by Brad Altman
As you go to look at your November calendar this year prepare to feast your eyes on history! That’s right, this year the Jewish celebration of Hanukah will fall the day before Thanksgiving. Well… What exactly is Hanukah anyway? Why does its date always seem to change? And what makes this year so special?
First thing’s first, the word ‘Hanukah’ itself can be spelled many different ways. Aside from its spelling, the term Hanukkah translates in English to the word ‘dedication’. It makes sense, as the holiday is dedicated to the story of the Maccabees.
The story of Chanukkah is pretty amazing. After having driven the Greek king Antiochus the Fourth’s forces out of Jerusalem, the Maccabees went back to the now-destroyed temple in Jerusalem. There they found only one day’s worth of oil. By a miracle, however, the oil lasted eight days in one of the synagogue’s menorahs, which bought them enough time to secure and create more. This “miracle of light” leads to the tradition of lighting the menorah, a fixture that holds nine candles, one of which is higher than the rest. Each candle (except for the highest one) represents a day the oil remained lit in the synagogue. The highest one, the shamas, or “helper candle,” is used to light each candle every day of Hanukah during sunset.