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November 12, 2018 3 min read

Hanukkah  ~ The Festival of Lights ~  December 2nd– 10th, 2018

Planting a tree in Israel is a most meaningful gift to honor your children and grandchildren. The gift of their very own tree in the Holy Land becomes a spiritual connection. When you dedicate a tree for your children and grandchildren, we plant their tree in Israel, and inscribe their name and your dedication on our beautiful Jerusalem Certificate of Tree Planting.

As we celebrate the holiday of Hanukkah, we tell the exciting stories of our tradition: of the heroic Maccabees who fought for our freedom, and the miracle of the holy oil with which we rededicated the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. We give gratitude to God for our many blessings. 

The word Hanukkah means “consecrate” or “dedication”.  Hanukkah celebrates the rededication of the Second Jewish Temple in Jerusalem after recapturing it from the Greek Syrians in 163 BCE.

On each of the 8 nights of Hanukkah, we celebrate by singing the blessings and lighting the Hanukkiah (the special 9-light menorah of Hanukkah).  On the first evening this year, December 2nd, one candle is lit, then adding an extra candle each night, until the 8thnight.

The story of Hanukkah is told in the First Book of the Maccabees, one of the books of the Apocrypha.  Between 167 and 163 BCE, the Hellenist Greek-Syrians conquered the land and attempted to eliminate the Jewish religion from Judea. By force, they imposed Greek-oriented culture and customs on the Jews. At the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, Antiochus, the Syrian ruler, ordered desecration in the Temple by offering sacrifices to pagan gods on the holy altar there.

The Hasmoneans were the priestly, ruling family of Judea (as the land of Israel was called then).  First Mattathais, and then his son Judah the Maccabee, led the Hasmonean Jewish revolt and uprising against the Greek-Syrians.  

After several years of struggle and battle, the Jews were successful in driving the Greek-Syrians out of Israel. To reclaim their sacred Temple, work was begun to clean and purify it.  Pure oil was needed to light the golden menorah of the Temple, but only one container, with the intact seal of the High Priest, was found. This one container held oil sufficient to light the golden menorah in the Temple for only one day. 

The great miracle was that the oil in this one small container lasted for an entire eight days of lighting the golden menorah.  Eight days is the length of time required to make more pure and holy oil.

The ner tamid ("eternal flame") in the Temple was the great golden menorah; commanded by God in Exodus 27:20-21.  This eternal flame symbolizes God’s eternal and abiding presence.  Therefore, we never extinguish it.

Since that time, in every Jewish synagogue a ner tamid hangs above or near the ark holding the Torah scrolls, representing God's eternal presence, and recalling the golden menorah in the Temple. 

In modern Israel, Hanukkah has become a festival of national heroism, because it was through their courageous resistance and fighting that the Jews won back their land and their independence during the time of the Maccabees. 

To symbolize the great heroism of the Maccabees in battle, every year a torch is carried from the Tombs of the Maccabees in Modi’in, into Jerusalem and to the Western Wall, the last remaining wall of the Holy Temple. These honored runners relay the torch through the streets, finally passing the torch to the Chief Rabbi who lights the first candle of a large Menorah.

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