Tonight begins the Jewish Festival of Lights, known as Chanukkah (Hanukkah, or חנוכה), which commemorates the re-dedication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, following the Maccabean Revolt of the 2nd century BC. It is observed for eight nights, as a reminder of the miracle of one night's supply of oil for the lamps lasting for eight, until a fresh supply could be obtained. (Jordanes writes: "Kind of, sort of ...")
Around the turn of this century, our director of communications was a devout Jewish woman, who invited all the staff to her house in the country for a holiday celebration. A highlight of the affair was her presentation with her grandchildren, as she told them of the story of Chanukkah. As the rest of us Gentiles watched, she would lead the children in the Hebrew chant for the occasion: “Blessed art Thou, Lord our God, King of the Universe, Who sanctified us by His commandments, and has commanded us to kindle the lights of Chanukkah...” While others stood around watching in varying degrees of perplexity, I found myself singing with the children.
I turned to my son: "Does this sound familiar, like what you hear in the Divine Liturgy?" He nodded, as I continued. "This is where we get the Byzantine chant, and the Gregorian chant. It came to us from the Jews." He totally got it.
A comedian named Adam Sandler first introduced this holiday classic on NBC's Saturday Night Live. The song gives a list of famous celebrities from various walks of life who are Jewish: “Put on your yarmulke, here comes Hanukkah / It's so much funukkah, to celebrate Hanukkah / Hanukkah is the Festival of Lights / Instead of one day of presents, we get eight crazy nights!”
There's more where that came from.
This is an original work by Matisyahu. “Miracle” is produced by Dr Luke protégé Kool Kojak (Flo Rida, Katy Perry, Ke$ha), and is drenched in a joyful spirit, with chiming synths, bouncing beats, and an irresistible chorus. And ice skating.
There are so many Christmas songs out there. I wanted to give the Jewish kids something to be proud of. We've got Adam Sandler's song, which is hilarious, but I wanted to try to get across some of the depth and spirituality inherent in the holiday in a fun, celebratory song. My boy Kojak was in town so at the last minute we went into the studio in the spirit of miracles and underdogs and this is what we came up with. Happy Hannukah!
Matisyahu can be found on Facebook, and followed on Twitter. The song can also be downloaded from iTunes.
Finally, on a serious note, Charlie Harare explains the origins of Chanukkah, and its meaning in daily life from a Jewish point of view, which is only reasonable as this is a Jewish holiday. Yeah, I know, Jews are not Catholics, I got that. But if the New Covenant is the fulfillment of the Old, and if Catholicism is the fulfillment of Judaism, then we cannot rule out the possibility that there is something to be learned here. And a Catholic who watches this video will learn for themselves.
However you slice it, “It's beginning to look a lot like...”