This year, on the eve of November 28, 2021, Jews around the world will light the first candle on the left side of the menorah to commemorate the “miracle of lights.” It is the beginning of the eight-day holiday known as Hanukkah or sometimes spelled Hanukkah. Every night thereafter, at sunset, an additional candle would be lit. The central candle, called “Al-Shams”, meaning the servant, is lit and used to light the other candles.
Hanukkah, meaning devotion, in Hebrew, is a happy and joyful holiday, and there are many stories about how the holiday came about and what it celebrates. My favorite, simply put, is as follows:
From a long time ago, Jews were not allowed to practice their religious rites. Their temple, where they would gather, pray and honor God, was tainted with statues of pagan idols. All traditional Jewish religious elements were removed and/or destroyed. The Maccabees were a group of Jews who wanted their religious freedom. They bravely fought the king’s army for three years and finally with perseverance, hope and faith defeated the king’s army and regained their religious freedom. The Jews recovered their temple and purified it. When this was done they were ready to rededicate the temple to God. They were very happy. They danced and sang in celebration, until they realized they only had enough oil to keep the eternal light burning for one night. This is too heavy for their hearts. It was a bit of a miracle that the little jug of oil lasted for eight nights. By this time they had a quantity of olive oil. This is why Hanukkah is also called the Feast of Lights. The miracle of lights shows us that when things are at their darkest, persistence and faith can bring light.
Recently, the holiday has become rich in traditional foods such as French fries and sweet buns. Denotes foods fried in oil. Hanukkah Gelt (money) made with chocolate has also become a major holiday spot. Dreidel (Spinning Top) is part of a fun slot game. The gel is used to place and pay bets. For eight nights after prayers are recited and candles are lit, children can choose one of eight gifts and open it.
On December 5, 2021, at 4:30 p.m., the Jewish Federation of Villages and Greater Sumter County will join together with rabbis from the synagogues in Leesburg, Mount Dora, the villages and Ocala to celebrate Hanukkah at the Lake Square Mall in Leesburg. We’d like everyone to join us in the festivities. We want to share a part of our culture with all of you.
Come on, bring your kids, learn about the Hanukkah holiday. Let’s join together as a community and Tikkun Olam (Heal the World.)