By: CJ Ramsaran

Hanukkah, also referred to as the “Jewish Festival of Lights” is an eight-day celebration in recognition of religious & cultural freedoms. 

In the Hebrew language, the word “hanukkah” translates to “dedication”. As Hanukkah is observed each year, it is a rededication of The Holy Temple in Jerusalem.

The Story of Hanukkah dates back to 2nd century BCE, more than a century following the reign of Alexander The Great.  Antiochus IV, a successor to Alexander oppressed and massacred the Jews.  He placed a Hellenistic priest in the Jewish Temple, and prohibited the practice of Judaism.  The Temple was desecrated, with the introduction of the sacrifice of pigs – non-kosher animals at the altar.

It was not long before a revolution began against the assimilation of the Hellenistic Jews and oppression by the Seleucid Greek Government; led by Mattathias the Hasmonean and his son Judah Maccabee, along with the religious group the Chasidim.

Mattathias the Hasmonean, his son Judah Maccabee, and the Chasidims succeeded in their revolution, making way for the rededication of the Jewish Temple.  During the rededication, it was discovered there was only enough oil to light the menorah for one day.  The remaining oil had been defiled and could not be used.  The Menorah was lit, and to everyone’s astonishment, the menorah miraculously burned for eight days, which was the exact number of days needed to replenish the oil.  This event was deemed a miracle, and an eight-day festival to commemorate the oil was born.

Today, during the eight-day festival, each night a new candle from the menorah (candelabrum) is lit until all eight are glowing.  On the first day, recitals of  three Berakhot blessings are conducted before the Shammus (servant) candle and first Hanukkah candle is lit. On the second and subsequent nights only two Berakhot blessings are recited.

Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights continues to be widely observed and in the Jewish community.  It is a reminder of the trials and tribulations their ancestors had to be overcome to have the religious and cultural freedoms they celebrate today.

Happy Hanukkah to you and yours!