Chanukah celebrations begin Tuesday
The holiday season will get some extra light starting on Tuesday, Dec. 20, when Jews in the quad-city area and all around the world will light the first candle in their menorahs to begin their celebration of Chanukah, "the Festival of Lights."
Chanukah is an eight-day observance that commemorates the successful revolt circa 200 BCE of the Maccabees and their allies against the oppression of Antiochus IV, an Assyrian-Greek tyrant who massacred Jews and attempted to wipe out Jewish practices, including desecrating the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.
"According to legend, the Maccabees defeated the much larger occupying army and expelled them from the Holy Land," explained Rabbi William Berkowitz of Temple B'rith Shalom in Prescott. "When the victors entered the Holy Temple, they couldn't find any pure olive oil to kindle the menorah. A small jar was unearthed that contained only enough oil to burn for one day. Instead, it burned for eight days. The Jews considered it a great miracle."
To commemorate the miracle, Jews light candles in their menorahs for each of the eight days that the jar of oil burned. "Chanukah means renewal - when the Maccabees restored the Holy Temple," Berkowitz noted. "Symbolically, Jews who observe Chanukah are renewing their belief in the power of faith to overcome oppression. "
Chanukah is a special time for Jewish children. "Since Chanukah falls near Christmas each year, our kids have a chance to celebrate the holiday season through their own faith," Berkowitz added. "Our tradition is to give children a small gift for each night of Chanukah. We also eat special foods such as potato latkes (pancakes) and doughnuts because they're made with oil, reminding us of the oil that burned for eight days."
Temple B'rith Shalom will hold a special Chanukah service 6 p.m. Friday, Dec. 23, preceded by holiday refreshments. For further information, contact the temple at 708-0018.