Sunday, December 21, 2008

Tonight We Light the First Hanukkah Candle

Tonight is the first night of the eight-day Jewish festival of Hanukkah. Rabbi Karen L. Fox and I wrote in our Jewish holiday book:
Hanukkah honors an historical event -- the struggle for religious freedom. Hanukkah commemorates a time when the ancient homeland of the Jews -- now known as Israel -- was ruled by the Greeks in the second century before the common era. The Greeks threatened to eliminate the religious faith and customs of the Jewish people.

A small band of Jews resolved to forfeit their lives if necessary to preserve their heritage. Their successful struggle against overwhelming odds determined that the Jewish people and their unique beliefs and practices would survive.
You can read more about this holiday in our book Seasons for Celebration: A Contemporary Guide to the Joys, Practices and Traditions of the Jewish Holidays.

A Jewish friend who had been raised in foster homes told me how she had mistakenly lit all eight candles the first night when she finally had her own home and could celebrate the holiday. Because of this mistake, Karen and I took pains to ensure that we gave very specific instructions on how to light the Hanukkah menorah, which holds the eight candles plus the shamash (the serving candle used to light the others).

Then one year a non-Jewish friend asked me for a menorah. I gave him the menorah, candles and a copy of SEASONS FOR CELEBRATION. Only Karen and I had forgotten to write one instruction: the candles remain burning until they burn up -- they are NOT blown out. My non-Jewish friend said a blessing after lighting the candles, and promptly blew them out as if they were birthday cake candles. So much for the "complete" instructions Karen and I thought we had written.


Chelle Cordero said...

Wishing you a very Happy Hanukkah!

I had read that with some it is custom to light all eight candles the first night and reduce it by one each successive - I've always done the counting up method as you do.

However each of us lights our Hanukkiah, may the lights shine brightly for all.

Phyllis Zimbler Miller said...

Chelle --

As you like to write, would you like to do a guest post sometime on your volunteer work with the ambulance service?

And I wholeheartedly endorse your comment about the lights shining brightly for all.