While God has never commanded us to light the Hanukkah candles, our Jewish tradition beckons us to do so. Written here are some blessings we use with our own family at home, as well as with our congregational family, Shema Israel Congregation in Detroit. The first blessing, said on the first night, can also be applied at the beginning of almost any holiday or custom.
Blessed art Thou, O Lord our God, King of the universe, who has given us holidays, customs and times of happiness, to increase the knowledge of God and to build us up in our most holy faith.
Ba-ruch A-tah A-do-nai, E-lo-hay-nu Me-lech ha-o-lam, a-sher na-tan la-nu cha-gim, min-ha-gim, oo-mo-ah-dim l’sim-cha, l’hag-deel et da-at A-do-nai, v’liv-not oh-tah-nu b’e-mu-nah ki-do-shah, v’na-ah-lah.
On all eight nights, say the following blessing first before lighting the candle. Then read the accompanying thought and Scripture for each candle: Blessed art Thou, O Lord our God, King of the universe, who performed miracles for our fathers in those days at this season.
Ba-ruch A-tah A-do-nai, E-lo-hay-nu Me-lech ha-o-lam, she-ah-sah ni-seem la-ah-vo-tay-nu ba-ya-meem ha-hem baz-man ha-zeh.
Genesis 1:3-4 describes the creation of the first light: God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness.”
Exodus 13:21-22 reveals that God is the source of Israel’s light: “And the Lord was going before them in a pillar of cloud by day to lead them on the way, and in a pillar of fire by night to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night. He did not take away the pillar of cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, from before the people.”
King David reminds us that God Himself is the source of our own individual light: “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the defense of my life; whom shall I dread? (Psalm 27:1)”
Psalm 119:105 and Psalm 119:130 describe the light that comes from God’s Word: “Your word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path. The unfolding of Your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple.”
Messiah Yeshua is the greatest light of all: “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.” (John 1:4-5)
Yeshua declared, “I am the light of the world; he who follows me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” (John 8:12)
After we come to know Messiah, we are to be a source of light for the world. King Messiah tells us in Matthew 5:14-16: “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden…Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”
The prophet Isaiah speaks of the future glory of a restored Israel in Isaiah 60:1-3: “Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you…And nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising.”
Revelation 21:22-24 gives us a description of our glorious eternal dwelling place in the New Jerusalem: “And I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God, the Almighty, and the Lamb, are its temple. And the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine upon it, for the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb. And the nations shall walk by its light, and the kings of the earth shall bring their glory into it.”