The Jewish holiday Hanukkah began Thursday evening, December 7. Rabbi Laibel Shapiro of Chabad at the Shore In Long Branch lit the menorah at Pier Village as people gathered for the event.
“Tonight we begin the holiday of Hanukkah, the holiday of lights,” Rabbi Shapiro said. “A celebration, a victory of light over darkness.”
While it’s often talked about as the holiday where Jews celebrate the fact that oil which was supposed to last one day lasted eight, it has much more meaning than just that. The word “Hanukkah” means “dedication,” because it celebrates the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem after the Jews of the period had beaten King Antiochus of Syria, who had occupied the country. Antiochus sought to get rid of the Jewish religious customs and monotheism.
A group called the Maccabees organized a rebellion, and managed to win the military victories. This victory against overwhelming odds is considered one of the miracles of the holidays. After the victory, the Maccabees had the holy temple in Jerusalem rededicated, thus the holiday’s name.
According to Jewish tradition, there was only enough oil left to keep the sacred lamps lit for a single day, and it would take at least a week to get more to Jerusalem, but somehow the oil lasted eight days, which is why the holiday is celebrated for that long, and a menorah with eight lights is lit.
After lighting the menorah, dreidels and gelt (chocolate coins) were thrown to the crowd. They then enjoyed food cooked in oil such as latkes and donuts, a Hanukkah tradition.
The next menorah lighting will be December 13, in West End Park at 5:30.