Public menorah lightings will be held Saturday in Sherman Oaks and Santa Monica 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 celebration at the Sherman Oaks Galleria will begin at 7:30 p.m. at the fountain by The Cheesecake Factory and include treats, crafts and entertainment.
A Giant Menorah Lighting & Celebration will begin at 8 p.m. on the Third Street Promenade between Santa Monica Boulevard and Arizona Avenue including live music, Hasidic dancing and Santa Monica Mayor Ted Winterer lighting the menorah.
“Hanukkah is a time for community to come together and bring light and joy in the time of year which is darkest,” said Rabbi Ilana Grinblat, vice president of community engagement for the Board of Rabbis at The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles.
Mayor Eric Garcetti, Los Angeles’ first elected Jewish mayor, called Hanukkah “a reminder that we can give one another hope, we can help someone who’s lost find their way home and that we can be the light in each others’ lives — this year and every year.”
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 passersby 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 miracle of Hanukkah is the miracle of Israel,” President Donald Trump said at a Hanukkah celebration at the White House Dec. 7. “The descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob have endured unthinkable persecution and oppression.
“But no force has ever crushed your spirit, and no evil has ever extinguished your faith and that is why the Jewish people shine as a light to all nations.”
—City News Service
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