A psalm. A song. For the dedication of the temple. Of David.
I will exalt you, LORD,
for you lifted me out of the depths
and did not let my enemies gloat over me. Psalm 30:1
Today is the first day of Hanukkah, also known as the Festival of Lights, a celebration of two miracles: the victory of the Jews over the Greeks and the single flask of oil that kept the Temple menorah burning for eight days.
Today is the first day of Hanukkah, the holiday on which we commemorate the Jewish victory over the Greeks more than 2,000 years ago. Let’s take a moment to understand what the word Hanukkah means and what it tells us about the holiday we are celebrating.
If we divide the word in half, we get two Hebrew words: hanu, which means “they rested,” and kah, which is composed of the Hebrew letters that correspond to the number 25. Based on that, the meaning of the word becomes “they rested on the 25th.” Indeed, the fighting with the Greeks came to a stop on the 25th of the Hebrew month Kislev. It was on that day that a major battle was won and the people rested.
It was also on the 25th that the Jews joyfully marched to the newly recaptured Temple, ready to begin the Temple service again. We can only imagine their disappointment as they opened the Temple doors and discovered that the House of God was in shambles. The place of utmost purity was utterly defiled. They realized that the Temple needed more than some cleaning; it needed a complete renewal – a rededication.
On the 25th of Kislev, the Jewish people decided to rise up from the ruins and renew all that had been destroyed. They decided to recommit to their ideals and realign themselves with God. The literal meaning of the word Hanukkah is “dedication”; however, the Temple had already been dedicated. On this day, the word Hanukkah meant “rededication.” It signified a complete renewal.
Psalm 30, which we read on Hanukkah, begins, “A song. For the dedication of the temple. Of David.” The word used in the verse for “dedication” is Hanukkah. However, the Jewish sages note that David never dedicated a Temple. It was his son Solomon who built the Temple and dedicated it. They explain that it could be that David wrote this psalm for future Temple dedications. However, it could also be that David meant this psalm for himself. David had just healed from an acute illness when he penned this psalm. The “temple” in the psalm is David’s body, the home of his godly soul. In this psalm David rededicated his body. David rose from his devastating illness and recommitted to living a godly life. He renewed his dedication to serving God.
Hanukkah is a wonderful time to recommit ourselves to our ideals and values. No matter what may have happened in our lives during recent months, we can start fresh today. We can rededicate ourselves to serving God, even among the shambles of our lives. We can give ourselves to Him anew, and through Him, become renewed.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President