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Hanukkah begins Wednesday, December 1st


hanukkahBy Stephen Rosen
President of the Knoxville Jewish Alliance

Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights, begins at sundown on Wednesday, December 1st. Families throughout Knoxville will light the hanukkiah, a 9 candle menorah (candleholder). Each successive night, they will light one more candle and say a series of prayers that remind them of the miraculous victory of the Maccabees over the Assyrians 2200 years ago. The most important part of the holiday is recognizing God's help in defeating a superior enemy and rededicating the Temple in Jerusalem. The story of the holiday tells that "a miracle that happened there" when a single day's oil for the Temple's eternal light lasted for eight days during the rebuilding and cleaning process. The dreidel, a four-sided top, has Hebrew initials that remind us of the miracle. We also have a tradition of enjoying foods fried in oil like doughnuts and falafel. The most famous Hanukkah treat is the fried potato latke. Jews from different parts of the world will debate whether they should be eaten with sour cream, apple sauce or straight up (think Waffle House "scattered").

Local celebrations will include Friday night dinners and services at Heska Amuna Synagogue and Temple Beth El. On Sunday, the entire community will be hosted by the Knoxville Jewish Alliance and several other organizations for "Menorah Madness" at the Arnstein Jewish Community Center. Mostly, the holiday is celebrated in the home for brief a time each night after dinner.

It is important to understand that Chanukkah (you can spell it many ways) is not the Jewish Christmas. It is a wonderful time of year but it doesn't even fall in the top 5 of our most important holidays. Jewish people do not stay home from work or school like we would on Yom Kippur or Rosh Hashannah. If there is any parallel, Hanukkah likely has more in common with July 4th. Freedom, family, fun and thankfulness are key ideas. Some people even like to "fry" it down to this…they tried to break us, we won, let's eat!

Published November 30, 2010

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