Experience the full joy of each holiday together as a community.
Hanukkah begins on December 22nd.
The first candle is lit any time after at Sundown.
Each night for 8 nights we add a candle to the menorah and the final candle is lit in the evening on December 29th.
During Hanukkah we enjoy latkes and sufganiot (jelly donuts). We play dreidel and snack on chocolate gelt.
History and Meaning:
Chanukah celebrates the victory for religious freedom led by Mattathias and his sons—Judah, Yonatan, Eliezer, Yochanan, and Simeon, along with their army of followers. They took the name Maccabees, which means hammer, symbolizing the force and might they brought to this struggle. The Maccabees battled against Antiochus Epiphanes, king of Syria, who wanted to put an end to the Jewish faith. Syria, ruled by the Seleucids, had been Hellenized. This meant they had adopted the Greek culture and religion. Antiochus Epiphanes planned to force the Jews to accept Greek life, too. Though vastly outnumbered, the small band of Maccabees prevailed and won the war for religious and cultural freedom. They recaptured the Temple in Jerusalem, which had been desecrated by the Syrian-Greek army. Chanukah means “dedication.” When the Maccabees regained control over Jerusalem and the Temple, they cleansed the Temple of its foreign gods and symbols. They held a ceremony rededicating the Temple to the service of God. The holiday of Chanukah derives its name from this ceremony.
The Mitzvot and Ethics of Jewish life:
The essential mitzvah of Chanukah is seeing the lights of the Chanukah menorah, or chanukiyah. The chanukiyah holds nine candles, one for each of the eight nights of Chanukah and a ninth, called the shamash, or servant candle, which is used to light the other candles. There was a Talmudic debate between the school of Hillel and the school of Shammai. Shammai held that we should begin Chanukah by lighting all eight candles and decrease the number as the holiday progresses. Hillel, on the other hand, taught that we should begin by lighting one candle and increase the number of candles so increasing joy is represented by the increasing display of lights. The teaching of Hillel was accepted, and we follow his custom of adding a candle each night of Chanukah. We are also instructed to publicize the miracle of Chanukah. To fulfill this commandment, it has become a tradition to display the chanukiyah in a window so those who pass by Jewish homes will know of the miracles of Chanukah. What are the miracles of Chanukah? There is the legendary story in the Talmud of the miracle of the oil. This legend stated that when the Maccabees had cleansed the Temple and were ready to kindle the ner tamid, the eternal light, only one small jar of oil marked with the seal of the Kohen Gadol, the High Priest, was found. It would burn for only one day, and it would take eight days before more oil could be prepared. Miracle of miracles, the rabbis taught us, the oil burned for eight days. There is also the miracle of the military victory of the small band of Maccabees over their oppressors. And there is the miracle of religious freedom, a value cherished by the Jewish people, not only for themselves but also for all peoples.