Channukah – Festival of Lights of the Jews Begins
Dec 3, 2018
Chanukah is the Jewish eight-day, wintertime “festival of lights,” celebrated with a
nightly menorah lighting, special prayers and fried foods. Its starts on December 2
and end on December 10. It is also called the Festival of Lights or Festival of Dedication.
The Hebrew word Chanukah means “dedication,” and is thus named because it celebrates
the rededication of the Holy Temple. Also spelled Hanukkah (or variations of that spelling),
the Hebrew word is actually pronounced with a guttural, “kh” sound, kha-nu-kah, not tcha-
In the second century BCE, the Holy Land was ruled by the Seleucids (Syrian-Greeks), who
tried to force the people of Israel to accept Greek culture and beliefs instead
of mitzvah observance and belief in God. Against all odds, a small band of faithful Jews, led
by Judah the Maccabee, defeated one of the mightiest armies on earth, drove the Greeks
from the land, reclaimed the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and rededicated it to the service of
When they sought to light the Temples Menorah (the seven-branched candelabrum), they
found only a single cruse of olive oil that had escaped contamination by the Greeks.
Miraculously, they lit the menorah and the one-day supply of oil lasted for eight days, until
new oil could be prepared under conditions of ritual purity.
To commemorate and publicize these miracles, the sages instituted the festival of
How is Chanukah observed?
At the heart of the festival is the nightly menorah lighting. The menorah holds nine flames,
one of which is the shamash (“attendant”), which is used to kindle the other eight lights. On
the first night, we light just one flame. On the second night, an additional flame is lit. By the
eighth night of Chanukah, all eight lights are kindled.
Special blessings are recited, often to a traditional melody, before the menorah is lit,
and traditional songs are sung afterward.