The Significance of Hanukkah
Hanukkah (also known as Chanukah) is the Jewish eight-day “festival of lights."
In the second century BC, the Holy Land was ruled by the Seleucids (Syrian-Greeks), who tried to force the people of Israel to accept Greek culture and beliefs. Against all odds, a small band of faithful Jews, led by Judah the Maccabee, defeated one of the mightiest armies on earth, drove the Greeks from the land, reclaimed the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and rededicated it to the service of God.
When they sought to light the Temple's menorah (the seven-branched candelabrum), they found only a single cruse of olive oil that had escaped contamination by the Greeks. Miraculously, the one-day supply burned for eight days, until new oil could be prepared under conditions of ritual purity.
To commemorate these miracles, the sages instituted the festival of Hanukkah. Jewish families throughout the world light the Hanukkah candles each of the eight nights of the holiday, retell the stories of the miracle and rededicate themselves to God.
By honoring and respecting traditions different from our own, we come closer to experiencing universal human love. A small story that occurred a while ago in USA. Hanukkah coincides with Christmas. Sometimes children whose families do not celebrate Christmas feel left out during classroom activities leading up to Christmas vacation. Inspired by Sai Baba’s example of love, a primary school teacher arranged a classroom presentation on Hanukkah so that one little girl, Shawna, from a Jewish family would feel included by all her classmates. Another teacher of the Jewish faith was invited to speak to the children on the original miracle of oil appearing at Hanukkah. She lit the menorah candles while singing the Hebrew prayers. The children sang songs and played a traditional Jewish game of spinning the dreidel. Shawna’s mother helped the children make latkes in the classroom, a traditional holiday dish of potato pancakes with apple sauce or sour cream. All the children enjoyed Shawna’s family’s traditions which made her very happy. When it came time to go home that day, Shawna skipped out of the classroom with a beaming smile remembered by her teacher to this day.