Festival of Lights marks Maccabean revolt, rededication of temple
The eight-day Jewish celebration of Hannukah begins on Friday, Dec. 11 at sunset.
Congregation Beth El Binah, the Jewish synagogue that meets at Resource Center Dallas, celebrates the holiday at Friday night services, with the lighting of the first candle. Then they gather at a member’s home in Plano for a Hannukah party on Sunday, Dec. 13.
Diane Litke, president of Congregation Beth El Binah, explained that Hannukah celebrates the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem at the time of an uprising by the Maccabees, a Jewish rebel army, against the Greek empire.
The battle took place in 165 B.C. The Jewish Maccabees, with just 6,000 fighters, defeated the Assyrians, who had more than 40,000 soldiers. The Jews recaptured and rededicated the temple in Jerusalem.
Several hundred years later, while the Jews were living under Roman rule, the story was created of enough oil to light the temple for only one day miraculously lasting for eight days.
To hide the celebration of a battle victory by a small indigenous tribe over a much larger occupying army, they developed the story of "the miracle of Hannukah."
In a temple, a ner tamid, or eternal light, burns above the ark where the holy scrolls are stored. The story says that when the Jews rededicated the temple, they only had enough oil to keep the lamp burning for one day. Miraculously, it stayed lit for eight days.
To celebrate, Jews light the chanukiah or menorah, a nine-branched candelabrum. One candle is lit on the first night, two on the second, until the last night when all eight are illuminated. The ninth candle is used each night to light the others.
Litke said that because of the story of the oil, the foods associated with the holiday are usually fried. The two most common are latkes (potato pancakes) and souvganiot (jelly doughnuts).
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 11, 2009.