The Faces of Chanukah

In my last post, I wrote about a few faces of Chanukah — The miracle of the oil and spiritual light vs the victory of the battle and physical might. Yet there is another face of Chanukah called “Second Sukkot.”

Second Sukkot

The Second Book of Maccabees tells us the Hasmoneans recreated the eight days of Sukkot on Chanukah, which we refer to as the seven days of Sukkot plus Shemini Atzeret, the eighth day of holiness connected in the Torah to Sukkot. 

The Temple sanctuary was reclaimed and purified on the 25th of Kislev, the same day of the month on which it was desecrated. The joyful celebration lasted for eight days, just like the Feast of Tabernacles [Sukkot]. Carrying flowering branches, as well as palm fronds, they celebrated like they would have on Sukkot.

2 MACCABEES 

On “Second Sukkot” the Maccabees not only reclaimed the Temple and their religious independence, they reclaimed a sacred time that was oppressed and taken away from them by the Seleucid Empire. 

In celebration of their hard-won religious freedom, they recovered and recreated a sacred time they had been prohibited from celebrating at the time of its date on the Hebrew calendar.

Sacred time is best described in Hebrew as time set aside and set apart from ordinary days. Sacred times can be days of the week (such as Shabbat), times of day and dates on the Hebrew calendar, but there’s a concept from the Jewish sages that borrows time from ordinary days to add to the sacred.

Sacredness is permutable, epiphanic, transcendent, earthly and cosmic. Sacred time is spiritually receptive time and in the moment of reclaiming the Temple, they reclaimed Sukkot.

There can be great power and a sense of empowerment in reclaiming time that was taken from us.

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