Service for Unity,
Thursday, December, 2nd, 2021


The Shamash: The servant’s candle

“TLast Sunday marked the beginning of the Hanukkah feast. Traditionally, this festival recalls the miracle of the oil flask in the temple which miraculously burned at the top of the candelabra for eight days instead of one. However, this miracle happened only after the military victory of the Asmoneans against the Greeks.
Antiochus Epiphanes, the king of Syria, had indeed desecrated the Temple of Jerusalem to dedicate it to Zeus, and he prohibited any kind of Jewish worship. A revolt led by Judah Maccabee and his brothers followed this, which resulted in the taking back of the Temple and its consecration[1].
The military victory and the liberation of the Temple recounted in the Book of Maccabees are therefore at the origin of the feast of Hanukkah.
This holiday is very important in the Hebrew calendar. Each day during the eight days of the feast, we light a Hanukkah -or candlestick with eight branches-, plus one: the Shamash, the servant. The first is lit on the first evening, then two on the second and so on up to eight, while each time pronouncing the following blessing:
“Praise be to you, O Lord our God, King of the universe, who has sanctified us through Your commandments and commanded us to light the Hanukkah lamps.”
“Praise be to you, O Lord our God, King of the universe, who once performed miracles for our ancestors at this time of the year”
This feast is always celebrated in December, around Christmas. We cannot therefore overlook the connection with the theme of light triumphing over darkness as is mentioned in the Gospel of Saint John “The light shines in the darkness” (Jn1,5).
n a letter which Colette Kessler wrote to her Christian friends in 2005 wishing them a Merry Christmas, she mentioned[2]: With the Shamash, the servant’s candle, which symbolizes this small vial of oil well hidden in the Temple and which lasted eight days, we remember this victory of the weak over the strong, this eternal Torah, from generation to generation, with or without the Second Temple…
The Hanukkah miracle is the miracle of the continuity of the Jewish service to the Torah despite the desecration or destruction of the Temple, despite the dispersion, despite the persecutions.
The Ness, the miracle, is this coincidence in time and place between the gift of God, the permanent Presence of God for the salvation of Man, and Man who awakens and responds to this offer from God.

[1] 1 This is recounted in the Books of the Maccabees, read today in Christian liturgy under the name of the Book of the Martyrs of Israel. (cf. I Macc 4: 36-60) Judas decided with his brothers and the whole assembly of Israel that the days of the dedication of the altar would be celebrated in due time every year for eight days, starting on the 25th of August. month of Kisleu, with rejoicing and bliss” (I Macc 4, 59)

[2] KESSLER Colette, Dieu caché, Dieu révélé, Essais sur le Judaïsme, Lethielleux, 2011, p. 53-54

These extracts are taken from the website of the National Service for Relations with Judaism of the French Episcopal Conference


R. Amen, amen, blessed be the God of Israel

Or another chorus.

1.Loving Father, God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob,
you who mourned because of the violence between Cain and Abel,
we pray to you for peace in the Holy Land, this land where you have chosen to come and join us in our humanity

2.Loving Father, God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob,
you who made possible the reconciliation between Joseph and his brothers,
-for any contempt for your people Israel, forgive us
-we pray to you, Father, to make fraternity grow between the Jewish people and the nations.

3.Loving Father, God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob,
you who brought Israel out of Egypt and made your people free,
-give your joy to the Jewish people, and keep them faithful to your covenant.

4.Loving Father, God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob,
you who united the twelve tribes of Israel around the Torah,
-give peace to the Jews who believe in Jesus.

5.Loving Father, God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob,
you who sent your Son Jesus to save us,
-pour out your blessing on Christians who are of Jewish descent.

6.Loving Father, God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob,
Father of Jesus Christ,
bring together in unity all Christian churches.