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Area Jewish Families Celebrating Hanukkah


Area Jewish Families Celebrating Hanukkah
Originally publishe in The Dubois County Herald
Wednesday, December 16, 1998

For most everyone else, Tuesday was just the second work day of the week. But for the Moss family, it was the third day of Hanukkah.

Two menorahs, one of which will soon hold lit candles: a Yiddish cup with wine, and a music box playing Jewish songs sit on blue, gold and while tablecloth on the family's kitchen table.

Following tradition, Richard Moss places four candles in the menorah, left to right: they will be lit from right to left.

His wife, Ying, keeps the two children, 6-year-old Arielle and 4 year-old Noah, quiet. The two, especially Noah, are excited They know what's about to happen, they've done this for the past two nights.

As Moss pulls out matches to light the Shamash, or helper candle, Noah is already at his side, eyes glowing with the flame. "OK, who wants to light the menorah?" menorah?" Moss asks.

"Me, me, me! I want to light it" Noah chimes in.

"Daddy can I light it?"

So carefully, with the help of his father, Noah lights each candle be-fore setting the Shamash back in the center holder. He moves away smiling and content with his deed.

Arielle then opens the prayer book to show her father how well she's learning her Hebrew grammar She reads the first of three ceremonial prayers:

Ba-ruch a-ta Adonai. Eh to-hei nu

meh-lech ha-o-lam a-sher ki-d'sha-nu b'mitz-vo-tav v-tzi-va-nu

I'had-lik new shel Chanukah."

Translation: "We praise you. Eternal God King of the universe. You hallow us with Your Mitzvot, and command us to kindle the Chanukah lights."

Chanukah, or Hanukkah, means "rededication." It is symbolized by the menorah, a special candle holder with holds eight candles and the Shamash.

The holiday originated in 165 B.C., after the Jews of Judea defeated the Syrian tyrant Antiochus IV. They cleaned and held festivities in the Temple in Jerusalem, and rededicated it to God.

"If this had not happened, it would have altered all history and religion as we know it may have been different," Moss said. "Jesus, who was Jewish, may not have been able to do what he did if the Jews bowed down to Antiochus IV."

What most people know of Hanukkah is the lighting of the candles in the menorah. But it's much more than that, Moss said.

"The real miracle of Hanukkah is that this small nation of shepherds, farmers and craftsmen was able to rise up and defeat a powerful enemy, the most powerful army at that time, pushing them out of Israel," Moss said.

After Moss recites the other two prayers, the celebration starts. The children receive gelt (chocolate coins wrapped in gold paper imprinted with Hebrew symbols), puzzles, rubber stamps and stickies. All have Jewish themes, "to teach them about the tradition," Moss said.

The celebration. much like Christmas, is geared toward the children.

Don Aronoff, a Jewish man who lives in Santa Claus, and his wife do not have children. Although he hasn't celebrated Hanukkah in his adult years, he has fond memories of the holiday from his childhood, some 40 years ago.

His celebrations were with his parents, brother, aunt, uncle and cousins.

"What was neat was that every evening you lit the menorah and got a present - a game or gelt or something." he recalled. "It wasn't a big thing, but it didn't have to be big; it was the excitement of knowing you were going to get some-thing."

Nowadays, he's careful to observe the teachings of his faith, and not get caught up in the Christmas holiday,

"Christmas is not a holiday to me." he said. "I do celebrate the good feeling that goes on with. it. but not to the point that it conflicts with my religious beliefs."

The celebration of Hanukkah coincides with the Christmas season. in that it's definitely a holiday "for children." he said.

After receiving their gifts, the Moss children play a game with one - a four-sided top that has different Hebrew letters on each side. called the dreidel. They put a gelt in the center and take turns spinning the top. The letter that faces upward tells them what to do next. NUN means to do nothing, GIMEL means to claim the entire pot, HEY means to claim half the pot and SHIN means to put another token in the pot. The next person then spins the dreidel.

The letters, in that sequence, mean "A great miracle happened there."

Arielle and Noah are not really aware of the significance of the miracle. All they know is that, for five more days, they get to light the menorah, say prayers and receive gifts.

When they are older, they will understand.

History of Hanukkah

In the next to last century B.C., Jews were subjects of the Syrian Empire, one of the states formed out of Alexander the Great's empire. The Syrian king, Antiochus IV, wanted his subjects to adopt Greek culture and customs: many did, but some resisted. He also wanted to get possession of the treasures in the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem.

In 168 B.C., angered by Jewish resistance to his policy, he entered the city, killed many people there and defiled the Temple by building an altar to the Greek god Zeus as well as a statue of himself. The practice of Jewish law was forbidden, arid copes of the law were destroyed. Jews who disobeyed were killed.

War broke out when an officer of the king came to the village where the Jewish priest Mattathias lived and tried to make him offer sacrifice to the pagan god. Mattathias refused and was beaten. He fled to the hills and died soon after. His son, Judah Maccabee, took his place.

Though outnumbered, Judah and his Jewish army repeatedly defeated the king's army. About 165 B.C., they drove the army out of Israel. Judah then reentered Jerusalem to purify and rededicate the Temple to God. After cleaning the Temple of Syrian idols, they found only one small cruse, or jar, of oil with which to light their holy lamps. But miraculously, the oil burned for eight days. This lamp, called the N'er Tamid, is present in Jewish houses of worship and is never extinguished. Judah Maccabee, the Jewish leader, then proclaimed a festival - Hanukkah - to commemorate this event.

A wall of the original Temple still stands. The Wailing Wall is one of the most sacred symbols in Jerusalem today.


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