CULTURE & HERITAGE - Culture & History



Hanukkah is probably one of the best known Jewish holidays because of its proximity to Christmas. It remembers the rededication of the Temple after it was defiled by the Greeks. It lasts eight days and every day we light a candle.
The story begins in the reign of Alexander the Great. Under his benevolent rule many Jews assimilated much of the Hellenistic culture. More than a century later, a successor of Alexander, Antiochus IV was in control of the region. He started oppressing the Jews and desecrating the Temple by requiring the sacrifice of pigs on the altar. Two groups opposed Antiochus: a nationalistic group led by Mattathias the Hasmonean and his son Judah Maccabee and a religious traditionalist group known as the Chassidim, the forerunners of the Pharisees. They joined forces in a revolt against both the assimilation of the Hellenistic Jews and oppression of the Seleucid Greek government. The revolution succeeded and the Temple was rededicated.
The historical meaning of Hanukkah According to Jewish law, Hanukkah is one of the less important Jewish holidays. However, Hanukkah has become much more popular in modern practice because of its proximity to Christmas.
Hanukkah celebrates the triumph of faith and courage over military might. It is the classic underdog story.

In the second century B.C.E., the Jews were prohibited from studying sacred texts or celebrating Jewish holidays. The penalty for violation of these rules was death.
In addition, the holy Temple had been defiled with pagan rituals, and they had been ordered to worship other gods. A small group of faithful Jews, known now as the Maccabeus, rose up and defeated the invaders, reclaimed the Temple, cleansed it, removed the idols, and rededicated the space G-d.

Within the temple, there was a huge menorah (seven branched candelabra that burned oil) that had to be lit. This light was supposed to remain always lit within the Temple. But the sacred olive oil needed to burn in the Menorah took eight days to prepare. And there was only a one-day supply of oil on hand.

They decided to light the flame anyway. And, a great miracle occurred. The oil burned continuously for eight days, long enough for new oil to be purified.

Since that time, Hanukkah has been celebrated for eight days to recall the miracle when the menorah burned for eight days with only one day's supply of oil in the Temple.

ANCIENNE HANUKKYA                                                                                                                                                                          An old hanukkya

Every year, it is customary to commemorate the miracle of the Hanukkah oil by lighting candles on a hanukkiyah, by spinning the dreidel and by eating fried food such as latkes and sufganiyot during the holiday.