Hope That Light Will Always Triumph Over Darkness

Photo courtesy of Chayim B. Alevsky

Photo courtesy of Chayim B. Alevsky

Beginning at sunset Wednesday, observant Jews throughout the world began the celebration of Hanukkah, or the Festival of Lights, by lighting one candle or vessel filled with oil, on a special eight-branched candelabra, the characteristic menorah. Each evening an additional flame is lit so that on the last night all eight candles and an additional holder set apart from the rest, burn brightly. The holiday, which coincides with Thanksgiving for the first time in more than a century, symbolizes the triumph of light over darkness, of purity over adulteration and of spirituality over materialism, and conveys a deep meaning regarding the importance of religious freedom.

In the second century B.C., the land of Israel was ruled by the Syrian-Greek Seleucid Empire. Beginning around 175 B.C., when Antiochus IV Epiphanes took the Seleucid throne, a period began of repression of traditional Jewish customs and practices. The temple in Jerusalem was turned over to the worship of Zeus. These actions inspired a revolt, initially led by the Jewish priest Mattathias and his five sons. By 165 B.C. this revolt, led by Mattathias’ son Judah Maccabee, who undertook a series of guerrilla actions, was successful.

Judah ordered the temple cleansed and rededicated. According to tradition, however, only one cruse of uncontaminated olive oil, enough to burn for one day, remained, and it would take eight days to prepare a new supply. Miraculously, this oil burned for the entire eight days. To commemorate this miracle and their freedom from foreign occupation, Jewish sages declared an eight-day holiday to be celebrated each year.

The Hanukkah menorah is traditionally intended not to light the house but “to illuminate the house within.” During Hanukkah it is traditional to eat food fried in oil, such as potato pancakes, or latkes, and doughnuts. Hanukkah gelt, or money, is given to children and sometimes gifts are exchanged. Families often play a game with a four-sided spinning top called the dreidel, whose four letters are an acronym for “a great miracle happened here.”

Religious freedom and the hope that light will always triumph over darkness are significant for people of any religion and no religion, and, in this world, freedom and hope are not always common. Nes Gadol Hayah Sham.

Republished from the Orange County Register. Distributed by Creators.com.

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Chuck Briese, Oak Ridge Now

[avatar user="cbriese" size="thumbnail" align="left"] Chuck Briese has been a resident of South Montgomery County since 1988. He and his lovely and patient wife, Leslie, have six sons, with only one left to finish high school. Chuck has been a Cub Scout leader, a Little League baseball coach, a church youth leader, and a general troublemaker over the course of the past 25 years. He is obsessed with his lawn, and likes restaurants that serve food that fills up the plate. He has a tendency to tilt at windmills, which may explain why he started Oak Ridge Now.

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