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December 14, 2009December 14, 2009  0 comments  Nature

Hanukkah celebrates the triumph of light over darkness in nature as well as in history. In the second century BCE, a small but devoted group of Jews, led by the Maccabees, defeated the much larger and more powerful Syrian-Greek army. Jewish tradition was thus kept from disappearing into the sea of the surrounding pagan culture.


In nature, Hanukkah comes at the darkest time of the year. Hanukkah always falls close to December 21, the winter solstice, when daylight hours are at their least. And Hanukkah begins on the 25th of the lunar month of Kislev, when the moon is approaching the end of its waning and its light is dim. It is at this time of the shortest days and the darkest nights that we celebrate the holiday of light, increasing light by adding a new candle in the Hanukkah menorah on each of the eight nights of the holiday. We light a candle instead of cursing the darkness.


In ancient Israel, the source of light was not the wax candles most of us use today, but burning olive oil. Interestingly, the olive harvest and oil-producing season always comes very close to Hanukkah.


At Neot Kedumim, the festival of light is celebrated by picking olives, producing oil in reconstructed ancient presses, making the clay oil lamps that were the "light bulbs" of ancient Israel, and much more. In addition, Neot Kedumim is located in the hilly landscape of the Modi'in region where the story of Hanukkah took place. Walking the paths of Neot Kedumim, we can learn how the Maccabees used their knowledge of the terrain to triumph over the powerful Syrian Greeks.


For information on the Hanukkah program at Neot Kedumim, see www.n-k.org.il, call 08-977-0782, or e-mail tourism@neot-kedumim.org.il. You can reserve a tour for your group (in English) with your own private guide, or walk the open trails and join the activities with no reservations required: 13-17 December, 9:00-15:00, last entrance at 13:30.


A joyful, light-filled Hanukkah and winter season for all!


December 11, 2012December 11, 2012  0 comments  Jewish Holidays

Hanukah is celebrated this year from sunset Wednesday, November 27, until sunset Thursday, December 5, 2013 The festival commemorates both the 164 BCE rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem after its desecration by the ruling Seleucid (Syrian Greek) Kingdom, under Antiochus IV - and the re-establishment of religious freedom for the Jewish people after a period of harsh repression. The success of the popular revolt led by Judah Maccabee and his brothers has, ever since, symbolized the Jewish people's fight for, and achievement of, its liberty and freedom as a nation against overwhelming odds. Hanukah is not a legal holiday in Israel; offices, shops and public transportation operate as usual.

In 200 BCE, the Seleucid King, Antiochus III, conquered the Land of Israel and incorporated it into his kingdom. While neither he, nor his son and successor, Seleucus IV, forced their Hellenistic culture on the Jews, his second son, Antiochus IV, who acceded to the throne in 175 BCE, instituted - with the active acceptance and support of many Jews - a policy of forced Hellenization and enacted harsh policies against those Jews who refused to adopt Hellenistic culture. Under Antiochus IV, Jews were forced to eat pork, and Sabbath observance and circumcision were made punishable by death. In 167 BCE, the Temple was defiled and dedicated to the Greek god Zeus, and became the center of an idol-worshipping cult.


In 165 BCE, a popular revolt - led by Mattathias, an elderly priest from the town of Modi'in (east of Lod), and his five sons - broke out against Seleucid rule. Mattathias died soon thereafter, and was succeeded by his third son, Judah, also known as Judah Maccabee. Following a brilliant guerrilla campaign - as well as several victories over far larger, regular Seleucid armies - Judah's forces liberated Jerusalem in the winter of 164 BCE. The Temple was cleansed and, on the 25th of the Hebrew month of Kislev, rededicated.


At that time, according to rabbinic tradition, when Judah's men sought to relight the Temple menorah, or candelabra, only one day's worth of pure, undefiled olive oil was found, but the limited quantity of oil miraculously burned for the eight days required for new oil to be pressed. Thus, the holiday of Chanukah commemorates both the liberation of Jerusalem and the rededication of the Temple, and the miracle of the oil. In one of the blessings (see below) recited each night, the Jewish people praise God "who performed miracles for our ancestors in those days at this season."


Observing Hanukah


The main element of Hanukah observance is the lighting of the eight-branched menorah (or chanukkiah) in the late afternoon, but not before the sun has begun to set, or at night. On the first night, one candle (or oil lamp) is lit, with another one being added on each successive night until the eighth night when all eight candles (or oil lamps) are lit. One extra light (the shamash) stands apart from the others and is used to light them. Special blessings are said when lighting the menorah, which is traditionally placed in a window or doorway where it will be visible from the outside - in order to publicize the miracle of the oil. It is customary to eat foods fried in oil - typically jelly doughnuts or potato pancakes - during Chanukah.


In addition, children are given four-sided tops as toys. In the Diaspora, the sides bear the Hebrew letters that form the acronym: "A great miracle happened there." In Israel, the sides bear the Hebrew letters that form the acronym: "A great miracle happened here." In the State of Israel, Hanukah is marked by a torch relay from Modi'in to Jerusalem and giant menorahs are also lit in public squares.


Hanukah is marked by special prayers and scriptural readings in the synagogue, as well as by a special addition to the regular blessing after meals.

Interestingly the Book of the Maccabees is not found in the Hebrew Bible. Rather, it was preserved by being canonized by the Catholics.


Hanukah in Film

Clips from three films (courtesy of the Steven Spielberg Jewish Film Archive) that depict the various ways in which Chanukah has been celebrated:

Tomorrow's A Wonderful Day (1948) http://youtu.be/9iXkhML3MHk (from 39:04 min to end)

Jerusalem My City (1950) http://youtu.be/w8QO-ly30qU (from 13:19 min. to end)

As Long As I Live (1961) http://youtu.be/SJ8ZzQOkYh0 (from 15:44 min to end)



Tags: hanukah maccabees 

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