“Never before in Jewish history,” wrote about Hanukah the noted Jewish philosopher Emil Fackenheim, “had a festival been instituted by human hands.”
When Judah Maccabee, himself instituted the Hanukah festival, his act was “innovation without precedent.”
Indeed, said Columbia University professor Hayim Yosef Yerushalmi, we may well ponder the audacity with which the rabbis fixed the formal Hanukkah benediction as: “Blessed be Thou O Lord our God… who has commanded us to kindle the Hanukkah light.”
Since the whole institution of Hanukkah is not found in the TaNaKh the Talmud had to ask
“Where did He command us?”
But it was not only the institution of a holiday not commanded by the Tora that was innovative. Instead of God, Hanukkah honored human beings and celebrated a military victory.
Hanukkah itself is the confirmation that the constant changing challenges to the life of the Jews demands changes in Judaism.
More and more Hanukah is being celebrated today as the symbol of the wish to keep alive the flame of Judaism.
In 1983, Peter Yarrow- of the famous American folk singing group “Peter, Paul and Mary-” wrote in the chorus of his song “Light One Candle”:
Don’t let the light go out
It lasted for so many years
He was asking:
What is in the memory that’s valued so highly
That we keep it alive in that flame?
The answer was:
all we believe in
The song asked to:
Light one candle for the strength that we need
To never become our own foe
Light one candle for those who are suffering
Pain we learned so long ago
Light one candle for the Maccabee children
With thanks that their light didn’t die
Light one candle for the pain they endured
When their right to exist was denied
Light one candle for the terrible sacrifice
Justice and freedom demand
Hanukkah is a festival of dedication, it expresses the survival of Jewish culture and the continuance of Jewish life.