Hanukkah is the Jewish eight-day, wintertime “festival of lights,”. It is celebrated with a nightly menorah lighting, special prayers and fried foods. The Hebrew word Hanukkah means “dedication,” and is thus named because it celebrates the rededication of the Holy Temple.
About 2100 years ago the Syrian-Greek emperor Antiochus conquered Israel who tried to force the people to live by the Greek culture and beliefs. A very small group of Jews took courage, drove the Greeks from the land and reclaimed the Holy Temple which was defiled before.
When they wanted to light the Menorah, they could only find a single cruse of olive oil, that had escaped the contamination of the Greeks, enough to last one night – and it would take eight days to procure new, pure oil.
Miraculously, the one-day supply of oil lasted eight days and nights, and the holiday of Hanukkah was established.
Lighting the Menorah
The Menorah consists of eight holders for oil or candles and an additional holder for the “attendant” shamash in the middle (set apart from the others). Since the miracle of Hanukkah happened with olive oil, an oil menorah is preferable to a candle one, and olive oil is the ideal fuel. The shamash candle that is used to kindle the other lights – sits a bit higher or lower than the other candles, on the ninth branch of the menorah. Many Jews have a tradition to use a beeswax candle for the shamash.
After finising to kindle the menorah lights, the shamash candle is placed in its designated place on the menorah. At this point it is traditional to sing Hanukkah hymns such as Haneirot Halalu and or Maoz Tzur. The Hanukkah lights are kindled every night of Hanukkah.
Linger around the menorah for about half an hour (aside for Friday afternoon, when Shabbat preparations are in full gear). Share some Hanukkah stories with your family, enjoy a draidel game and indulge in some traditional hot latkes (fried potato pancakes) or sufganiot (fried donuts).
May this Festival of Lights bring blessings upon you and your family for happiness and health.
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