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November 23, 2010 > Hanukkah


A Jewish celebration

Submitted By ElenaMartina

Hanukkah is Hebrew for the dedication that marks the beginning of the Festival of Lights, an eight day Jewish holiday that celebrates the rededication of the second temple in Jerusalem at the time of the Maccabean Revolt in the 2nd century BC.

In the temple, they found very little oil left to light a lamp. Although there was not enough oil for one night, it lasted eight nights. A nine branch candelabrum called a Menorah holds nine candles with the extra light called a shamash or shamus, lit each night for the purpose of lighting the others. Blessings are said before or after the candles are lit depending on family tradition. Additional prayers may include Psalms, most notably Psalms 30, 67, and 91.

In the United States, adherents go to work as usual, but may leave early in order to be home to kindle the lights at nightfall. There is no religious reason for schools to be closed, although, in Israel, schools close during Hanukkah. Many families exchange gifts each night, cheese products and fried foods are eaten, including potato latkes, which are potato pancakes fried in oil (symbolic of the oil from the temple). Children play with dreidels ('dray-dels') a four-sided spinning top which is spun and the participants play to win little prizes.

Another aspect that is seldom mentioned is that when the Jews were living in Palestine, their ancient homeland, and the Greeks took over, they wanted to force the Jews to eat pork and live like Greeks.

A woman named Hannah was taken with her five sons to a Greek commander and he asked the oldest son to eat pork, when he said no and refused to eat it, he was killed. This happened to the second, third, and fourth sons. When the Greek commander tried to get the youngest son to eat the ham, he also refused. He did not want to kill the last son, so he told Hannah to talk some sense into the boy. Hannah turned to her last son and said, "Don't you dare eat that." The child refused to eat and was killed, as was his mother.

This tale of Hannah and her sons galvanized the Jewish people. The Great General Judah took the Macabee troops and began striking at the Greeks. When the Greeks retreated and left Palestine. The Jews rededicated all their desecrated temples, and relit their flames. There was only one sacred oil tin left, but it lasted eight days, long enough for the Jews to get more. Hanukkah is celebrating the fact that Jews are not like gentiles and cannot be forced to assimilate.

In 2008, there were 4 million Jewish people in the U.S.A., worldwide about 13 million. Hanukkah has many different spellings and pronunciations. Hanukkah, also Romanized as Chanukah. This year it is observed from sunset December 1 to sunset December 9.

Orthodox (conservative) synagogues separate the men from the women. Others, like the Reform (liberal), the Conservative (moderate), have services Friday night and Saturday mornings.

If you are looking for synagogues:

Temple Beth Torah, 42000 Paseo Padre Pkwy in Fremont, 510-656-7141.

Shir Ami, 4529 Malabar Ave. Castro Valley, 510-537-1787.

Temple Emanu-El, 1010 University Ave. San Jose, 408-292-0939.

Beth Emek, 3400 Nevada St. Pleasanton, 925-931-1055.

Temple Emanu-El, 1010 University Avenue, which is in or near the Rose Garden district is Reform.

In Willow Glen, The Congregation Sinai, at 1532 Willowbrae Ave. a conservative synagogue.

Am Echad is an Orthodox shul (Hebrew for "temple.") at 1504 Meridian Avenue.

The Chabad, which is very conservative/traditional is located at 15405 Los Gatos Blvd. Suite 204, Los Gatos.

The Messianic Congregation, Jews for Jesus is located at 16735 Lark in Los Gatos.

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