MISSOULA — The holidays are here, and Sunday is the first day of the Jewish holiday, Hanukkah.
In Hebrew, menorah means “lamp”, so for eight nights in a row, people who practice Judaism light one of the menorah's eight candles and celebrate the story of Hanukkah.
What is traditionally known as a home holiday, Jewish people celebrate the holiday on the 25th day of the Jewish calendar month known as Kislev.
It is not the Jewish version of Christmas; it is a celebration of what is known as the miracle of Hanukkah.
The story of Hanukkah begins with Jewish men defeating the Greeks.
“The miracle of Hanukkah dates back about 24-hundred years ago. It commemorates a group of very brave men who rose up against the Greeks. They have overrun the ancient land of Israel and the temple and placed terrible restrictions on the Jewish religion,” said Rabbi Chezky, of the Chabad Jewish Center in Missoula.
The men reclaimed the temple and in order to rededicate it, they needed pure olive oil as part of the holy ceremony to light the menorah.
“They did find one cruse of pure olive oil,” Rabbi Chezky told MTN News. “Which was only enough to last for one day, but it miraculously burned for eight days, which was enough to get them exactly enough time to burn more oil.”
The main message of Hanukkah is hope—shining a light in the midst of darkness.
“I think Hanukkah has become really important to American Jews because it’s such an affirmation of identity at a time when all commercial activity is so focused on Christmas," said Rabbi Laurie Franklin of Har Shalom in Missoula. "And frankly, I don’t need Hanukkah commercial activity. To me, it’s the beauty of the lights and the wonder of the lamps, in the middle of the darkness, this time of year.”