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
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
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
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.
Sure, both are widely different religious symbols: one signifying the
reclaiming of a Jewish house of faith, the other celebrating the birth
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
Happy Hanukkah, shalom aleichem.