Tonight we light the first candle to start the Chanukah holiday.
More than twenty-one centuries ago, the Holy Land was ruled by the Seleucids (Syrian-Greeks), who sought to forcefully Hellenize the people of Israel. Against all odds, a small band of faithful Jews defeated one of the mightiest armies on earth, drove the Greeks from the land, reclaimed the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and rededicated it to the service of G-d.Some interesting facts about Chanukah:
When they sought to light the Temple's menorah, they found only a single cruse of olive oil that had escaped contamination by the Greeks; miraculously, the one-day supply burned for eight days, until new oil could be prepared under conditions of ritual purity.
To commemorate and publicize these miracles, the sages instituted the festival of Chanukah. At the heart of the festival is the nightly menorah lighting: a single flame on the first night, two on the second evening, and so on till the eighth night of Chanukah, when all eight lights are kindled.
Did you know that Chanukah is referred to as the Festival of Lights? Chanukah begins four days before the new moon, which is the darkest night of the month. Kislev, the month in which Chanukah takes place, is also close to the winter solstice, which is the longest -- and darkest -- month of the year. The only ritual associated with Chanukah is lighting the candles on the chanukiah. Like many other faiths, the Jewish holiday of Chanukah brings light into the darkest time of the year.On Chanukah we eat latkes, spin the dreidle, and exchange gifts. This is a minor holiday, but a fun one too.
Did you know that the eight-day holiday of Chanukah falls anytime between the middle of November and the beginning of January? The date fluctuates because Chanukah is set according to the Jewish calendar, which is lunar-based. The holiday of Chanukah begins on the 25th day of the Jewish month of Kislev.
Did you know that Chanukah is one of the least religiously significant holidays in the Jewish calendar? The principle holidays of the Jewish faith include Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Passover and Shavuot. Due to its proximity to Christmas, however, Chanukah has taken on greater prominence in the last century.
Did you know that giving gifts is not a tradition historically associated with Chanukah? Again, the proximity to Christmas has rubbed off on Chanukah celebrations -- commercially speaking, at least.
Did you know that Chanukah is a holiday that celebrates national and religious freedom? The story of Chanukah dates back more than 2,000 years ago, when the Jewish people of Judaea were being ruled by a brutal Greek king named Antiochus. The Jewish people rose up against the king, restoring their Temple, removing the Greek idols and returning to the practice of their monotheistic faith.
Find out more facts here.
Without Chanukah and the liberation of Jerusalem, there would have been no Christmas. For the Jews would have assimilated into the Greek culture, into the Greek religion, into a province of Greece. There would have been no Judaism in the land by the time Rome entered the picture.
A Chanukah Greeting from the President of Israel:
"Yesterday, I blessed our Arab citizens because they had their holiday which is called Eid Al-Adha, a holiday of good will. Tomorrow, I am going to bless our Christian citizens; they are going to have Christmas. But now, it’s the time of Chanukah, our own holiday; full of light, full of optimism, full of hope," President Peres said, speaking in English. "Not that everything is so easy and promising, but it’s a clear declaration that finally light will win the day."May peace and prosperity follow you through out these days.
Peres noted the dangers facing Israel at the present time, specifying the Iranian threat, but he said he is an optimist. "I have the right to be one. Most of the things we have hoped for came true. We continue to hope they will come true as well," the president said.
"We would like to be a contributing people. We can be a contributing people not only in science and technology, but also in peace and promise. The greatest of them is that all children - ours, the Arabs’, the Christians’ - will arrive to a day when their mothers do not have to worry about their safety, which means peace."
Returning to the Chanukah theme, President Peres said: "Light and peace are the two things on which Jewish heritage are based." He concluded with the blessing "Happy Chanukah" in English and Hebrew.
The President's Office encouraged viewers to screen the president's video greeting in Jewish communities around the world, and to embed the video or link to it on Jewish websites. The President's Office also asked that viewers from around the world share their own candle lighting and blessings with the president through his Youtube channel.
"Through the channel the president hopes to strengthen the ties between Jews inside and outside Israel," a statement from the President's Office said. "Viewers are encouraged to reply to the president’s message with their own comments and video responses."
Muslims and Jews: 'Long History of Cooperation'
On November 26, President Peres offered his official greetings to Israel's Muslim community in honor of Eid Al-Adha ("the Festival of the Sacrifice").
"On the eve of the Eid Al-Adha festival, on behalf of the State of Israel and its entire people, I convey my best and warmest wishes to those of Islamic faith," the president said in a statement.
Eid Al-Adha is an annual holiday in which Muslims celebrate the willingness of the patriarch Abraham to slaughter his chosen son upon an altar at G-d's behest. That son was ultimately spared and replaced with a ram. However, the Torah account of the story places Isaac, son of Sarah as that son - the Muslims say it was Ishmael, son of Hagar, the half-brother of Isaac. The celebration of Eid Al-Adha, though a home and hearth holiday for Muslims, also celebrates a historical account at odds with that of the Jews.
"The Jewish and Islamic religions share a faith in one Lord and an adherence to fundamental values of truth, justice and peace," Peres claimed. "From this common ground we believe beautiful fruit can grow." He added his hope, in the name of the citizens of the State of Israel, "that the Eid Al-Adha festivities will see the attainment of peace in our region."
Muslims and Jews, the president concluded, "have a long history of cooperation. Only peace can ensure the prosperity and well-being of all our people."
Happy Chanukah To All!