The Festival of Lights

Tonight at sunset marks the beginning of Hanukkah. The first flame of the menorah will be lit and the eight-day celebration of the Festival of Lights begins.

The Jewish celebration commemorates the retaking of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem from the Seleucids (Syrian-Greeks) some 22 centuries ago. It celebrates the rededication of the Temple.

The faithful who had retaken the Temple wanted to light the menorah, but could find only a small cache of uncontaminated olive oil – enough for one day.

Miraculously, the oil burned for eight days – long enough for the faithful to press and consecrate more oil.

Today, Hanukkah is celebrated as a triumph of light over darkness, spirituality over materialism and, most importantly, the weak over the strong. The name derives from the Hebrew word meaning “to dedicate” – and the holiday is also known as the “festival of rededication.”

It is traditional to eat fried foods like latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganiyot (jelly-filled donuts) and spin the dreidel (a toplike toy). Reminiscent of the miracle of the oil and the opposition of the Romans.

On the first night of Hanukkah, a single flame is lit. On the second night, a second flame . . . and so on until the eighth day, when there are eight flames in honor of that long-ago miracle in the Holy Temple.

To all of our friends and neighbors who are observing this Festival of Lights, “Happy Hanukkah.”

(If you have any questions about Hanukkah, please contact the Jewish Congregation of Maui at 874-5397. Our thanks for their help in reviewing this editorial.)

* Editorials reflect the opinion of the publisher.