Celebrating Hanukkah’s shining lights

Hanukkah is both a religious and cultural holiday dating back to the second century B.C. when Greece ruled over Palestine in the Middle East.

There was a war of freedom in which the Jews regained their own country and rule.

“When they went to dedicate the temple, which was originally built by King Solomon — it was defiled in many ways by the Greeks,” said Temple Beth-El congregation secretary Joseph Golden. “And so they had to cleanse the temple, re-purify the temple, and Hanukkah (which means ‘dedication’); they rededicated the temple in the religious fashion of the day.”

Tap into your inner light this Hanukkah. The Jewish holiday celebrates the liberation from oppression. Families here at Temple Beth-el will soon be lighting their menorahs for eight days.

Over many centuries Hanukkah has taken on additional aspects of being a relatively minor holiday but still celebrates the rededication to the religion and to the service that was done at the temple in Jerusalem.

“Less activities for children in their schools and more festivity in the home — which involved lighting a menorah,” Golden said. “When they went to re-purify the temple, they could only find one vile of purified oil to burn in the menorah (the candelabra). This is more of a legend and there’s no real sense that this really happened but it became part and parcel of the holiday.”

Hanukkah also occurs at the time of the winter solstice.

“Incorporated some observance of the return of light from the darkness of the winter and the lights also symbolized that,” said Golden. “Since it occurs around the same time as Christmas, many Jewish families started giving gifts on each night to their children during Hanukkah.”

According to Joe, Hanukkah is about observance, history and religious sense of dedication. For modern Jews, dedication is not just to the congregation and the religion.

“But dedication to life itself, dedication to your society, helping others where others need help, a sense of tzedakah (charity),” he said. “So we also take up collection of things that may be helpful for people less fortunate than ourselves — such as warm clothing we’re gathering together to take to homeless shelters.”

The best way to gain more Hanukkah knowledge is to connect with someone Jewish who celebrates the holiday.

“Jews who are not that temple-going still celebrate it as a cultural and meaningful holiday for them and their families,” Golden said.

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