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December 06, 1985 - Image 36

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1985-12-06

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

36

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

Friday, December 6, 1985

Lew Silver

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NEWS

Traditions Abound
With Chanukah Holiday

1

By Carol Green
Special to The Jewish News

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No festival in the Jewish
calendar is as much loved as
Chanukah. Rare among Jewish
holidays, it carries no aura of
solemnity, nor does it impose

any special restrictions. Instead,
Chanukah is a time for
thanksgiving and lighthearted
rejoicing. It is a time when fam-
ily and friends gather together
around the Chanukah lights to
play games while enjoying spe-
cial holiday snacks.
But Chanukah rituals, foods
and games are more than quaint
folk customs; they are rich in
symbolic meaning and provide
insights into the meaning of the
holiday and the history of the
Jewish people.
The Chanukah menorah, or
candelabrum, is the most prom-
inent symbol of the holiday for
it is a reminder of the menorah
that once stood in the Temple in
Jerusalem. Its eight lights recall
the miracle of the oil: when the
Maccabees re-entered the holy
Temple they sought to light the
menorah, however they found
only one flask of pure olive oil,
supply enough for one day.
Eager to rededicate the Temple
after years of disuse they lit the
menorah anyway. Miraculously,
the oil continued to burn for
eight days, long enough for a
fresh supply of oil to be pressed.
To commemorate the miracle,
we add an additional light to
the menorah on each night of
the holiday.
Jewish law does not require
that. the menorah assume a
specific form, only that it have
room enough for eight lights
plus a shamash or servicing
light from which the other
lights are kindled. Talmudic di-
ctum requires that the menorah
be prominently positioned out-
side the front entrance to the
house as a public affirmation of

the miracles of the holiday and

the cities of ancient Israel were
aglow with the lights of these

menorahs.
Archeologists have unearthed
long vertical bases onto which
the lights were mounted for
public display. If, however,
anti-Semitism made public dis-
play impossible, the menorah
went indoors. In Muslim Spain
the Jews developed a small,
portable menorah which was
hung inside the house near the
door opposite the mezuzah. This
portable "benchtype," often or-
nately decorated, later became
popular throughout Europe.
Menorah designs reflect the
influences of both Jewish tradi-
tion and the surrounding cul-
ture. In Spain, the backwall or
bench of the menorah was often
fashioned from Arabic curl pat-
terns while in Italy, during the
Renaissance, menorahs were
adorned with cherubs, masks
and cornucopiae. Jewish decora-
tive motifs such as stars of
David, lions of Judah and scenes
from the Chanukah story were
universally popular.
In modern Israel the menorah
is proudly displayed in public.
Menorahs are lit in front of all
major public buildings and
monuments including the Knes-
set and the mountain-top for-
tress of Massada. The light of
Chanukah is also recalled in a
torch relay originating from
Modi'im, the home of the Mac-
cabees. On the first night of the
holiday the torch is lit in a spe-
cial ceremony at Modi'im and
then is carried by runners
throughout Israel to Jerusalem.
The festival cuisine also re-
calls the miracle of the oil, as
throughout the Jewish world it
is customary on Chanukah to
eat pastry or potato dishes fried
in oil. Among the Sephardim a

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