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Two miracles brought the Jewish people out of darkness and into the light

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Jews light the candles of the menorah for 8 days, commemorating the miracle of Chanukah after the Maccabee uprising defeated the Greek occupiers of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem (Photo: Element5 on Unsplash)

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So, what is this holiday called Chanukah about? Every year, in the month of December, the 25th of Kislev on the Jewish calendar, Jews all over the world light the first of the Chanukah candles. They celebrate with family by eating latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganiyot (jelly doughnuts). They play games with dreidels and chocolate coins, and they sing Chanukah related songs.

Like many other Jewish holidays, Chanukah is about celebrating; but behind the celebrations are hard one triumphs.

Chanukah is about commemorating two miracles that occurred long ago. One is the miracle of the Jewish people’s victory by the Hasmoneans over the brutal Greeks in a war of overwhelming odds. The other is the miracle of the oil.  

During the days of the second temple the Greeks ruled over the land of Israel. As is quite common in the collective Jewish history, the Jews were not treated well by the Greek leaders. In the writings of Maimonides, he references many of the harsh decrees against the Jews. The Jews were not allowed to practice their religion or partake of Jewish learning. The Greeks took whatever they wanted from the Jewish people, which included abusing their wives and daughters.  The Greeks also entered the Holy Temple and vandalized it. They defiled any holy objects that they found. 

One family mobilized against the Greeks. A family of priests who came to be known as the Maccabees. This small, but determined group of fighters managed to overthrow the Greeks despite insurmountable odds and restore Israel and the Temple to Jewish sovereignty. 

As part of the daily rituals in the Temple, the menorah was lit by the priests. They could not use just any oil for this purpose. The oil that was used was specially prepared, sanctified and stored in containers with the seal of the high priest. When the Greeks rampaged through the Temple, they destroyed all but one pitcher of oil that was properly sealed. It would take the priests another week to prepare more oil. So, the priests lit the menorah using the oil from this lone pitcher; enough oil to keep the menorah burning for one day.

But then a miracle happened. The oil from this small pitcher, oil that should have burned out after a single day, kept the menorah burning for eight days providing enough time to prepare more oil to keep the menorah burning. 

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Some say that this is actually the second miracle of the oil. They say that the first miracle is that the Hasmoneans found even one pitcher of sanctified oil amongst the ruin caused by the Greeks. 

Our sages decreed that we would celebrate the miracles that took place every year on the 25th of Kislev on the Jewish calendar.

Each night, after sunset, for eight straight nights we light the menorah. We also say 2 blessings over the lighting of the candles (3 on the first night as we say Shehechiyanu – a blessing for new things). One blessing is for the lighting of the candles and the second is for the miracles performed by G-d for our forefathers. 

After completing both blessings while lighting the Chanukah candles, people will joyously and enthusiastically sing Hanerot Halalu and Maoz Tzur – and play with dreidels. (Photo Robert Zunikoff on Unsplash)

On the first night, we light one candle, placed in the right most place on the menorah, and the shamash – this is the candle that we use to light all of the other candles. It does not count as one of the eight.

On the second night, we light two candles plus the shamash. Each night we add another candle starting from the right to left, but we light the candles from the left to right.

Most agree that we begin the lighting of the candles after completing both blessings. Traditionally, people will joyously and enthusiastically sing Hanerot Halalu and Maoz Tzur after lighting the candles –and play with dreidels.

Chanukah is full of warm traditions to delight one and all. Our sages declared that the eight days of Chanukah are days of joy and praise. In fact, it is forbidden to eulogize or to fast during Chanukah. And it seems like the irresistible foods made on Chanukah are designed with fasting prevention in mind; foods fried in oil like the doughnuts and latkes that help us to celebrate in an oh so delightful way.

May the light of your menorah stay within your hearts throughout the year. I wish you all a very Happy Chanukah!  

Rav Corey Margolese is the founder of JTeach.ca, a not-for-profit organization that offers training and resources in the dangers of antisemitism, Holocaust education, and in Judaic traditions, culture and religion. He is a public school teacher.

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Thank you for choosing TheJ.Ca as your source for Canadian Jewish News.

We do news differently!

Our positioning as a Zionist News Media platform sets us apart from the rest. While other Canadian Jewish media are advocating increasingly biased progressive political and social agendas, TheJ.Ca is providing more and more readers with a welcome alternative and an ideological home.

We revealed the incursion of anti-Israel progressive elements such as IfNotNow into our communities. We have exposed the distorted hateful agenda of the “progressive” left political radicals who brought Linda Sarsour to our cities, and we were first to report on many disturbing incidents of Nazi-based hate towards Jews across Canada.

But we can’t do it alone. We need your HELP!

Our ability to thrive and grow in 2020 and beyond depends on the generosity of committed readers and supporters like you.

Monthly support is a great way to help us sustain our operations. We greatly appreciate any contributions you can make to support Jewish Journalism.

We thank you for your ongoing support.

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