Jewish Holy Days

Unlike other calendars that are based off of the earth’s revolutions around the sun the Jewish is on a secular calendar meaning it is made up of moon cycles where each month begins with a new moon. Jewish holidays fall each year on different dates according to the secular calendar, but on the same date according to the Jewish calendar. Generally speaking, however, Jewish holidays always fall in the same season each year” (“Basic Judaism”, 2011) “. In this paper it will describe Jewish holy day Hanukkah, the time of the year it takes place, the historical origin and meaning of the day. This paper will also include the religious practices associated with the day and the theological or cultural differences that might lead to differences in the observance of the holy day by the various branches of Judaism.

Hanukkah, also spelled Chanukkah is a eight day Jewish celebration that commemorates the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem during the second century. ” Hanukkah, which means “dedication” in Hebrew, begins on the 25th of Kislev on the Hebrew calendar and usually falls in November or December. Often called the Festival of Lights, the holiday is celebrated with the lighting of the menorah, traditional foods, games and gifts” (“Hanukkah”, 1996-2012).

Hanukkah can easily be looked at as one of the best known Jewish holiday not just for its religious significance, but for its proximity to Christmas because the eight day festival begins on the 25th and adopts many of its customs like decoration and gift-giving. The story of how Hanukkah came to pass is held in two books which is the first and second Maccabees. Happening around 200 B. C the Jews were allowed to continue their own religious practices under the new control of Judea also known as the Land of Israel.

Judea son “Antiochus IV Epiphanes, proved less benevolent: Ancient sources recount that he outlawed the Jewish religion and ordered the Jews to worship Greek gods. In 168 B. C. , his soldiers descended upon Jerusalem, massacring thousands of people and desecrating the city’s holy Second Temple by erecting an altar to Zeus and sacrificing pigs within its sacred walls” (“Hanukkah”, 1996-2012). Not being happy with the situation the Jews were placed in a rebellion broke out against the Seleucid monarchy and Antiochus led by a Jewish priest and his five sons.

Syrians was soon ran out of Jerusalem and the cleansing of the Second Temple took place along with the rebuilding of the altar and lighting of the menorah, that represents “the gold candelabrum whose seven branches represented knowledge and creation and were meant to be kept burning every night” (“Hanukkah”, 1996-2012). The religious practices associated with Hanukkah is the lighting of the candles. There are nine candles that are held in a chanukkiah and a candle called the shammash is used to light the other candles that will be placed in the chanukkiah each day from the right but are lit beginning with the first candle of the left. During or after the lighting of the candles, these blessings are recited: ” Blessed are You, Eternal One our God, Universal Presence, Who sanctifies us with the mitzvot and gives us this path of kindling the light of Hanukkah” and ” Blessed are You, Eternal One our God, Universal Presence, Who worked miracles for our ancestors in ancient days at this time” (“Hanukkah (chanukah): Festival Of Lights “, 2004-2010).

Theological or cultural differences that might lead to differences in the observance of the holy day by the various branches of Judaism could be due to the interpretation of the laws. In 70 A. D after the Temple was destroyed, many of the Jewish people went their own ways and the “interpretations of the Word of God became as widespread theologically as the people were geographically.

Jews fled to the Far East, India, Ethiopia, Eastern Europe, and other countries along the Mediterranean. (Herzig, 2010). Due to the separations at that time the different branches of Judaism was created which lead to the many differences such as Hasidim with their common beliefs and practices, the Orthodox Tradition with their different lifestyles and the Conservative Tradition who stands more in the middle and believe strongly in worship and family life.

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