This Saturday marks the 25th day of Kislev, or the first day of Hanukah.
“Hanukah is a Jewish holiday that always falls around this time of year,” said Rabbi Cohen of Temple B’nai Chaim in Georgetown. “It doesn’t always fall on the exact date and this year Saturday, Dec. 8, is the first day.”
Rabbi Cohen said Hanukah is not as big as some other Jewish holidays and that Hanukah is not that big when it comes to gift giving.
“Some families give gifts every night and some just give one present,” she said. “The main point is to commemorate the time in Jerusalem when the ancient temple was rededicated.”
The temple had fallen into the hands of the Greeks and the Macabees were able to regain the temple and re-dedicate it, she said.
“There was a little bit of oil left to light a lamp [in the Temple] and it ended up lasting for eight days instead of one,” said Rabbi Cohen. “That’s the miracle of Hanukah, the oil should have lasted only a little bit but lasted much longer.”
During the eight days of Hanukah, a candle on the menorah is lit each evening with one extra candle is also lit. The menorah signifies the oil that lasted eight days instead of one to light the ancient temple, she said.
“Hanukah is a time for families to gather and for the community to come together,” she said.
Hanukah is also referred to as “The Festival of Lights.”
It is about “increasing light, and not just the light of the menorah, but in a spiritual sense,” she said. “It is the dead of winter, a dark and dreary time, not just for the season but can be a dark and dreary time in life. By increasing light, we are increasing hope, faith and joy.”
Some traditions on Hanukah include lighting the menorah, eating latkes or potato pancakes, exchanging gifts and eating chocolate gelt or gold coins.
“The latkas are fried in oil which is meant to remind us of the oil that lasted for eight days,” said Rabbi Cohen.
At Temple B’nai Chaim there will be a Hanukah celebration on Friday, Dec. 14, at 6:30 p.m.
“The entire community is invited, Jewish or not Jewish, member of the temple or not,” Rabbi Cohen said.
The students in the religious school have been practicing special songs that they will sing and are making crafts preparing for next weekend.
“It’ll be a short service with a potluck dinner, candle lighting and it’ll be very festive,” said Rabbi Cohen.
People are asked to bring their own menorah and candles for a communal candle-lighting.
For further details, call 203-544-8695.