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Message of the Week…
Test your knowledge on Hanukkah

By By David Shapiro/Special to The Star
Dec. 8, 2001
A few questions and answers concerning Hanukkah:
Who celebrates Hanukkah?
The people who observe the Jewish religion.
What is celebrated at Hanukkah?
In 164 B.C., Judas Maccabees and his song rebelled and led a successful revolt against the secular Greeks in Jerusalem in ancient Israel.
The second temple, built on the site of the first temple of Solomon was destroyed in the fighting. One of the most important symbols of Judaism in the second temple was the "eternal light," a lamp that was supposed to burn continuously to symbolize God's presence. Upon clearing the second temple, Maccabees and the Jewish troops found the light burning, but with only enough of the sacred oil needed to keep it lit for a day or more.
More sacred oil was sent for, but it was eight days before it arrived. Miraculously, the small amount of oil originally found lasted the eight days until it was replenished. The festival of Hanukkah celebrates the miracle of the eternal light burning for those eight days.
When is Hanukkah celebrated?
Because the date is based on the lunar calendar, Hanukkah is usually celebrated on eight days each December. This year, it begins at sundown Sunday and continues through Dec. 17
Where is Hanukkah celebrated?
Predominately, Hanukkah is celebrated in the individual Jewish homes. No special services or observations are held in the synagogue.
How is the festival of Hanukkah observed?
Besides lighting the Menorah (candelabra), gifts are given, especially to children. Traditionally, one gift for each night of the holiday is given. Special foods are prepared and eaten, including hamantaschens (cake) and potato latkes.
Why is Hanukkah given such prominence by the Jewish?
Hanukkah was raised to be a major holiday in the past century to compete with the Christian Christmas, which occurs at the same time of the year. However, Hanukkah is not the "Jewish Christmas" some have tried to portray it to be. The two holidays have nothing in common, except they sometimes overlap during December.
In observance of Hanukkah, Jewish people light the Menorah one candle for each night of the holiday plus the shamus, the candle which lights the other candles. There is no "Hanukkah bush" or nativity scene. Christmas and Hanukkah should not be confused. Hanukkah, the festival of lights, is completely a Jewish holiday of peace and gift-giving for Jewish people universally.
David Shapiro is a member of Temple Beth Israel.