Guide to Jewish Holidays

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Title: The Miracle of Lights, By Billie S. Loper-Berman

The Miracle of Lights, Chanukah, is one of the most celebrated of the Jewish Holidays and enjoyed all over the world. It has become a Holiday that people who are not Jewish now know is a Jewish Holiday and have grown to love to learn about the ancient miracle and renew its blessing as well-wishers will often remember their Jewish friends on this joyous occasion. I have begun receiving Chanukah Cards from my Christian and Muslim friends. This I believe is a Miracle and an awakening from the long-lived era of Jews living in fear of antisemitism and being told that they cannot practice their faith.

The historical documentation is thought to be reliable as it comes from the cannon of the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches and Apocryphal by most Protestant Christians. The accounts of the wars of the Jewish revolt against the Hasmonian dynasty are recorded in the books 1 Maccabees and 2 Maccabees. Yes, it is the age-old story of power-hungry crazed religious leaders who tried to do away with the Jewish people. The Hasmonean dynasty comprised of Greek and Roman rulers, who worshiped many Gods, Zeus is the supreme God. The Alter in the Temple of Jerusalem was said to have been made an altar to Zeus. Sacrifices of swine were made to Zeus on this alter. The Hasmonean dynasty and the Syrians from the South were eventually beaten down by the Maccabees over a number of years and wars during which time they had to secretly practice their faith or leave their faith and/or leave the region to protect their families thus beginning of the Jewish diaspora.

In 164 BCE, Judah, successfully led the Maccabees to victory against the Seleucid’s with the institution of guerrilla warfare practices, captured Jerusalem and ordered the Temple which had been desecrated to be cleansed. “After having recovered Jerusalem, Judah ordered the Temple to be cleansed, a new altar to be built in place of the Desecrated one, and new holy vessels to be made.” (1 Maccabees 4:59) “When the fire had been kindled anew upon the altar and the lamps of the candlestick lit, the dedication of the altar was celebrated for eight days amid sacrifices and songs.” (1 Maccabees 4:36) The Kindly of the Chanukah Lights is truly a blessing from God and has since become a wonderful custom for Jewish families to practice and to remember their strong Jewish heritage.

On the 25th of Kislev are the days of Chanukah, which are eight… these were appointed a Festival with Hall el (prayers of praise) and thanksgiving. (Shabbat 21b, Babylonian Talmud)The Talmud presents the three customs of lighting one light per household each night, one light each night for each member of the household and/or the most beautiful method where the number of candles changed each night.

The Blessing

The blessing is said:

Barukh ata adonai Eloheinu nelekh ha’olam asher kid’shanu b’mitzvatav v’tzivanu l’hadlik neir shel Chanukah.
(Blessed are You, Lord our God, Ruler of the universe, who has sanctified us with God’s commandments, and has commanded us to light the Chanakah candles.)

Barukh ata adonai Eloheinu melekh ha’olam she’asah nissim la’avoteinu bayamim hahem bazman ha’zeh.
(Blessed are you, Lord our God, Ruler of the universe who performed miracles for our ancestors in those days at this time.)

We sing the prayer, we light the Chanukah Menorah, and for every Jewish Holiday there is lots of food and the most favorite for Chanukah is lakes, potato pancakes, served with sour cream and/or applesauce or fruit. We spin the dreidel and play the dreidel game which is such fun and gamble away or win Gelt(gold coins with chocolate in the middle). Oh my, we teach our children to gamble and yes, we teach them that it is O.K. to fight on the Sabbath if we are protecting our people, our families and our Temple. Jews have become strong and powerful people and we will not see another Holocaust.

The Gift-giving Custom

Oh, and let us not forget, that we have developed a custom of giving gifts to our children and sometimes the adults participate as well. When my children left home I couldn’t wait for Chanukah because I would buy my husband a gift for each day of Chanukah. “What is this!” He would say. I was hoping that he would buy me a gift for each night too but he never did. He enjoyed opening those gifts and I enjoyed getting the one big gift that he got me on the last day of Chanukah. It was something very nice to keep like a necklace or earrings or a nice coat or something beautiful for the house. And then the kids would come home and want all eight of their gifts even though they weren’t home for the full eight days. My husband is gone now as he has passed away and I have all of those things that he gave me to remember him as well as the wonderful memories.

I believe the gift-giving has been adopted from the tradition of Christmas because Chanukah and Christmas are often close together and Jews in the U.S have started giving their children gifts at Chanukah. It brings joy to the family even if the gifts are just little silly things or homemade art. I want to thank the Christians for bringing “The Miracle of Lights” to the world and helping bring to Jews this beautiful tradition.

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