Hanukkah begins tonight and will continue for 8 days. During this time, I will be proudly celebrating by lighting my Menorah even though I was raised as a Christian. Hanukkah is a Jewish holiday which celebrates the victory of the Maccabees over the larger Syrian army. It also celebrates a miracle that happened during this time, where just a day’s supply of oil allowed the menorah in the rededicated Temple in Jerusalem to remain lit for eight days. It is a time of year to celebrate the miracles in our lives, both large and small.
I didn’t always know I was Jewish. My entire life, I was raised in the Christian faith. However, when my mom was 57 and I was 35, we learned that my maternal Grandmother had been a German Jew and had immigrated to this country at the turn of the 20th century. Her family changed their last name from Rodenberg to Roden to escape antisemitism.
She married my Great Grandfather, who was a Scot and no one in our family knew about her ancestry except for my Great Grandfather’s Sister, my Aunt Auntie. One day my Auntie got mad at my Great Grandmother and mentioned to someone in the family that Granny was a Jew and the story was out. My mom had lived her entire adult life without knowing.
It was a very interesting event. All my life growing up, most of my friends in school just happened to be Jewish. Unknowingly, we gravitated to each other. So it was not as big a surprise to me. My mother had always looked like Anne Frank in old photos of her as a child, so I wasn’t really surprised when I learned the truth.
Mother and I embraced our new heritage. I started taking a Jewish Festival and Holidays class. I learned about Hanukkah, Passover, and Yom Kippor. It was fascinating and I was enthralled. For the first time in my life, my Christian faith made sense to me. It is called the Judeo-Christian faith and that is because most of the roots of Christianity are based in Jewish faith and tradition.
One of the pillars of Hanukkah is the lighting of the Menorah. When the candles are lit they will burn until they are gone. No one is to blow them out. If, once the candles are lit, and the family must leave the house for any reason, the Menorahs, with candles blazing will be proud it displayed in front of a window for passers by to witness. The Christian significance of this is that the Messiah’s light has come into the world and we are not to extinguish His “light”. The Hanukkah candles are a reminder that the hand of God allowed the oil to burn in the Temple to prove to the Children of God that the Almighty had rescued His people.
Of course, faith is a very personal thing and not all believe as I do. However, I can only understand the Christian beliefs based on what I have learned about the original faith of the Jewish traditions. And, there are parallels in all the Jewish Festivals and Holidays that directly correspond to the Christian faith, holidays and celebrations.
Barukh ata Adonai Eloheinu, melekh ha`olam… Translation: “Blessed are You, LORD our God, King of the universe…is the prayer one prays over the lighting of the Menorah.
Over the next week, whether Christian, or Jew, I hope you remember those words, that the Lord our God, King of the universe is good, and His miracles are everlasting.
My miracle is that my Great Grandmother’s family escaped Germany prior to WWII. I hate to think how I might not even be in existence if they had not immigrated to this country when they did. Not many German Jews survived the Holocaust.
Life is a celebration and the act of lighting the candles is a time for me to reflect on my gratitude for those who have come before me.