There has been much talk of Chanukah lately, especially with it only two weeks away. Parents want to teach their children truth rather than fairy tales, but still maintain the fun and build memories. I humbly offer my contribution. I propose a dramatic retelling of the Maccabees story, with a cliffhanger at the end of each day. I have also included a few fun activities to follow each day’s part of the story. I have posted part 1 below, to be read on the first day of Chanukah. If you like it and think it would be helpful to your family, please, please leave a comment. Then I will post the other seven parts of the story. I hope you enjoy it.
My name is Jonathan. When I was young, terrible times came to our people. We were told we could no longer obey the precious torah of our fathers. A strong and mighty, but desperately wicked king named Antiochus Epiphanes rose to power. I remember it like it was yesterday…
My brother Judas burst through the door.
“Father, have you heard the news? The beautiful lamp stand and all the wonderful things in the temple are gone!”
“Yes, Judas. I heard.” Mattithias, my father, looked up and I could see that he was weeping.
“I fear terrible times are about to visit our people. Many have not been faithful. YHVH promised to curse us if we do not obey. If only they could see that the precious commandments bring life and happiness. They teach us how to love each other and worship our Creator.”
I began to cry too, to see my father so upset.
As the days passed, news came that Antiochus had reversed all the laws of torah and set up false gods, idols, and pagan practices throughout the land of Israel. The family down the street had a little baby boy named Caleb. They circumcised him on the eighth day, just as torah commands. But soldiers came for them. My father did not hear in time to help them.
He gathered my brothers and I together and we did not eat. I was hungry, but I knew there were more important things than food. We prayed, and confessed, and pleaded with YHVH to save our people. When we finally got up from our fast and began to eat bread, I saw a look on my father’s face. I shall never forget it. He was determined, his face in stone, and he simply said, “Boys, we will obey YHVH no matter what.”
The next day, I helped load food on the donkeys. Dried fruit and cakes and wine in a goatskin were loaded, along with blankets. We began our trip to Jerusalem. I was worried. Wouldn’t there be trouble there? Hadn’t they already sacrificed a pig on the altar? I shuddered at the thought. What was my father thinking?
As we saw Jerusalem rise up ahead of us on the horizon, my father began proudly singing the songs of ascent.
“Praise ye YHVH! Praise, oh ye servants of YHVH! Praise the name of YHVH! Blessed is the name of YHVH from this time forth and forevermore.”
My brothers and I all lifted our voices together. It seemed as though the rocks sang out with us, relieved to hear a familiar song.
And then the gate loomed up ahead of us, and I wondered what lied ahead.
TO BE CONTINUED…
Activities: Read the Psalms of Ascent – Psalm 113-118. Use tambourines, drums, whistles etc. and pretend to march up to Jerusalem while reading the psalms. Even in troubled times, the Maccabees held their heads high, determined to obey YHVH.
A beautiful cd with the Psalms 120-134 sung in hebrew is available here.
The scriptures tell us that even the stones want to cry out and praise YHVH. Paint some rocks with pictures of YHVH’s beautiful creation.