This Chanukah 2015, following the doughnut trail or sufganiot as they are called locally, I trudge my way from basic bakery to posh patisserie in Tel Aviv to taste these delicious delights. No real hardship you cry but, I am building up to be quite a doughnut myself! This Chanukah 2015, not to be outdone by the competition each baker has been more inventive than the next, creating exquisite dough balls dressed up enough for the red carpet! Here we sit however on the carpet of blue and white and celebrate the festival which is relevant to all the Jewish nation across the world .
What is Chanukah apart from the fun (& fattening) festivities of eating sufganiot, frying mounds of crispy latkes (potato cakes), candy parcels for kids and playing with dancing dreidels ( spinning tops) Why do we light the eight candles on the Menorah (candelabra with nine holders)? Chanukah commemorates our devotion and re-commitment to the Holy Temple in Jerusalem remembering the period of the Maccabean Revolt against the Selecuid Empire and celebrates the triumph of light over darkness.
The ruling Greeks at the time of the 2nd Temple accepted the Torah as a book of wisdom but refused to acknowledge it’s significance to the Jewish faith. They decreed that learning the Torah was forbidden, seized Jewish property and possessions and placed idols of worship at the Temple (Beit HaMikdash). People were afraid to stand up against this tyranny until the brave Mattityahu and his sons , the Maccabees, fought back and drove this cruel oppressor from the Holy Land.
During their occupation, the Greeks had defiled the Temple and made the oil impure. Fortunately, the Maccabees uncovered one jar that had been overlooked but, which was only sufficient for one day. Their unwavering faith in the Almighty again gave them courage, so they lit this last jar and released another miracle . The oil burned for eight days! Joy was returned, daily life restored, Temple cleansed and the Jewish faith became even stronger.
Chanukah (2015) is observed for eight nights & days commencing on the 25th day of Kislev in the Hebrew calendar, coinciding to the secular dates of 6th (sunset)- 14th December 2015. It is during this period that we are reminded of these miracles- a small band of heroic Jews against the great Greek armies, one jar of simple oil lasting for eight days. It is because of these extraordinary events we celebrate our freedom from the darkness to the light. We honor Chanukah by kindling the lights (candles) of the Menorah, one for each evening throughout the holiday until we reach the final night. Each of the eight candles is lit with the ninth, known as the ‘Shamash’ (he who attends) and is placed either in the center of the menorah or in a distinct location to separate it from the rest. Then we do what we’re great at, we party, sing, eat and play with dreidels!
Happy Chanukah may the Festival of Lights be with you!