After one year of unwelcome pause, the City of Beverly Hills celebrated Chanukah with light, unity, liberty & hope.
Organized by the JEM Center, headed by Rabbi Hertzel Illulian, with the patronage of the City of Beverly Hills Mayor, Mr. Robert Wunderlich, hundreds of people gathered in downtown Beverly Hills to celebrate the lighting of the 8th Chanukah candle.
With traditional holiday music and food, this year’s Chanukah celebration, of rejuvenated holiday spirit, had a greater meaning for Beverly Hills in particular and America in general; a return, somewhat, to normalcy after a difficult 2020 year.
The Meaning of the Word Chanukah
The Hebrew word Chanukah means dedication. Chanukah is not just about lighting candles, one each night for eight nights. It is not about eating greasy doughnuts filled with yummy jam or potato pancakes, the proverbial Jewish latkes.
Rather, Chanukah (or Hanukkah) is about dedicating and rededicating oneself to a life by God’s Word. It is about the Jewish thought that every human being is supposed to see himself or herself as a temple, a sanctuary of God’s values, His word and His light, expressed in the holiday’s lights that are spread in the world.
Chanukah is known as the “Festival of Lights,” an eight-day Jewish holiday to commemorate and celebrate the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem in the Second Century B.C.
As the traditional story goes, the history of the holiday is tied to the time when the land of Israel’s existence was in a state of uncertainty.
After the Maccabees revolted against the tyrannical Seleucid Empire that occupied their land, the victorious Maccabees found enough oil to last one day to light the Temple’s Menorah. Miraculously, the oil lasted for eight days, long enough to purify more oil and thus 8-days of Chanukah.
Ever since the Jewish people light one candle on each of the eight evenings of the holiday venerating God’s provision and overcoming darkness.
Chanukah is considered to be a happy holiday. As the tradition evolved, during the holiday’s eight days the Jewish people attend holiday concerts and plays, exchange gifts, and have family dinners to celebrate the holiday. Today in Beverly Hills the city’s extended Jewish community did just that, celebrating the holiday that represents liberty to all the Jewish people wherever they are.
For Readers Unfamiliar With the History That Created the Holiday of Chanukah
The story of Chanukah is not recorded in the Bible, rather it is recorded in the Apocryphal books of 1-2 Maccabees. Messiah Jesus’ observance of the Feast of “Dedication” (Chanukah) can be found in John 10:22-23.
In 168 B.C. Antiochus Epiphanes, the Syrian emperor who became a ruler in 175 B.C. came from the north and defeated Egypt. Before he could enjoy the “spoils” of his victory he was compelled by powerful Rome to withdraw. Angry at this reversal, he came against the small country of Israel.
He wanted to move against Israel since its location was strategic, a land bridge joining Africa, Asia, and Europe. The one who dominates Israel often has a strategic point of control in the Middle East.
Antiochus Epiphanes was obsessed with delusions of deity and is considered to be one of the most anti-Jewish, anti-Israel, anti-God rulers in history. He set out to destroy Judaism by making its observance illegal.
Antiochus tried to Hellenize Israel. He looked on Hellenization as a way of integrating the Jews into his empire socially and therefore unifying the empire.
His goal was to defeat Israel’s armies and humiliate their God, thereby assimilating them into Greek culture (1 Macc 1:41-64; 2 Macc 6:1-11).
The history of Chanukah, the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem, is described in the books of the Maccabees. It took place in 167 B.C. The Greek king Antioch IV Epiphanes, who ruled over Israel, placed a statue for the Greek deity Zeus in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, which was an ‘abomination of desolation’ (1 Macc. 1:54, Daniel 9:27)
Defiling the Jewish Temple, the idolater also sacrificed pigs, a non-Kosher animal on the Temple’s altar. In an unparalleled attempt to force the Jewish people to assimilate into the Greek-Hellenistic culture, Sabbath, circumcision, and study of the Torah were forbidden and punishable.
Sadly, the Jewish ‘elite’ in Jerusalem, among them many priests, had already adopted Greek culture and became Hellenized. But the people in the land adhered to their Judaism and thus resisted.
A group of Jewish rebel warriors of priest-farmers from the city of Modi’in, known as the Maccabees, started a revolt against the Greeks who occupied their land and dishonored their Temple. Under Judas Maccabeus’ leadership, the Jewish people fought the Greeks and succeeded in re-taking Jerusalem and expelling the Greeks from the city.
The Temple was purified from idolatry, and on the 25th of the Hebrew month of Kislev, the same date it was desecrated, the altar at the Temple was rededicated.
The rededication of the temple celebration took eight days. The temple was ornamented with crowns and bosses of gold and was abundantly lit. From then on, the feast of the dedication has been celebrated yearly. According to Christian tradition, Jesus of Nazareth also celebrated the Feast of the Dedication in the temple (John 10:22).
According to the Talmud, the central text of Rabbinic Judaism and the primary source of Jewish religious law, when the Maccabees entered the Temple and wanted to light the seven-branched candelabra – the Menorah, no oil was ritually fit to be used for the Menorah. They did however find a small jar of ritually pure oil, expected to last one day. Miracles and tradition do go hand in hand and a miracle occurred. The Menorah burnt for eight days on this small amount of oil, which lasted long enough to produce new pure oil.
As President Ronal Reagan said in 1983 Chanukah celebration: “Jewish unity is when eight separate branches of the Menorah come as one and as the Menorah light grows stronger, with one candle being lit each day, we can feel the flame of freedom burning in the heart and this flame should inspire people everywhere. Let the warm lights of Chanukah spread the spirit of freedom and reach comfort and sustain every person.”
This evening, December 5, 2021, 1 Tevet 5782 in the Hebrew calendar, the City of Beverly Hills gave Chanukah an additional meaning, it is called continuity in all aspects of the word.