Chanukah or Hanukkah: How ever you spell it, it’s a time to bring light to the world – Lansing State Journal

Posted By on November 30, 2021

Rabbi Amy B. Bigman, guest writer| Lansing State Journal

Last week, Americans celebrated the holiday of Thanksgiving. It is a time to come together with family and friends to express our gratitude for the gifts we have.A few days later, on Sunday evening, November 28, the holiday of Chanukah (or Hanukkah) begins and lasts for eight days.

It begins atthe end of the 25th day of the Hebrew month of Kislev, because dates on the Jewish calendar begin at sundown.

In 168 B.C.E., the Syrian king Antiochus Epiphanes, who was a Hellenized Syrian, sent his soldiers to Jerusalem. There they desecrated the Jews Holy Temple and declared Judaism to be abolished. On the 25th day of the Hebrew month of Kislev, the Temple was rededicated and renamed in honor of the Greek god Zeus.

A Jewish resistance movement began, led by the Hasmonean family.This family, also known as the Maccabees, was a family of priests.Mattathias led the family; when commanded to sacrifice to Zeus, he refused.Mattathias son, Judah, led his brothers and others in a fight against the Syrian-Greeks.Despite their small numbers, they were victorious. It was a victory of the few over the many, as well as a victory of remaining Jewish in a non-Jewish (and hostile) environment.The Temple was rededicated in 165 B.C.E.

Hundreds of years after the rededication of the Temple, an addition to the story was written.The Talmud, an encyclopedia of commentaries on Jewish law, notes that when the Syrian-Greeks captured the Temple, they desecrated all of the jugs of oil that were used for lighting the Temple candelabrum.After the Temple was back in Jewish hands, only one jug of oil was found.The jug was used to light the candelabrum; instead of lasting one day as was expected, it lasted eight days.

While we celebrate the miracle of the victory in 165 B.C.E. and the miracle of the candelabrum remaining lit for eight days, Chanukah, which arrives during the darkest time of year, also reminds us that we must be a light unto others, helping those who are less fortunate than ourselves.

Chanukah is one of many Jewish holidays and festivals that remind us to be thankful for the gifts that God has given us and to share our gratitude by helping others.At this time of year, our congregation often holds clothing and gift drives for those in our Greater Lansing community who are in need.

We participate in the national Ner Shel Tzedakah (Light of Righteous Giving) Program on the sixth night of Chanukah. The following is a prayer that we add on that evening as we kindle the candles reminding us of the miracle of the oil that took place at the Temple's rededication:

"As we light this Ner Shel Tzedakah tonight, we pray that its light will shine into the dark corners of our world, bringing relief to those suffering from the indignity and pain that accompany poverty.May our act of giving inspire others to join with us in the fight against the scourge of hunger, homelessness, need and want.Together, let us raise our voices to cry out for justice, and may that clarion call burst through the night's silence and declare that change must come."

May each of us find a way to be a light to others in these darkest days of winter!

Rabbi Amy B. Bigman is with the Congregation Shaarey Zedek in East Lansing and is the founder and co-coordinator of the Interfaith Clergy Association of Greater Lansing.

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Chanukah or Hanukkah: How ever you spell it, it's a time to bring light to the world - Lansing State Journal

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