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Festive season beginning with Hanukkah

Friday at sundown marked the beginning of The Festival of Lights.

Religiously speaking, Hanukkah is considered a minor holiday on the

Jewish calendar. Culturally, however, The Festival of Lights is a joyous

time when families and friends gather to light the menorah, eat potato

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latkes and, borrowing from Christmas traditions, exchange gifts.

In 165 B.C., Jews in Israel were driven out of their Jerusalem temple

by a tyrannical Syrian king. After a three-year battle, the king was

defeated and Jews reclaimed their synagogue and by extension their

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freedom to worship. When it was time to rededicate the temple, only

enough oil for one night was left. Miraculously, the oil lasted for eight

nights, thus the eight nights of Hanukkah. A blip on the historic

calendar? Maybe. An event with historic and symbolic meaning beyond the

obvious religious significance? Definitely.

“The focus of Hanukkah is the spiritual meaning of the story - of not

giving up even at the darkest of time,” said Rabbi Paula Reimers of

Temple Emanu El in Burbank. “No matter how dark the world gets, people

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doing good deeds will light up the whole world,”

The holiday’s other meaning speaks to tolerance, said Rabbi Carole

Meyers of Temple Sinai in Glendale.

“It means respect for the traditions of others and honoring the

differences between us,” she said. “Our task is to bring light into the

darkness,” Meyers said.

It’s a goal Jews and non-Jews should share together.

First Hanukkah then Christmas. It’s the festive time of the year.

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Sure, both are widely different religious symbols: one signifying the

reclaiming of a Jewish house of faith, the other celebrating the birth

Jesus Christ.

Put the religion aside for a minute.

Tolerance, community, goodwill, family. These are four words that are

stalwarts of both holidays. Here’s hoping that we can all remember their

significance in the next few harried weeks, into the Millennium and

beyond.

Happy Hanukkah, shalom aleichem.


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