Wednesday, December 1, 2010

CHANUKAH: A TIME FOR HAPPINESS AND MIRACLES OF LIGHT

Chanukah, the Jewish Festival of Light commemorates the re-dedication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, begins this year on the night of  Kislev 24, 5771-Dec. 1, 2010 for Jews in Israel and around the world.

Wednesday evening at sunset will be the lighting of the first candle. The pleasant aroma of fresh sizzling "latkes" potato pancakes and “sufganiyot” doughnuts will fill the air as the joy of Chanukah permeates the home. Many Jewish children also play a game by spinning a square top called a dreidel (Yiddish) or s’vivon (Hebrew), inscribed with one Hebrew letter on each side. The letters are an acronym for the phrase “A great miracle happened here or there”, depending on whether the players are in Israel or the Diaspora.

Eight nights of Chanukah, Jews light candles on a chanukiah- a nine branched candelabrum with eight candle holders representing eight nights of the holiday. The chanukiah is often erroneously referred to as a Menorah, a similar candelabrum, but with just seven candle holders, one for each day of the week.

The celebration of Chanukah dates back to about 165 BCE, when a band of Jews, the Maccabees, fought against the Seleucid Empire which then occupied the land of Israel and suppressed the practice of Judaism. After defeating the Seleucids and reclaiming the Temple, the Maccabees discovered there was only enough oil to light the menorah there for one night.

The Jewish sages say that the Chanukiah of the Temple was to be lighted by a special pure olive oil, which was required to burn through the night every night. But, the Maccabeans found only a single can of olive oil that had only enough oil to burn for one day and not for eight. Miraculously, that one little oil can lasted for eight days, the time needed to prepare fresh supply of oil for the Menorah. An eight-day festival was declared by the Jewish sages to commemorate this miracle. Jews continue celebrating this miracle every year for eight nights, starting on the 25th day of Kislev (December 1, 2010 this year).

Chanukah falls on a different date in November or December each year because Jewish holidays follow the Hebrew lunar calendar, which varies from the Western calendar. In the Jewish calendar, Chanukah is celebrated on the 25th day of the month of “Kislev.”

Chanukah is the Festival of Light, of bringing light to the Temple and to the hearts of the people. 

“Yom Shel Or”- Have a day of light! “Hag Chanukah Sameach” Happy Chanukah! 
                                                       Happy Hanukkah!


1 comment:

Pam said...

Linda this is very informative as usual. MY kids used to tell me about Chanukah when they taught them about it in Public School. Very interesting to learn about different religions and culture. Thanks!

Pam