The eight-day celebration of Hanukkah begins tonight. On behalf of the authors at SPIB, I want to wish all of our friends and readers a happy and joyous Hanukkah celebration.
In 168 B.C.E. the Jewish Temple was seized by Syrian-Greek soldiers and dedicated to the worship of the god Zeus. This upset the Jewish people, but many were afraid to fight back for fear of reprisals. Then in 167 B.C.E. the Syrian-Greek emperor Antiochus made the observance of Judaism an offense punishable by death. He also ordered all Jews to worship Greek gods.
Jewish resistance began in the village of Modiin, near Jerusalem. Greek soldiers forcibly gathered the Jewish villages and told them to bow down to an idol, then eat the flesh of a pig – both practices that are forbidden to Jews. A Greek officer ordered Mattathias, a High Priest, to acquiesce to their demands, but Mattathias refused. When another villager stepped forward and offered to cooperate on Mattathias’ behalf, the High Priest became outraged. He drew his sword and killed the villager, then turned on the Greek officer and killed him too. His five sons and the other villagers then attacked the remaining soldiers, killing all of them.
Mattathias and his family went into hiding in the mountains, where other Jews wishing to fight against the Greeks joined them. Eventually they succeeded in retaking their land from the Greeks. These rebels became known as the Maccabees, or Hasmoneans.
Once the Maccabees had regained control they returned to the Temple in Jerusalem. By this time it had been spiritually defiled by being used for the worship of foreign gods and also by practices such as sacrificing swine. Jewish troops were determined to purify the Temple by burning ritual oil in the Temple’s menorah for eight days. But to their dismay, they discovered that there was only one day’s worth of oil left in the Temple. They lit the menorah anyway and to their surprise the small amount of oil lasted the full eight days.
This is the miracle of the Hanukkah oil that is celebrated every year when Jews light a special menorah known as a hanukkiyah for eight days. One candle is lit on the first night of Hanukkah, two on the second, and so on, until eight candles are lit.
HuffPo has an article by Ian Deitch with information about some of this year’s celebrations and a slideshow of photos of menorah lightings. From the article:
JERUSALEM — Jews around the world ushered in the eight-day Hanukkah festival Saturday evening, lighting the first candles of ceremonial lamps that symbolize triumph over oppression.
In Israel, families gathered after sundown for the lighting, eating traditional snacks of potato pancakes and doughnuts and exchanging gifts.
Local officials lit candles set up in public places, while families displayed the nine-candle lamps, called menorahs, in their windows or in special windproof glass boxes outside.
Hanukkah, also known as the festival of lights, commemorates the Jewish uprising in the second century B.C. against the Greek-Syrian kingdom, which had tried to impose its culture on Jews and adorn the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem with statues of Greek gods.
The holiday lasts eight days because according to tradition, when the Jews rededicated the Temple in Jerusalem, a single vial of oil, enough for one day, burned miraculously for eight.
For many Jewish people, the holiday symbolizes the triumph of good over evil.
Observant Jews light a candle each night to mark the holiday.
Oily foods are eaten to commemorate the oil miracle, hence the ubiquitous fried doughnuts and potato pancakes, known as latkes.
In Israel, children play with four-sided spinning tops, or dreidels, decorated with the letters that form the acronym “A great miracle happened here.” Outside of Israel, the saying is “A great miracle happened there.” Israeli students get time off from school for the holiday, when families gather each night to light the candles, eat and exchange gifts.
Hanukkah – which means dedication – is one of the most popular holidays in Israel, and has a high rate of observance.
In Ohio, the first public candle lighting on Saturday will be by Holocaust survivor Abe Weinrib, who turns 100 next week. Weinrib, who will light the first candle on a 13-foot public menorah at Easton Town Center in Columbus, said his biggest triumph was surviving the Holocaust, the Nazi campaign to eliminate Jews in Europe.
Weinrib told The Columbus Dispatch newspaper that he was arrested while working in Polish factories owned by his uncle when he was in his 20s. He spent six years imprisoned in camps, including the notorious Auschwitz.
In New York City, Jews are celebrating the holiday’s start with the ceremonial lighting of a 32-foot-tall menorah at the edge of Central Park.
Dignitaries, rabbis and a big crowd are expected Saturday evening for the ceremony. The steel menorah weighs 4,000 pounds and stands tall enough that organizers will need an electric utility crane to reach the top. It has real oil lamps, protected from the wind by glass chimneys.
A large menorah is also ready to be lit on the lawn in front of Independence Hall in Philadelphia. The menorah is being put up by the Philadelphia Lubavitch Center, a group dedicated to Jewish education.
Move America Forward sent this information in an e-mail this evening. It can also be found online here.
JEWS IN US MILITARY CELEBRATE BEGINNING OF HANUKKAH
Today is the beginning of Hanukkah, eight of the holiest days in the Jewish calendar.
Hanukkah commemorates the re-dedication of the holy Temple in Jerusalem following the Jewish victory over the Syrian-Greeks in 165 B.C.E. It also reminds us of the great Jewish contributions that have been made to our military by extreme dedication and hard of work of many patriots over many years.
Since the birth of our country and even before, Jews have been part of our Armed Forces, making contributions to keep us safe and free. In George Washington’s Continental Army, there were Jewish patriots present, fighting for America’s freedom from the British. Lt. Col. Solomon Bush was one such famous Jew, decorated for bravery in fighting the British at the battle of Brandywine, where his brother Lewis was also gravely wounded.
Since then our military has always had Jewish troops fighting and supporting America in every armed conflict we’ve been in. Roughly 250,000 Jews fought for the United States in World War I, another 550,000 in World War II. Admiral Ben Moreel became the first jewish sailor to reach the rank of 4 star admiral and founded the famous Navy Seabees.
Today, thousands of Jews continue to serve as part of our armed forces, fighting in the war on terror. In Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere, Jews have laid down their lives for the red white and blue.
A partial list of Jewish-Americans who have died in the line of duty follows and appreciation is expressed for their sacrifice.
Hanukkah and/or Christmas care packages can be sent to our troops at THIS LINK.
Other care packages to help cheer our military while they are away from home can be found here:
And ideas on how to put together your own military care package: