|The Shammash being used to light the|
candles on the Hanakkah Menorah
Saturday was the first day of Hanakkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights. The holiday, which is celebrated every December, commemorates the time when a small army of Jews defeated the Syrian King Antiochus IV (ca 215-164 B.C.) who had taken over Jerusalem and vowed to destroy Judaism. Antiochus had filled the Jewish temple with Syrian idols. In a surprise attack, led by Judas Maccabee, the small Jewish force recaptured Jerusalem and reclaimed their temple. But when they went to light their holy lamps, they found only a single vial of oil. Lo and behold, this tiny amount of oil kept the lights burning for eight days. This was declared a miracle. Now, during the eight days of Hanakkah, every night celebrants light a candle in a Menorah (a candle holder with places for 9 candles ). They also exchange small gifts and make donations to the poor. The ninth candle, called the shammash, has only one purpose: to light the other eight. Since no Jewish festival of any kind is unaccompanied by glorious food, Hannakah is no exception. And of all the dishes served, none is more closely linked to the Festival of Lights than the latke or potato pancake. And of course, there’s a story attached to the Hannakah latke as well. And it’s a doozy.