By Rabbi Mordechai Levin
Published by the Omaha World Herald – December 17, 2011
The festival of Hanukkah takes place this year from December 20 to December 28, and celebrates the struggle for national and religious freedom fought by our ancestors 22 centuries ago.
At that time, the land of Israel was occupied by the Syrian-Greeks. Aiming to establish political and religious conformity, they tried to force everyone under their rule to accept Greek culture, which included requiring them to worship Greek deities. Our ancestors rebelled against the Syrian-Greeks, liberated the land of Israel, recovered Jewish independence in the land, and rededicated the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem (–the capital city of Israel), that had been defiled.
The central observance of Hanukkah is the lighting of the hannukiyah, an eight-branched candelabrum. With the addition of one candle each night, these lights grow in strength during the eight days of the holiday. According to legend, when our ancestors rededicated the Temple, they found one cruse of oil containing enough oil for only one day of light; and yet, a miracle occurred and it lasted for eight days.
Hanukkah is a holiday of religious and national freedom, a celebration of Jewish independence in the land of Israel and Jerusalem, and a time to thank God for the miracles in our lives. It is a commemoration of the human capacity for courage and hopefulness.
This year, as we celebrate with our families, let us magnify the significance of the holiday by thanking God for the blessings bestowed on our ancestors, the blessings we have experienced in our history, and the blessings in our own lives.