From Figures of Faith: Rabbi shares why Jews celebrate ‘the festival of lights’

A menorah for Hanukkah | Photo by Tomertu/iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

FEATURE — For the “From Figures of Faith” series, St. George News reached out to the Interfaith Council of St. George and asked if they had a message about the holiday season they would like to share with our readers.

The following was submitted by Rabbi Helene Ainbinder, Beit Chaverim Jewish Community of Greater Zion.

Hanukkah known as “Hag Ha’Urim”, the festival of Lights was the story of the Jewish people’s fight for religious freedom. The story is about a small Jewish army’s victory over the mighty Greek and Assyrian Armies around 125 BCE. The house of the Hasmonean family, with the priest named Mattathias (Matiyahu) and his sons, wanted to keep Judaism alive. Judah was known as Judah the Maccabee (Hammerer) because his men struck their enemies like a hammer.

While the men charged into the battle, they would shout out the battle cry,

“Mi Khamokha ba’alim Adonai!” (“Who is like You among the gods, O Almighty!”).The acronym of this chant was the same as the rebels were called -MACCABEE.

The Holy Temple in Jerusalem was desecrated by the Greeks. The Jewish people cleaned the Holy Temple and rededicated it using pure oil to kindle the menorah of seven branches. “They found a small jar of oil hidden within the walls. It was oil from Noah’s olives from the dove’s oil branch.” (Midrash: story based on Torah) That day was the 25 Kislev. While practicing Judaism was forbidden on pain death, Jews played a dreidel game (tops) to show the Greeks they were not studying Judaism. This year Hanukkah will fall on the evening of Sunday, Dec. 18, 2022/25 Kislev 5783. Hanukkah lasts eight days.

Our custom is to eat foods made in oil, such as latkes (potato pancakes) and Jelly donuts. The Jewish menorah for Hanukkah is called a Hanukkiah and has eight candles with a ninth candle called the “Shamesh” the helper candle to light all the candles.

One places the candles right to left (like reading Hebrew) and then lights the newest one first. As the days pass, the kindled candlelight brings more warmth and more strength to the Jewish people. A remembrance of the darkness of a time of war was made as a lightning strike by the brave and righteous Jews so many years ago.

St. George News will continue to add new messages to the “From Figures of Faith” series over the weekend leading up to Christmas Day. For all faith messages, click here.

Submissions are not the product of St. George News, its editors, staff or news contributors. The matters stated and opinions given are the responsibility of the person submitting them. They do not reflect the product or opinion of St. George News and are given only light edit for technical style and formatting.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2022, all rights reserved.

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