Hanukkah lights up the holidays

2012-12-08T18:00:00Z 2014-08-15T12:52:12Z Hanukkah lights up the holidaysEarl Horlyk ehorlyk@siouxcityjournal.com Sioux City Journal
December 08, 2012 6:00 pm  • 

SIOUX CITY | You can find many unusual items inside the Congregation Beth Shalom gift shop.

A CD of nursery rhymes under the title "Oy Baby!"? Sure, they have it in stock.

A dog's chew toy made in the shape of a matzo ball? Yes, it comes in many festive colors.

Bags of coin-sized candies? Absolutely, and these "gelts" come in both milk or dark chocolate.

"We have traditional gifts and many that are just fun for Hanukkah," explained Marilyn Cohen, a Congregation Beth Shalom Sisterhood member who volunteers at the synagogue's shop.

Also known as the Festival of Lights, Hanukkah is an eight-day Jewish holiday commemorating the re-dedication of the Holy Temple at the end of the Maccabean Revolt, when Jews reclaimed Jerusalem from the Syrians.

In fact, the name "Hanukkah" is derived from a Hebrew word meaning "to dedicate," according to Congregation Beth Shalom's Rabbi Guy Greene.

Hanukkah -- which is celebrated this year from the evening of Dec. 8 and concluding on Dec. 16 -- is considered a minor holiday, he noted.

"Sukkot (the harvest festival), Shavuot (celebration of the giving of the Torah) and Passover (celebration of the Jews' flight from Egypt) are considered to be our major holidays," Greene explained. "Possibly due to its proximity to Christmas, Hanukkah gets attention yet it's a minor holiday for Jews."

Still, there are many traditions associated with the holiday which includes the nightly lighting of a Menorah or Chanukiah -- a nine-branched candelabrum, which includes the Shamash, the candle used to light all of the other candles. 

One candle is lit for each night of Hanukkah.

Foods such as latkes -- a fried potato pancake -- sutganiyot -- a fried jelly-filled doughnut -- are also eaten for Hanukkah.

"The oils used for food is symbolic that kept the Second Temple of ancient Israel lit with a long-lasting flame," Greene informed.

Another Hanukkah tradition is the nightly distribution of gifts, which is of particular interest to 11-year-old Ross Leopold.

"I usually get a new dreidel," the Dakota Valley Middle School student said of the four-sided spinning top toy played during Hanukkah. "Other gifts may also magically appear."

For 10-year-old Gwen Rogers and 11-year-old Hannah Heckman, jewelry is a frequent Hanukkah gift.

"I like it a lot," said Rogers, a Lincoln Elementary School fifth-grader.

In spite of the gifts, Greene reminds the reason for the Festival of Lights is, indeed, the lights.

"Hanukkah lights should be placed on a window sill where passersby can see it and be reminded of the Miracle of Hanukkah," he said.






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