KAILUA-KONA — Hanukkah began at sundown Sunday evening, however the Chabad Jewish Center of the Big Island celebrated with a menorah lighting ceremony Tuesday evening at Lanihau Center, complete with doughnuts, latkes and activities for the keiki.
Hanukkah is the Jewish eight-day, wintertime “festival of lights,” celebrated with a nightly menorah lighting, special prayers and fried foods.
The Chabad Jewish Center states that in the second century B.C., the Holy Land was ruled by the Seleucids (Syrian-Greeks), who tried to force the people of Israel to accept Greek culture and beliefs instead of mitzvah observance and belief in God. 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.
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. They lit the menorah and miraculously, the one-day supply of oil lasted for eight days, until new oil could be prepared under conditions of ritual purity.
To commemorate and publicize these miracles, the sages instituted the festival of Hanukkah.
Rabbi Levi Gerlitzky said that in the wake of the recent synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh, the holiday is especially relevant today. The lighting of the menorah shows that with a little bit of light comes truth.
“This is a message for everyone that with love we can accomplish more and make this world a better place,” said Gerlitzky. “There’s no such thing as too much love.”