Learn more about Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights

Hanukkah is the Hebrew term for rededication. The holiday begins on the 25th day of the month of Kislev in the Jewish calendar. It is celebrated for eight days in honor of the Jews’ victory against the Syrian/Greeks and the miracle of the oil lasting for eight days to rededicate the temple.

Over 2,300 years ago in Judea (Israel), the Syrian/Greek King Antiochus ordered the Jewish people to give up their beliefs and customs. Judah Maccabee and his four brothers stood up to the King. They were called Maccabees, which means hammer. The Maccabees and the Syrian/Greeks battled against each other until the Maccabees defeated the Syrian/Greeks and reclaimed the Temple in Jerusalem.

As the legend goes, the Maccabees’ first priority was to clean and rededicate the temple, so they washed and scrubbed the temple clean, but they could not find any oil to light the lamps. Finally, in one of the Temple chambers they discovered a small can of oil. It was just enough oil for the lights to be lit for one evening. Then a miracle happened. That small can of oil lasted for eight nights. This is why the Hanukkah menorah has eight candles. Each one represents a night that the oil lasted to keep the Temple lit.

On the first night of Hanukkah one light is lit and we continue to add candles each night for eight nights until all eight are shining brightly. This reminds us of the miracle that happened so long ago. Traditionally, the candles are placed in the menorah from right to left, but lit from left to right. Special blessings are recited each night before the candles are lit.