An annual tradition in Pacific Palisades happened with the lighting of first candle of the Chanukah Menorah on December 7 in Palisades Village. Each day for eight days a new candle is lit.
This holiday celebrates light over darkness: a miracle of hope in a time when all seemed lost.
Councilmember Traci Park, joined Rick Caruso, two Palisades Jewish leaders Cantor Chayim Frenkel and Rabbi Zushe Cunin, and throngs of people on Swarthmore to light the first candle. Foods cooked in oil, latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganiyot (jelly doughnuts—Gelson’s has great ones) are eaten. The story is retold, and children play with the dreidl, a spinning top.
The holiday is also a celebration of religious freedom. It first began when the Syrians became intolerant of the Jewish religion and tried to suppress it with violence.
It was 174 BCE Antiochus III began his reign over Israel after winning a war with Egypt. After a small-scale rebellion, the Syrian Emperor responded by killing many Israelites and outlawing some religious practices.
In the village of Modin, the priest Mattityahu led villagers in resisting the Syrians. He and his sons were led by Judah Maccabee. They fled into the hills, where they conducted a guerilla campaign against the Syrian overlords.
After winning several battles, the Syrian army retreated. The Maccabees then wanted to cleanse the temple the soldiers had desecrated. One ritual was to burn an oil light for eight days, but they found only enough oil for a single day.
When the Maccabees returned to the temple and found only a small jar of oil for the eternal light, someone was sent to get more oil. The errand took eight days. Yet this small amount of oil, which looked as if it would last only one day, miraculously burned the eight days until the person returned with more. This miracle is celebrated today by the lighting of the Menorah. One candle is lit each night until all eight are burning.
All temples to this day have a ner tamid or eternal light usually hanging above the altar or pulpit – providing light.
After the recent massacre and rape of innocent victims in Israel by Hamas on October 7, the horror of people treating others as less than human because of a religion should be condemned. It is appalling that all individuals don’t stand against evil. There are some in the United States that try to justify this attack as a rights issue. There is no right to brutally attack and kill others.
With this festival of light, regardless of your religion, seek to bring joy and happiness in the world. Seek miracles.