A giant menorah will be lit Thursday evening at L.A. Live to mark the fifth night of Hanukkah, Judaism’s eight-day commemoration of the temple rededication that followed the Maccabees’ victory over a larger Syrian army in 165 B.C.
The lighting ceremony organized by Chabad of Downtown Los Angeles, part of the Hasidic Chabad-Lubavitch movement dedicated to the welfare of the Jewish people worldwide, will include music, arts and crafts, a raffle and what organizers describe as a “holiday swag giveaway.”
Sites of other free public menorah lighting ceremonies scheduled for Thursday in Los Angeles County include the Westfield Santa Anita shopping center in Arcadia (5 p.m.) and Culver Hotel in Culver City (4:30 p.m.)
Once the Jews defeated the Hellenist Syrian forces of Antiochus IV at the end of a three-year rebellion, the temple in Jerusalem, which the occupiers had dedicated to the worship of Zeus, was rededicated by Judah Maccabee, who led the insurgency begun by his father, the high priest Mattathias.
According to the story of Hanukkah, Maccabee and his soldiers wanted to light the temple’s ceremonial lamp with ritually pure olive oil as part of their rededication but found only enough oil to burn for one day. The oil, however, burned for eight days in what was held to be a miracle.
Hanukkah — which means dedication in Hebrew — is observed around the world by lighting candles in a special menorah called a Hanukkiah each day at sundown for eight days, with an additional candle added each day.
The reason for the lights is so passers-by should see them and be reminded of the holiday’s miracle.
Other Hanukkah traditions include spinning a dreidel, a four-sided top, which partially commemorates a game that Jews under Greek domination are believed to have played to camouflage their Torah study, and eating foods fried in oil, such as latkes, pancakes of grated raw potatoes, and jelly doughnuts.
Children receive Hanukkah “gelt” (the Yiddish word for money) from parents and grandparents. The tradition originated with 17th century Polish Jews giving money to their children to give their teachers during Hanukkah, which led to parents also giving children money.
In the United States, the practice has evolved into giving holiday gifts to children and others.
Unlike on the High Holy Days of Rosh Hashana, the Jewish new year, or Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, observant Jews are permitted to work and attend school during Hanukkah, the only Jewish holiday that commemorates a military victory.
“The meaning of Hanukkah is about the triumph of hope in the face of adversity,” Rabbi Ilana Grinblat, vice president of community engagement for the Board of Rabbis at The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, told City News Service.
“The holiday begins with the lighting of one candle and a candle is added each night until eight candles are lit on the last night, along with the shamash, the candle which is used to light the others. This increasing light represents heightened joy.
“This year, we begin this holiday in an excruciating moment for our community and our country. In the past few weeks, the shooting in the Tree of Life*Or L’Simcha Congregation in Pittsburgh was followed by the shooting in Thousand Oaks and the fires in which many lost their lives and homes, and community institutions were damaged or destroyed.
“With all this precariousness, we need the message of Hanukkah even more this year. May the light and joy of the holiday bring us a measure of healing and rekindle our spirits.”
After referring to how the rededication of the temple in Jerusalem, “followed a trying period when Jews were persecuted for practicing their faith,” President Donald Trump noted in his Hanukkah message that “unfortunately, Jews today continue to face many different forms of violence, hatred, and bigotry around the globe.”
“We remember all those from the Tree of Life*Or L’Simcha Congregation whose lives were tragically taken in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, this past October.
“As one nation, we pledge our continued love and support for the victims, their families, and the community, and we pray that the victims’ families find some measure of peace and comfort during this holiday season.”
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