Friday, December 23, 2005

Happy Chanukah

Akhlah: Hanukah Blessings for the Menorah

"In many ways the story of Chanukah is the story of how one man and one family can make all the difference in the world for an entire people. It was the inspiration of Mattisyahu, the leadership of Judah Maccabee and the stubborn tenacity of the dedicated Jews that literally saved the Jewish people and the Jewish way of life. As a Jew, don't ever think that you can't make a difference." Excerpted from the book Chanukah - Eight Nights of Light, Eight Gifts for the Soul

Chanukah begins this year on Sunday night, December 25. Chanukah commemorates triumph over oppression and a celebration of the miracle of faith. Something we can all appreciate and support. contains a wealth of information for Jews and non Jews on Jewish laws, customs, practices and history. Here's their easy to understand relating of the Chanukah Story:

The Hebrew word Chanukah means "dedication." In the 2nd century BCE, the Syrian-Greek regime of Antiochus sought to pull Jews away from Judaism, with the hopes of assimilating them into Hellenism -- Greek culture. Antiochus outlawed aspects of Jewish observance -- including the study of Torah -- which began to decay the foundation of Jewish life and practice. During this period, many of the Jews began to assimilate into Greek culture, taking on Greek names and marrying non-Jews.

In response, a band of courageous Jews took to the hills of Judea in open revolt against this threat to Jewish life. Led by Matitiyahu, and later his son Judah the Maccabee ("The Hammer"), this small band of pious Jews led guerrilla warfare against the Syrian army.

Antiochus sent thousands of well-armed troops to crush the rebellion -- but the Maccabees succeeded in driving the foreigners from their land.

Jewish fighters entered Jerusalem in December, 164 BCE. The Holy Temple was in shambles, defiled and desecrated by foreign soldiers. They cleansed the Temple and rededicated it on the 25th day of the Jewish month of Kislev. When it came time to re-light the Menorah, they searched the entire Temple, but only one small jar of oil bearing the pure seal of the High Priest could be found. Miraculously, the small jar of oil burned for eight days, until a new supply of oil could be brought.

From then on, Jews have observed a holiday for eight days in honor of this historic victory and the miracle of the oil.

Today, the observance of Chanukah features the lighting of a special Chanukah menorah with eight branches (plus a helper candle), adding one new candle each night.

You'd be surprised how many Jews don't know the full story of Chanukah. Nor how to light a menorah. By that I mean they're not sure which side to put the candles on and which candles to light first.

There is a correct way to do it. I suppose it might not seem that critical, but if you're going to observe a religious custom, you might as well do it right.

So as a public service, and my Chanukah gift to you, here's the Correct Way to Light a Menorah:

Always place the candles into the menorah from the right side to the left side. As you add new candles each night, place them from right to left.

However, you should light the candles from left to right. The lighting order makes sense if you think of it this way: you light the newest candle first, then the others.

Since the first night of Chanukah falls this year exactly on Christmas, here's a little film from to help Jewish children--and all children for that matter--understand that no matter what our religious practices, we can all live together in harmony. Just Jew It! - Happy Chanukah from

And a joyous, peaceful, Happy Chanukah from my family to yours.



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