The Jewish holiday of Hanukkah lasts for eight days. Why? As explained in the Book of Maccabees, the Syrian- Greeks under the leadership of Antiochus conquered Jerusalem in 168 BCE. They destroyed most of the city and its inhabitants. They also desecrated the Temple, Judaism’s holiest site, by erecting statues of pagan gods within it and butchering pigs on its altar. Three years later, Judah Maccabee organized a revolt by Jewish rebels. The Maccabees, as they came to be known, defeated the Syrian-Greeks and entered Jerusalem in triumph. They removed the idols from the Temple, cleaned it and rededicated it. The First Book of Maccabees reports what happened next: “For eight days, they celebrated the dedication of the altar, joyfully offering burnt offerings, communion and thanksgiving sacrifices.” Hanukkah literally means “dedication.” Lighting the great menorah would signify the Temple had been cleansed and rededicated. This required oil that had been consecrated to that purpose. A thorough search of the Temple grounds discovered enough oil to last only one day. Acquiring more would take a week. Rather than wait, the religious authorities decided to light the oil they had and trust in – “dedicate” themselves to – God’s power to work miracles. The one-day measure of consecrated oil continued burning for the entire eight days. This is the miracle we celebrate. There are two kinds of menorahs. The one in the Temple had six branches. During Hanukkah, we use a special one called a Chanukkiah. It has eight branches to hold a separate candle for each day of the celebration. There is a ninth candle, always at a different level than the others, called the Shamash (helper) that we use to light the others. The last question we ask ourselves and our children before we light the candles is, “In what way did you bring light into the world today? In what way is the world a better place today because you are in it?” It is then, and only then, that we light the candles in joyous celebration that we have truly answered God’s call. We wish you a happy Hanukkah, a merry Christmas and a new year filled with many occasions to celebrate. — Rabbi Gary Greenebaum is western regional director of the American Jewish Committee. Rabbi John Borak is the AJC’s director of interreligious affairs.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORERose Parade grand marshal Rita Moreno talks New Year’s Day outfit and ‘West Side Story’ remake Jewish law requires all eight of the holiday candles to stand at the same level. In this way, we show no favoritism for any of the individual days. It reminds us that Judaism calls us to be fair and equitable in all our relationships. We light one candle on the first night of Hanukkah, two candles on the second, and so on. Our responsibility as Jews is always to increase – never to decrease – the amount of light in the world. The procedure: Adding from the right, lighting from the left. Hebrew, which is read from right to left, reminds us how to place the candles. On the first night, we place one candle in the far-right-hand branch of the Chanukkiah. On the next, we replace the candle(s) from the night before and add one immediately to its left. Although we add the candles from right to left, we light them from left to right. Why? To teach equality and consideration for others by giving each candle the opportunity to be the first one lit. We recommend that every Jewish family discuss the history and meanings of Hanukkah. It teaches the values of religious freedom, consideration for others, equality of opportunity, the power of miracles and the need for human beings to perform acts of goodness.