Happy Chanukah

Happy Chanukah
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About the Author

Stephen Wise

Stephen Wise

Rabbi Wise has focused much of his rabbinate in striving passionately to connect Jews of all ages to their Judaism. Whether its through prayer services, learning or social action, each presents a gateway to stronger Jewish identity. Rabbi Wise has worked recently developing programming for young adults in their 20-30's, starting ongoing successful groups in NYC and Florida, reigniting their connections to Judaism. Rabbi Wise is the spiritual leader for Oakville's Jewish community, and his congregation is Shaarei Beth-El on Morrison Road.

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Chanukah is starting Wednesday night, November 27th, if you can believe it. The last time it came this early was 1899 and the next time will be 2089. Our American friends will be celebrating Thanksgivukkah!

The Jewish calendar goes by the moon, and so holidays seem to move around the secular calendar. But our holidays always happen in their season, as we add an extra month every few years for balance. Channuka will therefore always occur during the dark days of winter. Indeed our holidays is a celebration of light.

In ancient times, 164 BCE, the land of Israel was under the rule of the Greek empire who persecuted the Jews, forced them to pray to idols and pagan gods and refused to allow us to follow our traditions and customs. A band of Jewish rebels called “the Maccabees” defeated the much larger Greek army, drove them out of Israel and reinstituted the Jewish way of life. As they recaptured Jerusalem, they found the Holy Temple in shambles. They cleaned it and wanted to relight the Menorah, but found very little oil to do so. There was only one small cup that would last a night. They lit the Menorah anyway and by some miracle, that little jar of oil lasted not just one night, but 8 nights, until more oil could be brought it.

Today in every Jewish home we light a Channuka menorah for 8 nights to reminds us of those miracles, the rebellion against the Greeks and the oil that lasted 8 days.

Each household is supposed to have a menorah and display it publicly. This was meant to bear witness to everyone, especially those that might have been drifting away from Judaism, that this house and its inhabitants, were loyal to Judaism. By encouraging every home, and in fact every person, to light a menorah, it was declaration of faith and personal commitment to keeping Judaism alive. Moreover being a winter holiday when the cycle of the moon is at its smallest and the days are shortest, it’s a way to add light into the day. As Rabbi Noam Zion writes in “The Big Book of Chanukah”, Chanukah reflects the beginning of the redemptive process, a new beginning each year. By adding one light each night, we transform the space into a house of light that shines out into the public sphere. Indeed where faith begins in the home, it can generate unexpected illumination for the whole world.

If you would like to participate in a Channuka candle lighting, Shaarei-Beth El Congregation of Oakville is hosting a free public candle lighting ceremony on Friday November 29th at 7:00 pm in our sanctuary at 186 Morrison Road. We hope you can join us.

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