Author: Yossi Belz


Chanukah, is the Jewish Feast of Lights or Feast of Dedication, commemorating the victory of the Maccabees over the Seleucid Hellenic empire in 165 BC. Hanukkah is pronounced ‘hah noo kah, (the first “H” is a Chet as in ‘Haver’). The Hebrew word hanukkah (also spelled Hannukka; Hanukah, Chanuka or Chanukah) means dedication or inauguration. Hanukkah begins on the eve of the 25th day of the Hebrew month of Kislev (usually in December) and lasts eight days. The two books of Maccabees in the Apocrypha tell the story of Chanukah, which is verified by external historical sources. The Seleucid Syrians ruled Judea after the death of Alexander the Great. A new king, Antiochus IV (“ephiphanes”) embarked on a policy of forced Hellenization and suppression of the Jewish religion. He decided on the institution of state-sponsored paganism, forced Jews to bow down to idols, and desecrated the temple (Beyt Hamikdash in Hebrew) in Jerusalem. Antiochus dedicated a pagan altar in the temple, and had sacrifices made to an idol. The Jews Yosef Matityahu and his sons, especially Judah Maccabee (Yehudah Hahmaccabee in Hebrew) embarked on a guerilla war against the Syrians. In 165 B.C., after a three-year struggle, the Macabees liberated Jerusalem and entered the temple that was the center of Jewish religious and national life, symbolizing national liberation. They removed the idol that had been set there for pagan...

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Jewish Holidays

The major Jewish religious holidays were set forth in the Torah. To these were added holidays that celebrate or commemorate specific events that occurred in Jewish history. Jewish holidays and commemorations are observed according to the Hebrew modified lunar calendar, and therefore the date according to the Gregorian calendar changes each year. Because of the uncertainty of determining dates in ancient times, it became a custom to add an extra day to many of the holidays celebrated in the Diaspora. Therefore, the Israeli holiday calendar is slightly different from that observed abroad by Orthodox and Conservative Jews. Reform Jews do not celebrate the second day of certain holidays such as Shavuot. The Jewish day ends and begins and ends at sundown, and therefore holiday observances always begin in the evening. Some commemoration days are moved to a different day if they fall on a Shabbat (Saturday). Three holidays were singled out in the Torah as “regalim” – holidays that required a pilgrimage to Jerusalem by the entire people of Israel. These are Sukkot (tabernacles) Pessah (Passover) and Shavuot. Rosh Hashanah – Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish new year. It is celebrated in the fall. At Rosh Hashanah a Shofar (Ram’s horn) is blown to signal the arrival of the new year. It takes place on the first day of Tishrei, usually in September. It is followed by 10 days...

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