The Festival of Lights

To be a Jew is a destiny.
--Vicki Baum

In the dark days of December comes the wonderful holiday of Hanukkah, celebrated in Jewish homes. Originally known as the "Festival of Lights," Hanukkah commemorates a miracle that occurred in 165 B.C., after Judas Maccabaeus and his followers reclaimed Jerusalem from a Greek emperor who considered Israel a Greek province.

in an attempt to assimilate conquered nations into a cohesive and controllable society, the Greek empire prohibited any other religion; Jews were forced to abandon their faith and ordered to worship Greek gods. By decree, the Temple of Jerusalem was turned into a Greek shrine, and Jews were forbidden to study the Torah, celebrate their holidays, or practice Jewish customs. Many Jews, disobeying the edict, died for their beliefs. After a three-year guerrilla campaign, the Maccabees were victorious and the temple was restored to Jewish worship. As part of their rededication ceremony (the word "Hanukkah" means dedication) the Maccabees began an eight-day purification rite, only to discover there was barely enough sacred oil to keep the temple menorah - a candelabrum with eight branches - lit for one day. Miraculously, the temple lamp burned continuously for eight days. Ever since that time the Jewish people have observed Hanukkah in remembrance of their struggle for religious freedom and the miracle of restoration, symbolized by the abundance of oil.

Many who celebrate Christmas believe that Hanukkah is a festival reserved solely for those who practice Judaism. But as Harold Kushner points out in his enlightening and engaging meditation To Life: A Celebration of Jewish Being and Thinking, if it weren't for Hanukkah, we wouldn't be celebrating Christmas. Had the Maccabees not rebelled against the Greeks, the Jewish faith would have faded into Greek culture, never to be heard of again. "There would have been no Jewish community for Jesus to be born into a century and a half later. No one would have remembered the messianic promises he claimed to fulfill. Without Hanukkah, there would have been no Christmas."

When one follows any family tree back far enough, there are bound to be surprises. And those who follow the Christian path will discover, if they truly search for their roots, that by faith, we belong to the House of David. Jesus lived his entire life as an observant Jew. He celebrated Hanukkah as a child; the Last Supper was a Passover seder. All the apostles and most of those who became his early followers were Jewish. The crowds who came to hear Jesus called him "Rabbi," the Hebrew word for teacher. Perhaps our similarities and heritage are greater than our differences after all.

Personally, I've come to think of Hanukkah as a celebration of authenticity. The Maccabees refused to surrender what made them authentic - their faith - even if it cost them their lives. Not to be able to live as observant Jews was not to live at all. I also consider the Hanukkah miracle the earliest recorded demonstration of Simple Abundance. Two thousand years ago there was only enough sacred oil for one night. But all that these faithful, courageous, and grateful people had was all that they needed.

Sacred oil in a temple. Loaves and fishes on a mountainside. Miracles are of Spirit, not any one faith. Miracles are for anyone who believes. That is the heart of Hanukkah and the soul of Christmas. The more we allow ourselves to recognize the wisdom and truth in other spiritual paths, the closer to Wholeness we become.

-Sarah Ban Breathnach, Simple Abundance - A Daybook of Comfort and Joy©1995

The majority of us lead quiet, unheralded lives as we pass through this world. There will most likely be no ticker-tape parades for us, no monuments created in our honor. But that does not lessen our possible impact, for there are scores of people waiting for someone just like us to come along; people who will appreciate our compassion, our unique talents. Someone who will live a happier life merely because we took the time to share what we had to give. Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have a potential to turn a life around. It's overwhelming to consider the continuous opportunities there are to make our love felt.
--Leo Buscaglia

There should have been a list of things that we are taught, without fail, in our childhood. Things that are drummed into us as a requirement. You know, the obvious stuff. Well, in case that didn't happen, here are a few basic concepts for your consideration:

Laziness binds us to ignorance, failure and stagnation. Don't be a lazy thinker, for thought precedes action, and moulds our lives for either failure or success. Dare to think for yourself, thinking constructive, upbuilding, cheerful, optimistic thoughts.

Nothing is accomplished through anger. It separates us from our friends and loved ones, and makes you and others feel miserable. Misdirected passion wastes your energies and consumes your vitality. Conserve your force, energy, potency and capabilities for worthy and noble tasks.

Never lie. Period. Not to others. Not to yourself. It's a lot easier to keep the story straight when you know that you told the truth from the get-go. And it's a lot easier to look at yourself in the mirror, too. People appreciate honesty and integrity. Temper it with wisdom, understanding and compassion.

Self-indulgence leads to defeat. Those who are successful are up and doing, and do not indulge and pamper themselves, but instead practice self-discipline. Strength of body and mind are essential to a successful life. Try to control your mind by not letting your thoughts wander, but master and direct them in creative channels.

Don't let pride stand in the way of your success. More people remain in darkness and ignorance through false pride than through any other reason. When you don't know, say so, and be prepared to learn or to seek the assistance and the company of those who can help you in knowledge and understanding. The wisest man is meek and lowly and humble, while only fools are filled with pride.

Stop worrying. Worrying will not solve a problem, and is a monumental waste of your time and energy. It weakens your mental power and gives you less of a chance of solving a problem. You have the power to change this course, you have will power. Use it. Change your thought, thinking of success. Hold in your mind that you will come out on top. And even if this doesn't solve the problem, you will feel better about the result.

Happiness and advancement in life go hand in hand; and if we are to possess them we must look within ourselves, in our make-up, and discover the causes that hold us back. Don't be blind to your faults, but rather, seek them out and work to eliminate them.

The entire path to happiness and success consists of duty. There are no short-cuts or bypaths that will get you there any faster - the broad highway of hard work and perseverance leads directly to it. Duty to yourself, duty to others, duty to your God.



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