This year, on the eve of November 28th, 2021, Jews all over the world will be lighting the first candle on the left side of their menorahs to commemorate the “Miracle of lights”. It is the beginning of the eight day holiday known as Hanukkah or sometimes spelled Chanukah. Each night after that, at sundown, an additional candle will be lit. The center candle named “The Shamash,” meaning servant, is lit and used to light the other candles.
Hanukkah, which means dedication, in Hebrew, is a happy, joyous holiday, There are many stories about how the holiday came to be and what it commemorates. My favorite, simply put, is as follows:
Long ago and far away the Jews were not allowed to practice their religion. Their Temple, where they would meet and pray and honor God was polluted with statues of Pagan idols. All of the traditional Jewish religious items were removed and/or destroyed. The Maccabees were a band of Jews who wanted their religious freedom. They Bravely fought the king’s army for three years and finally due to tenacity, hope, and faith they defeated the king’s army and restored their religious freedom. The Jews reclaimed theirTemple, and purified it. When that was completed they were ready to rededicate the Temple to God. They were so happy. They danced and sang in celebration, until they realized that they only had enough oil to keep the eternal light burning for one night. This weighed heavily on their hearts. It was by some miracle that the tiny jug of oil lasted for eight nights. By then a supply of olive oil reached them. That is why Hanukkah is also called The Festival of Lights. The miracle of lights shows us that when things are at their darkest, tenacity, and faith can bring the light.
In recent times the holiday has become enriched with traditional foods such as fried potato latkes and jelly donuts. Signifying foods fried in oil. Hanukkah Gelt ( money ) made of chocolate has also become a main stay for the holiday. The Dreidel (A spinning top ) is part of a fun gambling game. The gelt is used to place and pay off the bets. For eight nights after prayers are said and the candles are lit, the children get to choose and open one of eight gifts.
On December 5th, 2021, at 4:30 pm, The Jewish Federation of The Villages and Greater Sumter County along with The Rabbis from The Temples in Leesburg, Mt Dora, The Villages, and Ocala will all join together to celebrate Hanukkah at The Lake Square Mall in Leesburg . We would love for everyone to join us in the festivities. We want to share a part of our culture with all of you.
Come, bring your children, learn about our Hanukkah holiday. Let’s join together as a community and Tikkun Olam (Heal the World.)