Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Eight crazy nights

I really need to spend a moment recapping the meaning behind Hanukkah, as I haven't done that this year. Back in the second century BCE, Antiochus IV Epiphanes invaded Judea and looted the Temple, setting up an altar to Zeus and sacrificing pigs. This sparked a large scale revolt, and in 165 BCE the Seleucids were pushed out. Cleansing and re-sanctification of the Temple required the burning of purified olive oil in the lamp, but only a small amount of oil was available. Miraculously, this oil kept burning for eight days, enough time to prepare fresh purified oil. The holiday of Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, commemorates this miracle. Each night a new candle is lit on the Menorah, to symbolize the eight nights that the oil burned. Here's a menorah recently built by Elijah van der Giessen. Now this one has seven candles, which is really the lampstand that was found in the original Tabernacle. The sacred lampstands have a long history. When Solomon's Temple was built, he included golden lampstands, which were probably looted by the Babylonians, and maybe returned 70 years later along with other treasures as mentioned in Ezra. These lampstands were then looted by Antiochus, and new vessels were made when the Temple was rededicated, according to First Maccabees. According to Josephus, the looted lampstands ended up in Rome, where they may have been later stolen by invading Vandals, or else returned to Jerusalem and perhaps destroyed during a sacking by Persians centuries later.

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