01:12
Reported

News Brief

  12/9/2012, Kislev 25, 5773

Hanukkah, Holiday of Lights, Starts Saturday Night


The holiday of lights, Hanukkah, begins on Saturday night, celebrating the victory of the Israelite Maccabees over the Greeks in 167 B.C.E., during the time of the Second Temple in Jerusalem, when the Greek Empire controlled the holy land. The holiday lasts for eight days.

The Hanukkah story is one of brave men, imbued with faith, who fought for religious freedom against all odds.The Greek King Antiochus had decreed that Jews may not keep the Sabbath, study Torah, perform circumcisions and other commandments. High Priest Matityahu and his five sons managed to organize a guerilla fighters' rebellion that defeated the mighty Greek Army, placing the "many in the hands of the few" as is written in the "Al Hanissim" Hanukkah prayer that tells the inspiring story and gives gratitude to G-d for the victory..

The victors came to the Temple and had to repair and refurbish it and its altars after their profanation by the Greeks and the Jews who cooperated with them, called Hellenists. They rededicated the Temple and its altar on the 25th day of the Hebrew month of Kislev, but when attempting to light its holy seven-branched Menorah once again, they found only a small vial of olive oil with the seal of the High Priest. 

Miraculously, the oil burned for 8 days, enough time to acquire more olives and press a new supply of holy oil.

To remember these miracles, that of the victory and of the oil, Jewish households light an eight branched candelabra called a Hanukkiyah each night for the eight days of the holiday, beginning with one light placed on the right of the person kindling the lights and adding another each night to the left of the one lit the previous night. The lights are kindled with a candle called the "Shamash", which is placed separately from the others. Three blessings are recited the first night and two for the other seven nights.  The Hanukkiyah must be placed so that it can publicize the miracle to passersby and stay lit for at least half an hour after dark; its light must not be used for any purpose other than remembering the miracles..  

For details of Hanukkah laws, prayers and customs, click here.  For latke and doughnut recipes, click here.