FEATURE – St. George News invited members of the St. George Interfaith Council, who represent various denominations and faiths in the community, to share holiday messages with our readers to be posted throughout Christmas Day.
The following holiday message was submitted by Rabbi Helene Ainbinder, of Beit Chaverim of St.George.
The Jewish people celebrate the holiday of Hanukkah on the 25th day of the Hebrew month of Kislev, which began on the evening of Tuesday, Dec 16, 2014. Hanukkah in Hebrew means rededication. Over 2,200 years ago the Assyrians and Greeks were determined to convert the Jewish people to their religious ways of life. They desecrated our Holy Temple in Jerusalem.
A priest called Mattithias spoke out against these outrages and the demands by the government, however shortly after Mattithais was killed. One of Mattithais sons, Judah, took the leadership of their small Jewish army. His military strategy, which became known as gorilla warfare, earned him the name of Judah Maccabee (Judah the Hammer).
His army fought for many years with fast attacks against the large army led by General Antiochus. Judah and most of his brothers died in battle, however his army won the battle.
Our people were the first to fight for the rights of religious freedom. Our ancestors cleaned the Holy Temple and rededicated themselves by lighting a menorah with a small amount of sacred oil that should have lasted only one day. A miracle happened and the oil lasted for eight days!
Hanukkah brings a sense of hope even in the darkest times. As we kindle candles on the Hanukkiah (a menorah or candelabra) one increases the light by adding a new candle each night for eight days. This is done to remind us of the oil lasting eight days in the Holy Temple.
We are thankful for the Maccabees’ purpose, their belief for a right to practice a religion that dared to be different. Jews today acknowledge the strength of the Maccabees, in their fight for religious freedom and their steadfast determination in the face of adversity. They fought against great odds and they realized what was at stake if they failed in their endeavors. This was a victory of the nesamah (soul) of each individual and the community.
As a free people of a new nation we minted coins and had our own currency. Today children eat chocolate coins called gelt as a reminder of our first coins. We also were forbidden to practice Judaism and teach the Torah. Our ancestors used a spinning top game called a dreidel which enable the teachers to continue their studies without getting caught by the soldiers.
Today we live in a time requiring inner strength, determination and a fighting spirit. Though we are not taking up battle against a general like Antiochus as Judah the Maccabee had to do, we face similar threats that our ancestors did. Today we renew and rededicate ourselves to our Torah and our faith.
May each of us feel the warmth from the glow of the kindled candles and open our spirit, our hearts and hope for a better future.
Hag Ha’Urim Sameach! Happy Festival of Lights!
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