.323325), calling it "the Feast of Lights," after the most distinctive rite, which consisted of lighting lamps before each house, an additional one for each day of the feast. Hanukkah is also mentioned in the New Testament in Jn 10.22, where Jesus is said to have attended it at the Temple. The mishnah mentions it several times, but only in passing.

The most ancient sources do not describe the rites of the feast, except to mention sacrifices and rejoicing and the duration of the festival. The use of lights in the earlier period is rightly inferred from Josephus and from 2 Mc1.8. The suggestion that Hanukkah embodies features of some ancient pagan feast, such as the Dionysiac festival or the celebration of the winter solstice, must be judged improbable in the light of the precise information that is given in the Books of Maccabees.

Modern Customs. The theme of joy persisted as the keynote of the feast long after the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple. It is symbolized by the lighting, especially within the house, of the Hanukkah lamp, the modern form of the ancient lamps that were lighted before homes. A Talmudic legend (Sabb 21b) traces the custom to the miraculous burning of one day's supply of oil for eight days in the Temple lamp when the feast was instituted. The Hanukkah lamp is an eightbranched candlestick (or me norah), often very ornate. The custom of lighting first one candle, then an additional one each successive night, prescribed by the rabbinical teacher Hillel, prevailed over the opposite practice of the rival school of Shammai of beginning with eight lamps and extinguishing one each night. The lamps are meant only for display and hence are placed in windows or near doors; sometimes as many lamps are lit as there are persons in the house. The original practice is extended to lighting lamps in the synagogues as well. Two benedictions are prescribed before the lighting each night: "Blessed be the Lord our God, King of the Universe, who has sanctified us by His commandments and enjoined us to kindle the Hanukkah lamp"; and "Blessed who has worked miracles for our Fathers in days of old at this season" (Sabb 23a).

In addition to the lamp ceremony the synagogue services for these eight days prescribe the reading of Nm7.18.4, describing the gifts of the tribal leaders at the dedication of the altar in the wilderness and the installation of the lamps in the tent of meeting. The Hallel [Ps 112 (113)117 (118)] is recited each day of the feast. Special hymns have been composed for Hanukkah to praise God as the deliverer of Israel. The most popular of these is the Māôz sûr, "The Rock of Ages," probably composed by a 13th-century poet named Mordecai. Also, Psalm 29 (30) is recited during the feast, as stated already in its superscription.

Popular custom has associated family feasting with the Hanukkah season. It was not thought proper that work should be done by the light of the festive lamp, and, as a result, games, riddles, puzzles, etc., became a common feature of the earlier celebrations. The Hanukkah Trendel, a four-sided top, was a famous Jewish toy of medieval origin. Hanukkah has also become a time for gift-giving, especially within the family circle. The custom of giving coins to the children of the family has long prevailed. Since this feast was of post-Biblical origin (the Books of Maccabees not being included in the Jewish canon), it has always been reckoned a minor festival, and therefore business and manual labor are not forbidden during its celebration. In modern times, however, it has grown to be one of the more popular festive occasions in the Jewish calendar.

Bibliography: Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Bible, tr. and adap. by l. hartman (New York 1963) 539540. r. de vaux, Ancient Israel, Its Life and Institutions, tr. j. mchugh (New York 1961) 510514. d. schÖtz, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner (Freiburg 195765) 2:101415. k. kohler, The Jewish Encyclopedia, ed. j. singer (New York 190106) 6:223226. o. s. rankin, The Origins of the Festival of Hanukkah (Edinburgh 1930). s. zeitlin, "Hanukkah: Its Origins and Its Significance," Jewish Quarterly Review 29 (193839) 136. j. morgenstern, "The Chanukkah Festival and the Calendar of Ancient Israel," Hebrew Union College Annual 20 (1947) 1136. t. h. gaster, Purim and Hanukkah in Custom and Tradition (New York 1950).

[g. w. macrae]

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