New York Santa
When Only The Real Santa Will Do!
Countdown 'till Christmas....
When only the "real" Santa will do.
How could I pass up such a festive holiday
Chanukah the Festival of Lights, is a wonderful holiday of renewed dedication, faith, hope and spiritual light. It's a holiday that says: "Never lose hope."
The holiday is observed for eight days, beginning on the evening of the twenty fifth day of the month of Kislev of the Jewish calendar, and .commemorates the victory, thru the miracles of G-d, of a small band of Macabees over the pagan Syrian-Greeks who ruled over Israel.
What does Chanukah Mean?
Chanukah has two meanings. First, and foremost, it means "dedication" because it was on Chanukah in 165 BCE that the HolyTemple was purified and rededicated to the service of G-d. The other meaning gives us an easy way to remember the Hebrew date of the holiday: "Chanu" means "they rested", and "Kah" (composed of the Hebrew letters for 25 - "Chof and Hay") means "on the twenty fifth" (day of Kislev). Chanukah, also called "The Festival of Lights". refers to the flames kindled on each night. It is also called "The Festival of Light" as Chanukah is the victory of the forces of "light" - which include faith and loyalty to G-d and the Jewish tradition and the will to fight for these beliefs - over the forces of "darkness," represented by the hedonistic lifestyle of the ancient Syrian-Greeks.
The year was about 165 BCE, a group of men led by Judah the Maccabee and with the help of G-d, completed a great victory, a triumph that lives on as the miracle of Chanukah.
After the death of Alexander the Great, conqueror of the world and friend of the Jewish people, his Empire was divided among his generals. the land of Israel, - the Kingdom of Judea - was added to the Empire of Antiochus III. When Antiochus Epiphanes became king of the Syrian-Greeks, he was not content to accept the taxes and loyalty of the Jews as his predecessors had done. He wanted the Jews to lay aside their Torah and ancient religion, and, in their place, substitute the Hellenistic Greek culture and Grecian idols.
King Antiochus bore down on his Jewish subjects with a measure of ruthlessness, stubbornness and cruelty that earned him the nickname Antiochus the Madman.
Antiochus defiled the temple, filling it with pagan idols and sacrifices of pigs. He forbade the Jews to observe their religious commandments and Jewish women were systematically mistreated.
Jews who dared to remain loyal to their faith were brutally tortured and murdered. If a woman had her infant circumcised, she was murdered, the baby publicly hanged, and all who participated in the circumcision ceremony were executed and their property confiscated. Against this backdrop, Jewish resistance began to ebb and it seemed inevitable that the last remnants of resistance would soon be wiped out.
Then, one courageous old man turned the tide. Mattisyahu. In his town, the Syrian-Greek governor of Mattisyahu's region set up an idol in Modi'in, rounded up the townspeople, and introduced an "enlightened" Jew who would sacrifice a pig on the idol in recognition of the decree of Antiochus. Old Mattisyahu stepped forward and slew the traitor.
Mattisyahu called the people to rebellion. A pitifully small number responded at first - the people were numb with fear and hopelessness - but his five sons led the way. They fought the Syrian-Greeks, retreated to the mountains, and began a guerrilla war against the Syrian-Greeks and their Jewish allies. Mattisyahu had not long to live, but on his death bed he charged his sons to carry on the struggle. The glorious brothers heeded his command. He passed on the leadership to his second son, Judah the Maccabee, who was a mighty warrior and a charismatic leader.
Many miracles happened. Outnumbered a hundred to one, Judah and his men won many battles. Jews came to join him. In a few years, he had defeated the mightiest armies of Syria. Victory belonged to the Jew, the pure, the righteous, the loyal defender of the Torah. Following the rebellion, the kingdom of Israel was restored for 200 years, until the destruction of the SecondTemple.
So it was that Judah and his men climbed the mountain above Jerusalem and saw that there was no resistance. On the twenty fifth day of Kislev, they marched into the HolyCity and immediately made their way to the Temple where they saw a sight that left them shocked and angered. Idols, filth, impurity were everywhere. They rummaged through the ruins seeking at least one flask of pure olive oil with which to light the makeshift menorah (candelabra) they hastily put together.
Flask after flask they found - every one of them defiled. Finally - another miracle! One small jug, sufficient for only one day, remained intact! Quickly, with trembling hands, they poured it into the menorah and lit it. It would be eight days before they could manufacture more oil for the next lighting, but meanwhile, they lit what they had.
The flames of the menorah burned and burned and burned and burned and burned and burned and burned and burned. For eight days they burned. (I bet you counted). Those eight miraculous days were chosen as the eternal symbol to commemorate the miracle of Chanukah - the eight day long Festival of Lights, where we light the Menorah each evening, publicizing the miracle G-d performed some 2000 years ago.
Lighting the Menorah.
NOTE: This is just a very basic introduction. A competent authority should be consulted with any questions.
Lighting the Menorah.
The Menorah used today, is a nine-branch candelabra. On each night one more candle is added and lit, beginning with one candle on the first night of Chanukah and ending with the eighth on the final evening. The ninth branch is reserved for the shamash, the servant light, which is lit first and used to kindle the other lights of the Menorah. The candles of a menorah must be of equal height in a straight row. The shamash, should stand out from the rest (i.e. higher or lower).
The best time to light the Chanukah candles is at nightfall. The whole family and guests should be present. Young children should also be encouraged to light the candles. If someone can't be home by nightfall, we may light as long as people are still up and about - either at home or out of doors.
The generally accepted custom is to place the menorah at a window so that it can be seen from the street. This is because we are required to proclaim the miracle publicly by means of the lights.
The lights must burn for at least half an hour into the night, (after nightfall), during which time no use may be made of the light. The standard small colored Chanukah candles will burn long enough.
Play it safe for Chanukah !
Increased activity and excitement often make people less careful just when they need to be more cautious.
Keep the Menorah and all burning candies out of children's reach; keep matches, oil and lighters out of sight and locked away.
Have a safe and joyous Chanukah