Chanukah to shine its lights starting Nov. 28
It is the year 5782 on the Jewish calendar, and on the 25th of the Hebrew month of Kislev, the first day of Chanukah will arrive nipping at the heels of Thanksgiving. Also known as the Festival of Lights, Chanukah begins Sunday evening, Nov. 28 and ends at sundown on Monday, Dec. 6 on the Gregorian calendar.
The holiday of Chanukah celebrates the revolt waged for Judaism’s survival by a band of Jewish farmers, the Maccabee’s, from 167-165 BCE, against the Hellenization of the Jews in Judea. Ordered by the Greek-Syrian King, Antiochus Epiphenes IV, a policy, which forbade the study of Torah, was seen by the Maccabees as “a betrayal of Israel’s covenant with God.” After the fighting, Jewish forces returned to restore the great temple in Jerusalem only to discover that the desecration wrought inside was devastating. And, there was only enough oil left to light the great menorah that burned in front of the ark, for one night. The legend of the miracle of the oil, which lasted for eight nights, is the basis of the holiday.
The temple was cleaned and rededicated. The rabbis interpreted the story of the oil as a sign that God approved of the fight for the “survival of the uniqueness of Judaism.” Like the oil that burned, a Jewish soul would continue to shine its light in a dark world.
In 1988, in his book “The Jewish Way,” Rabbi Irving Greenberg, wrote: The Maccabee Revolution made clear that a universalism (in this case Hellenism) that denies the rights of the particular to exist is inherently totalitarian and will end up oppressing people in the name of one humanity.
I am reminded of the wisdom of Ecclesiastes 1:9: “There is nothing new under the sun.”
The magnificent menorah seen last year on the lawn of 634 Central Ave. in Dunkirk will soon reappear. And, for those of us who take seriously the opportunity to indulge in culinary delights during this season of gratitude, I look forward to the journey from Thanksgiving leftovers to potato latkes and sufganiot (Israeli jelly doughnuts.) A Chanukah celebration will be held at Temple Beth El, 507 Washington Ave., Dunkirk, on Sunday, Dec. 5 at 5 p.m.
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Linda Dunn is President of Temple Beth El.