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Prayer for the Feast of Dedication: חנוכה, by Marcus Heinrich Bresslau (1852)

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“I will extol Thee, O Lord! for thou hast drawn me out of the depths.”[1]Psalms 30:1. I will sing praises unto Thee, and proclaim Thy holy name. Thy anger is but for a moment, but Thy pleasure endureth through our lifetime. This day reminds me of those sacred truths expressed by the inspired psalmist. This day is a festival of victory, a day to celebrate the dedication of Thy holy temple. Two great gifts hast thou bestowed on us, RELIGION and LIBERTY. Their liberty our ancestors had been cruelly robbed of by the Syrian king, Antiochus, and then they were to be deprived of their remaining good—religion. For, with sword in hand, the tyrant would compel to idolatry and paganism those who adored the Only and Living God, that race whose boast and glory it was to have been the first worshippers of one and the only God. His presumptuous hand dared to place on the altar of the Eternal a perishable idoL But there lived at that time, also, men who despised a life of irreligiousness and slavery; men whose hearts glowed with the ardour of faith and freedom, who for their God and truth would sacrifice their all, and who like their ancestor, Moses, cried “who is on the Lord’s side, let him come unto me;” whose colours bore the memorable words, מי כמכה באלים יי “Who is like unto Thee, O Lord, among the gods?”

Mattathias and his sons of priestly descent—their names will never be obliterated from the book of immortal life— encouraged the people to battle for light in the midst of darkness. And many noble souls, worthy of the name of Israel, were found to rally round the standard of UNITY; to risk the body for the spirit; to sacrifice time to gain eternity! and, indeed, the prize was worthy of the struggle. The ancient Temple Service was restored to its full dignity and solemnity; the Temple of the Lord was cleared from all pagan impurities, the altar was again dedicated to the pure worship of the only God, the miraculously preserved oil burnt clear and bright; and its light reminded them of the heavenly brightness of truth and unalloyed religion, the light that will never be extinguished.

Almighty Creator! May the observance of lighting the candles during these eight days in Commemoration of the Miracles which Thou hast wrought for our ancestors on those days, at this time, afford to our hearts the light of peace, and comfort in the hope that there will always be found noble souls in Israel to promote good disinterestedly, even at the sacrifice of their own advantages; that there will ever be found in the House of Jacob enlightened men; that there will always be found women in Israel like Judith who risked her life for her city; mothers, like that mother— Hannah—who rather saw her seven children slain than they should bow before heathen gods. Omniscient Father, let us never lack great minds to peril their lives for righteousness and Freedom, for their fellow-creatures and for their Father- land; let us never lack men of vigour who esteem their sacred duties higher than the alluring enjoyments of transient pleasures; let us never lack men of knowledge and learning who fearlessly propound the truth and instruct mankind. Fortify our spirit and our heart, that we may remain faithful unto Thee under all circumstances of life, that in all vicissitudes of this stormy voyage we may cling to Thee, the God of Truth: So that we may live to dedicate again the Temple to Thy holy name in the days of Thy Messiah. Amen.

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Notes   [ + ]

  1. Psalms 30:1.

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