What is Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights?

gay seznamka rouchovany Hanukkah evokes light. Light that burns; light hat did not go out even when there was not enough. Light that illuminates some of the darkness. Light that stands against oppression and discrimination and suffering. Today’s world feels dark. Not as dark as it has been in Jewish history, but dark nonetheless. But the candles have been lit and will continue to be lit and from each window a little that light will shine.

Mastung In the second century BCE, the Land of Israel was ruled by the Seleucids, a Syrian-Greek people who banned Jewish religious practice and insisted that the Jews follow Greek culture and beliefs. The Jews rose in revolt, defeated the more powerful Seleucid army, and reclaimed and rededicated the Holy Temple in Jerusalem that had been defiled. The Jews rebuilt the alter and replaced the holy objects and vessels that had been destroyed.

talking to a girl but not dating having sex According to Jewish tradition, when the Jews went to light the Temple’s Menorah (candelabrum) with the ritually pure olive oil, they found only enough untainted olive oil to last for one day. That one day’s worth of oil, however, lasted for eight days – long enough for new oil to be prepared under the proper guidelines and to keep the Menorah lit.

To commemorate these miracles, every year, beginning on the 25th of the Hebrew month of Kislev, Jews celebrate Hanukkah for eight days.

Hanukkah is actually a minor Jewish holiday. In the grand scheme of Jewish holidays and observances, it is not considered one of the most important. But still, for many Jews, Hanukkah is a beloved and favorite holiday. Judaism is, in many ways, a culture and tradition of community. Jews pray together, celebrate together, and mourn together. Families and communities gather. Hanukkah is no exception. While Jews are not required to go to the synagogue on Hanukkah, many congregations hold communal candle lighting ceremonies and Hanukkah parties for children and adults. At home, families get together to light candles, eat latkes and sufganiyot (jelly doughnuts), play dreidel games, and exchange gifts. 

But how and why do you celebrate when you are separated from your community, separated from other family members? How do you celebrate during times of persecution or during a pandemic? During the Holocaust, when practicing their religion was forbidden, Jews secretly lit the menorah and sang the blessings in the ghettoes and in hiding. They celebrated in the concentration camps: carving menorahs out of stolen pieces of wood, forging candles from scraps of fat and loose threads from their uniforms. This year, Jews celebrated remotely, using Zoom and other technologies to bring families and friends close. Some lit candles outdoors, safely distanced and masked. Candles were lit, blessings were sung, latkes were eaten and gifts were given.

Hanukkah evokes light. Light that burns; light hat did not go out even when there was not enough. Light that illuminates some of the darkness. Light that stands against oppression and discrimination and suffering. Today’s world feels dark. Not as dark as it has been in Jewish history, but dark nonetheless. But the candles have been lit and will continue to be lit and from each window a little that light will shine.

Narita Learn More:

My Jewish Learning: 9 Things You Didn’t Know About Hanukkah

Chabad.org: What Is Hanukkah?

Erica Nadelhaft

Erica Nadelhaft

Northern Maine Educator Erica Nadelhaft was born in Madison, Wisconsin, but grew up in Maine and Scotland (United Kingdom). She is an adjunct professor of World and European history at the University of Maine at Fort Kent and received a BA in History from Brandeis University and a MA in Contemporary Jewish Studies with a specialization in the Holocaust from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Her article, “Resistance through Education: Jewish Youth Movements in Warsaw”, was published in POLIN: Studies in Polish Jewry (Oxford University Press). She has also worked as a book group facilitator and program evaluator for the Maine Humanities Council and as a Polish and Hebrew translator for POLIN. She is a regular lecturer for the Fort Kent Senior College. She has three grown daughters and lives in Fort Kent, Maine, with her husband.
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