8 days of Chanukah begins tonight

  • Published
  • By Joe and Shoshana Friedman
  • Vance Jewish Lay Leaders
This year Chanukah, the festival of lights begins tonight and lasts for eight days. All around the world Jewish people celebrate the holiday to commemorate an event that took place over 2,300 years ago in the land of Judea, which is now Israel.

The story begins long ago in the land of Judea when the Syrian King, Antiochus, ordered the Jewish people to reject their God and their religion, their customs and beliefs and to worship the Greek gods. There were some who did so in fear of death. However, there were some, led by Judah Maccabee, who refused.

Judah and his four brothers formed a small army and, after three years of fighting, defeated the Syrians. After they reclaimed the Temple in Jerusalem, the Maccabees wanted to cleanse the building and remove all of the Greek symbols and statues. On the 25th day of the Jewish month of Kislev, the job was finished and the temple was rededicated.

The miracle of Chanukah came about when the Maccabees wanted to relight the eternal light, the "N'er Tamid," which is present in every temple. Once this lamp is lit, it should never be extinguished. However, after cleaning the temple, they only found enough olive oil for a single day. The miracle occurred when the oil lasted for eight days; exactly long enough to procure more oil.

Jews around the world celebrate Chanukah to mark the victory over the Syrians and the rededication of the temple in Jerusalem. The Festival of Lights lasts for eight days to commemorate the miracle of the oil and the rededication of the Temple. The celebration of the holiday consists of lighting the Chanukah Menorah from right to left, starting with one candle on day one, two candles are lit on day two and finishing by lighting eight candles on day eight. Furthermore, most Jews will celebrate by decorating their houses, exchanging gifts, playing dreidel and preparing special food for the holiday.