The Book of Maccabees describes how the Seleucid Emperor Antiochus seized the Temple in 165 BCE and defiled it by offering a pig before an image of Jupiter. Two years later to the day, on the winter-solstice date of Kislev 25 on the Jewish calendar, the Levitical priests began to purify and rededicate the Altar of God in accord with the eight-day ritual of consecration outlined in the Bible.
Since one of the priests’ acts was to “light the lamps on the lampstand,” as the Book of Maccabees puts it, the central observance of Chanukah is to kindle flame nightly throughout the eight-day holiday to dispel the cold and dark of the winter night. The “lampstand” mentioned is the m’norah, the seven-branched “tree-oflife” candelabrum which Moses had made at God’s instruction in Exodus 25, which is the oldest and most authentic symbol of the Jewish people and the Jewish faith, and which today serves as the coat-of -arms of the State of Israel.
Because Chanukah is not only a sacred celebration but a bright spot amid winter’s darkness, it is traditionally a joyous holiday occasion, celebrated with gift-giving, story telling, singing and games. Because of an ancient legend that the Levitical priests were hard-pressed to find enough consecrated oil to light the m’norah, it is also the custom to eat treats prepared by frying (Chanukah is the doughnut’s moment to shine!).
With all that light-hearted party spirit, the Feast of Lights is an enduringly meaningful affirmation of freedom of conscience, and a summons not just to recognize, but to celebrate diversity.
The Jewish Congregation of Marco Island invites local residents to join us in our shared celebration of Chanukah, the Feast of Lights. Candle-lighting takes place at the start of Shabbat evening worship at 8 PM on Friday, December 15. In addition, the Congregation is host site for a community-wide Chanukah party co-sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Collier County at 5:45 PM on Sunday, December 17.
The synagogue is located at 991 Winterberry Drive, Marco Island. For more information, call the JCMI office at 239- 642-0800.