Every winter the Jewish community gathers in their homes and in public places to celebrate religious freedom. The holiday is called Chanukah, which is Hebrew for “dedication.” The holiday recalls the time during the Second Temple period when Greek-Assyrian influence (political, cultural and religious) held sway in Israel. At first it took the form of a mild, but persuasive acculturation - where Jews were often drawn to this influence. There arose an internal conflict between those Jews who were adopting Greek ways and the more traditional Jews who despised this wholesale abandonment of the Jewish traditions and laws.
The Greek king, Antiochus, inserted his influence and took the side of the more Hellenized Jews to the extent that he passed laws which forbade the local population from observing the Jewish ways. This was underscored by the king’s desecration of the most sacred of Jewish sites - the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. This interference led to a rebellion by the more religious Jews in an attempt to overthrow the Greek-Assyrian leader. The rebellion was successful and the Holy Temple was rededicated, hence the name of the holiday - Chanukah.
The story is told of how, in the process of rededicating the Temple, that there was a miracle. The oil required to kindle the Eternal Flame was about to run out and it was eight days before new oil was found - yet the small amount lasted that entire time. This is the source of the secondary name of this holiday, “The Festival of Light.” Customs related to this miracle include the lighting of candles for each of the eight nights of Chanukah and the eating of a delicious holiday food known as latkes, a potato pancake prepared in oil (to remember the miracle of the oil).
Today Jews remember this important victory in many ways - with games, holiday foods, songs and celebrations. The local Jewish community will be celebrating this festive holiday from 1 to 4 p.m. Dec. 16 at the Love Building at Condon Park. Admission is $10 for adults and $5 for children and will include games, prizes, holiday foods, singing and more! The general public is welcome!
Rabbi Alan Greenbaum is with the B’nai Harim Congregation in Grass Valley and Nevada County Jewish Center.