Sunday, December 21, 2008
In 2008 Hanukkah begins at sundown on Sunday December 21.
Hanukkah is a eight-day holiday both in Israel and outside of Israel.
Jews celebrate an 8 day festival of Hanukkah, (a.k.a. Feast of Lights, Festival of lights, Feast of Dedication, Chanukah, Chanukkah, Hanukah). It recalls the war fought by the Maccabees in the cause of religious freedom. Antiochus, the king of Syria, conquered Judea in the 2nd century BCE. He terminated worship in the Temple and stole the sacred lamp, the menorah, from before the altar. At the time of the solstice, they rededicated the Temple to a Pagan deity. Judah the Maccabee lead a band of rebels, and succeeding in retaking Jerusalem. They restored the temple and lit the menorah. It was exactly three years after the flame had been extinguished -- at the time of the Pagan rite.
Although they had found only sufficient consecrated oil to last for 24 hours, the flames burned steadily for eight days. "Today's menorahs have nine branches; the ninth branch is for the shamash, or servant light, which is used to light the other eight candles. People eat potato latkes, exchange gifts, and play dreidel games. And as they gaze at the light of the menorah, they give thanks for the miracle in the Temple long ago." 5
"Hanukkah: The festival of lights," at: http://www.education-world.com/
Is it a festival TO CELEBRATE AND REMEMBER A VICTORY IN BATTLE?
Not really. The eight lights are lit to celebrate a miraculous happening.
The victory was necessary for it to happen.
The victory was that of the Jews over the Hellenist Syrians in 165 BCE.
Following their victory, the Maccabees, sons of the Priestly Hasmonean family which led the Jews in their revolt against the Syrian overlords, entered the Holy Temple in Jerusalem defiled by the Syrian invaders, cleansed it and dedicated it anew to the service of God. Then, in memory of their victory, the Maccabees celebrated the first Hanukkah. (Hanukkah is the Hebrew term for "dedication").
The Talmud, the body of Jewish oral law, relates how the Judean heroes, led by Judah Maccabee, were making ready to rededicate the Temple and were unable to find enough undefiled oil to light the lamps. However, in one of the Temple chambers, they finally came upon a small cruse of oil which, under normal circumstances, would have lasted only one evening. Miraculously, this small amount of oil kept the Temple lights burning, not for one night, but for all the eight nights until new oil fit for use in the temple could be obtained. This is the miracle commemorated by the kindling of the Hanukkah lights.
The miracle would never have occurred, had the Temple in Jerusalem remained defiled and in the foreign (non-Jewish) hands that had sacrificed a pig in the Holy of Holies.