By Shel Segal
Known as the Festival of Lights, the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah begins for Jews in the west San Gabriel Valley and throughout the world this year at sundown on Wednesday, Dec. 16.
Hanukkah is an eight-day festival commemorating the rededication of the Holy Temple – or Second Temple – in Jerusalem at the time of the Maccabean Revolt against the Seleucid Empire of the 2nd century B.C.
Hanukkah is observed for eight nights and days, starting on the 25th day of Kislev according to the Hebrew calendar, which may occur at any time from late November to late December in the Gregorian calendar.
The festival is observed by the kindling of the lights of a unique candelabrum, the nine-branched menorah or hanukiah, one additional light on each night of the holiday, progressing to eight on the final night.
The typical menorah consists of eight branches with an additional visually distinct branch. The extra light is called a shamash and is given a distinct location, usually above or below the rest. The purpose of the shamash is to have a light available for practical use, as using the
Hanukkah lights themselves for purposes other than publicizing and meditating upon Hanukkah is forbidden.
Other Hanukkah festivities include playing dreidel and eating oil-based foods, such as doughnuts (known as tsivonim) and latkes.
Hanukkah became more widely celebrated beginning from the 1970s, when a prominent rabbi called for public awareness of the festival and encouraged the lighting of public menorahs.
Hanukkah commemorations and celebrations will be taking place at four local synagogues:
Temple Beth David in Temple City, Temple B’nai Emet in Montebello, Temple Beth Shalom in
Whittier and the Pasadena Jewish Temple and Center.
(Shel Segal can be followed via Twitter @segallanded.)