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December 17, 2008 > Time for Hanukkah

Time for Hanukkah

Hanukkah, which means dedication, will begin this year at sundown December 21st. The eight-day ceremony commemorates the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem in 165 BCE. A Jewish revolt against oppression which prohibited practice of their religion and seizure of the holy Temple ended with the victory of Jews under the leadership of Judah Maccabee.

The temple was once again in Jewish hands. A grand rededication ceremony was problematic since the temple's golden menorah by tradition, once lit, burned every night, throughout the night. Uncontaminated oil was found to light the menorah, but only enough to last for one day. It would take eight days to produce an additional supply of oil. Miraculously, the limited amount of oil burned for eight days

A special Hanukkah menorah holds nine candles, one for each of the eight nights. The ninth candle, called the "shamash," is used to light the other candles. Each night a blessing is recited before a candle is lit. One of the most traditional dishes served during this celebration is potato latkes (pancakes) and Sufganiyot, a jelly doughnut without a hole made in hot oil. Some families include a relatively new tradition of gifts for children.

In addition to the lighting of the menorah, the Dreidel game is an integral piece of Jewish tradition. Dreidels are four-sided spinning tops with a Hebrew letter painted on each side of the top. The letters are Nun - no win / no lose, Gimmel - take all (from the kitty), Heh - take half (from the kitty), Peh or Shin - lose (what you deposited). Dreidel is spun one player at a time. The side on which the Dreidel falls determines the fate of the player - whether they win or lose according to the letter inscribed there. The game is over when one player wins the whole pot.

To find out about local Hanukkah celebrations contact:

Temple Beth Torah
42000 Paseo Padre Parkway, Fremont
(510) 656-7141

Temple Beth Sholom
642 Dolores Avenue, San Leandro
(510) 357-8505

Temple Beth Emek
3400 Nevada Court, Pleasanton
(925) .931-1055

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