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History of Hanukkah

Dec 03, 2018

 

Hanukkah this year begins on December 2, 2018 and end December 10, 2018. With the holiday falling during finals week, it has the opportunity to bring some light into a stressful time for many students.  What is Hanukkah all about? Many stories told about Hanukkah share how there was only enough oil to light the Menorah for one night, but it lasted for eight nights. A Hanukkah miracle as many call it.

Ezra Samuels, a sophomore at UO, teaches a Talmud Torah class at Temple Beth Israel in Eugene.  It focuses on the history of Hanukkah. Many people believe that Hanukkah is celebrated because of the oil lasting eight days, while Ezra’s class focuses on “the war with King Antiochus IV's army - which included assimilated Jews -  in the 2nd century BCE.” The war “was fought in an attempt to preserve Jewish culture at a time when Judaism was illegal, and many Jews were assimilating into Greek culture.” After exploring the different story behind Hanukkah, Ezra’s class ends on a more positive note.  It discusses “Hanukkah traditions from around the world, and how Jewish culture came to thrive and evolve into what we now know as Ashkenazi, Sephardi, and Mizrachi Judaism.” The message behind this is that there are many ways to show your Judaism. Ezra believes that “we have an international community that can help us all learn and grow and cultivate Jewish identities that are meaningful to us.”

What is the main takeaway of the Hanukkah story overall?  Ezra put it in a way that I could not have said better myself. “Strength does not always come in numbers, but in perseverance. The Maccabees were a small militia in the hills, and while they suffered many losses, they ultimately won the war, and even negotiated peace with the Greek empire shortly thereafter. By all forms of logic, the Jews should not have won, but their perseverance and their Hanukkah (which literally means "dedication") gave them the strength to stand up for their beliefs, stand up for their faith, and save their people.”

As we go into the holiday this year, some of my favorite traditions include spinning the dreidel, eating latkes and lighting the menorah.  For Ezra, these traditions include eating latkes, the klezmer music, and dreidel.  What are some of your family’s traditions?

Written by Samantha Katzeff
University of Oregon
Class of 2020

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