Jewish religion celebrates holiday of ‘rededication’

Published 12:04 am Saturday, December 8, 2007

NATCHEZ — Whether they are following the western tradition of eating latkes — potato pancakes — or the eastern tradition of fruit-filled doughnuts, those of the Jewish faith everywhere are celebrating Hanukkah.

The festival began at sundown Tuesday.

The name Hanukkah means either “rededication” or “consecration,” and the festival’s origins come from the rededication of the second temple in Jerusalem at the end of the Maccabe revolt.

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During the revolt, a band of Jewish rebels led by Judah Maccabe successfully ousted a foreign king who had desecrated the temple with an altar to a pagan god.

“Hanukkah is a holiday with a theme of independence,” student Rabbi Joshua Leighton with Temple B’Nai Israel said. “It’s a message of hope that we can celebrate our freedom and joy. The holiday actually played a lot into Zionism and the founding of the state of Israel.”

The Hanukkah celebrations last eight nights because — according to tradition — at the time of the rededication of the temple there was only enough oil to light the temple’s lamp for one night, but the oil miraculously lasted for eight nights, the time it took to press and cure more oil.

One of Hanukkah’s traditions includes lighting candles every night of the festival to remind those who see the light of the holiday’s miraculous origins.

There may have been another reason for the festival to last eight nights at its inception, though, Leighton said.

“This is approximately the time that the Maccabees were victorious, and while they were hiding they could not celebrate an eight-day pilgrimage festival known as Succot, which begins soon after Yom Kippur (Jewish New Year),” Leighton said. “One theory is that they observed Succot late.”

And though Hanukkah is not a “high” holiday, the celebration of the independence the holiday represents is carried on throughout the year, Leighton said.

“The term Maccabe has been incorporated into a lot of Jewish sports and sports teams in Israel,” he said. “That theme of competition is really a modern rendition of a Maccabe.”