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Hanukkah Celebration Comes to Tenaya Lodge

Children play with dreidls, a traditional game, on Hanukkah

FISH CAMP–Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights, takes place this year from sundown November 28, 2021, to sundown December 6, 2021. This year a special celebration, open to the public, takes place at Tenaya Lodge Resort at Yosemite, led by Rabbi Shlomo Menkes of Siderman Family Camp and Conference Center in North Fork. A menorah (candelabra) will be on display in Tenaya Lodge’s lobby to commemorate the holiday.

Rabbi and Rebbetzin Menkes

The Tenaya Lodge event begins at 5:00 pm in the Counties Room and the patio, featuring a traditional menorah lighting ceremony, with blessings and traditional foods.  Rabbi Menkes will recount the background of the Hanukkah observance, which commemorates the victory in the second century BCE of a small band of Jewish rebels who overcame a much larger Greek conquering force. As Chabad.org tells the story:

  • In the second century BCE, the Holy Land was ruled by the Seleucids (Syrian-Greeks), who tried to force the people of Israel to accept Greek culture and beliefs instead of mitzvah observance and belief in G‑d. Against all odds, a small band of faithful but poorly armed Jews, led by Judah the Maccabee, defeated one of the mightiest armies on earth, drove the Greeks from the land, reclaimed the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and rededicated it to the service of G‑d.
  • When they sought to light the Temple’s Menorah (the seven-branched candelabrum), they found only a single cruse of olive oil that had escaped contamination by the Greeks. Miraculously, they lit the menorah and the one-day supply of oil lasted for eight days, until new oil could be prepared under conditions of ritual purity.
  • To commemorate and publicize these miracles, the sages instituted the festival of Chanukkah.    Source:  Chabad.org

Rabbi Menkes cites the first Hanukkah as a two-pronged miracle with the military victory over the Greeks in addition to the cleansing and restoration of the temple to the Jews—as well as the miracle of one day’s supply of oil which lasted the full eight days until ritually-pure oil could be prepared.

The Hanukkiah, a special menorah for Hanukkah, with eight candles and an assistant candle in the middle, called the Shamash, from which the other eight candles are lit, one each night.

On Hanukkah, a special type of menorah (candelabra) called a hanukkiah is used. Whereas the Temple menorah involved in the miracle of Hanukkah had seven branches topped with cups to hold the oil, the hanukkiah has eight, plus one additional branch which sits in the middle, called the shamash. It is used to light the others. Each night one candle is lit until on the eighth night all candles are aglow. Before and after the lighting each night traditional blessings are sung.

There is an important lesson in the lighting of an additional candle every night. As Rabbi Menkes tells, it is our obligation (a mitzvah) to bring additional light into the world each day by way of following God’s commandments.  The lighting of the menorah candles in a daily progression is a vivid reminder to not be satisfied with the light of yesterday but to always add additional light.

Every Jewish celebration is one of Thanksgiving, so it seems especially appropriate this year that the Jewish Festival of Lights occurs within days of our Thanksgiving feasts. “There are no accidents, we must take a positive lesson from all events,” says Rabbi Menkes. “As Hanukkah celebrates and gives thanks to God for his intervention on behalf of the Children of Israel in days gone by so too the inhabitants of this great land  celebrate Thanksgiving to remind us to give thanks to the Almighty for the blessings of bounty He has bestowed upon us and we show our gratitude by sharing this bounty with our fellow man as is so prevalent on Thanksgiving. This year we are reminded to never be satisfied with yesterday’s sharing and gratitude but rather to always add in good deeds.”

Potato Latkes, a traditional Hanukkah food.

Traditional Hanukkah foods will be served during the observance.

For further information about the Tenaya Lodge event or other area observances, please contact sidermanevents@gmail.com or call 310/910-1770.

For further information about Hanukkah:  What is Hanukkah?

Photos courtesy of Rabbi Shlomo Menkes and Pixabay.

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