Jewish holiday of light comes ahead of Christmas
For more than two millennia the Jewish people have celebrated the holiday of Chanukah, a festival that lasts eight days. This is time for joy and family reunion during which we express our gratitude to God for the miracles the ancient Jews experienced during their revolt against the Hellenic invaders in the 2nd Century BCE. Lead by Antiochus Epiphanes, the Hellenes conquered Jerusalem and desecrated the Holy Temple. But then God gave our forefathers spiritual strength which allowed them to achieve victory against the invaders and reclaim the physical and spiritual freedom to sanctify the Holy Temple again. The high priests continued their service to God in the Temple, and the Jewish people regained their independence after a dark period of suffering.
There are a number of miracles that Chanukah celebrates.
First comes the victory of the few against the many. The few Jews, lead by the Maccabees of the House of the Hashmonaim, defeated the numerous Hellenic cohorts with their war elephants and fighting skills.
The second miracle that God performed for his people was the miracle involving a little olive oil that burnt for eight days instead of one.
In order to sanctify the Temple again, the priests had to light the menorah. Once lit, its flame had to be constantly maintained with special olive oil, but that had been stolen by the invaders. The available amount was sufficient for just a day, yet it lasted for eight.
Two miracles: the spiritual strength of the Maccabees that ensured victory and thus the future of the Jewish people as a free nation and the olive oil that allowed the prayers to continue in the Holy Temple.
This is why this festival is very important in the Jewish tradition. It celebrates deeds and symbols that have a great significance in our value system as a nation. We celebrate Hanukkah with a lot of joy, lighting the candles of the Hanukiah, a special candelabrum with eight candles, for eight days, plus one called "the attendant," which is usually put separate from the others.
This wonderful holiday brings a lot of joy and light to every jewish home around the world. We eat doughnuts fried in oil, we invite our non-Jewish friends to our communities to share the joy and the light of the Hanukiah candles with them, the children play the Dreidel game that tells the story of Chanukah, everybody is connected to the holiday, bounded by light, oil fried delights and the joy of victory.
A very joyful season is ahead of us, full of celebration and holidays for every faith. I hope that when all good people join their efforts, light will prevail darkness, good will defeat evil, and the future will bring us all satisfaction. After all, those are the messages that the holidays of this season bring us.
Together, we can work hand in hand in the present, so that we can achieve a future of stability, prosperity, tolerance and justice – the best present that we can give to our generations, for any season!
* Shaul Kamisa Raz is the ambassador of Israel