Hanukkah comes from the Hebrew word meaning
dedication. The history of Hanukkah begins with
Alexander the Great who, after conquering Syria, Egypt
and Judea, allowed all people to continue to observe
their chosen religions. It wasn’t until later that the
successor of Alexander the Great, Antiochus IV, caused a
great upheaval in among the Jewish population.
Under the reign of Antiochus, the Jewish people were
required to worship Greek Gods. In 165 BCE, Judah’s son
Maccabee decided to rebel against this law and formed a
crusade against Antiochus. Having defeated the Greek
Army, Maccabee and his allies found a sacred temple
which had been left in ruins as a result of Antiochus’
army, and they restored the temple to its former glory.
Thus, on the 25th day of Kislev, they dedicated the
temple by lighting a restored Menorah. Although they
were only able to find enough oil to keep the Menorah
lit for one day, a miracle occurred in which the Menorah
stayed lit for eight days.
Thus, the Festival of Lights was born to commemorate
that day in the temple when the miracle of the Menorah
first occurred. All Jews celebrate the miracle of the
oil by placing eight candles in the Menorah and lighting
one candle on each of the eight days of Hanukkah.
Although not considered a holy day, Hanukkah is
nevertheless celebrated by Jews around the world in
observance of the miracle of the oil that occurred in
the temple. Hanukkah traditionally begins on the 22nd of
December and ends on the 31st of December.
Research also reveals that there are two types of
Menorahs: one is 7-branched and one is 8-branched. There
was a prohibition against the use of a 7-branched
Menorah similar to the one used in the original temple.
The Chanukah (another way of spelling Hanukkah) Menorah
has a place for eight candles as well as a ninth candle
set apart from the rest. It is said that the eight
candles commemorate the miracle of the oil while the
ninth candle, the Shamash, symbolizes light.
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