This Sunday (December 2) is the first night of Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights.
The holiday commemorates events which took place over 2,000 years ago, when Israel was ruled by a king of Syria. Under the brutal reign of Antiochus, thousands of Jews were murdered in Jerusalem; the city’s Second Temple was desecrated; and following Judaism was outlawed. Jews were told to worship Greek gods instead — but a rebellion, led by the Jewish priest Mattathias and his sons, drove the Syrians out of Jerusalem.
To celebrate their victory, the Second Temple was rebuilt and its menorah — a candle with seven branches that represents God’s presence — was lit. Although there was only a tiny amount of oil, the menorah burned for eight days.
That miracle is why Hanukkah is now celebrated as an eight-day festival. Traditionally, Jews will light one candle of a menorah each night, as well as exchanging gifts, and playing games.
It is also a time for remembering the struggles that Jewish people have faced, and overcome, throughout history — and the decision to rededicate themselves to their faith.
What habits, beliefs or practices have you dropped that you hope to rededicate yourself to this year?
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A short video on the deeper meanings of Hanukkah.
- Think of something that you would like to “rededicate” yourself to. It could be something you used to enjoy that you have stopped doing, or something that you still do that you want to do more mindfully. Write a list of three practical ways you can make it happen.
- Make a paper candle for Hanukkah. On the candle, write down times when you have achieved victory over a difficult challenge.
- Research another time in history when Jewish people were persecuted, and write a short report on what happened.