LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Chanukah, Judaism’s eight-day commemoration of the temple rededication that followed the Maccabees’ victory over a larger Syrian army in 165 B.C., begins at sundown.
Free public menorah lighting ceremonies are scheduled for the Sherman Oaks Galleria (6 p.m.), Universal CityWalk (8 p.m.) and Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica (8 p.m.)
Once the Jews defeated the Hellenist Syrian forces of Antiochus IV at the end of a three-year rebellion, the temple in Jerusalem, which the occupiers had dedicated to the worship of Zeus, was rededicated by Judah Maccabee, who led the insurgency begun by his father, the high priest Mattathias.
According to the story of Chanukah, Maccabee and his soldiers wanted to light the temple’s ceremonial lamp with ritually pure olive oil as part of their rededication but found only enough oil to burn for one day. The oil, however, burned for eight days in what was held to be a miracle.
Chanukah — which means dedication in Hebrew — is observed around the world by lighting candles in a special menorah each day at sundown for eight days, with an additional candle added each day.
Other Hanukkah traditions include spinning a dreidel, a four-sided top, which partially commemorates a game that Jews under Greek domination are believed to have played to camouflage their Torah study, and eating foods fried in oil, such as latkes, pancakes of grated raw potatoes, and jelly doughnuts.
Unlike the High Holy Days of Rosh Hashana, the Jewish new year, or Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, observant Jews are permitted to work and attend school during Chanukah, the only Jewish holiday that commemorates a military victory.
“During Chanukah, we remember a story about the triumph of hope against all odds, and celebrate the beauty and resilience of light,” said Mayor Eric Garcetti, Los Angeles’ first elected Jewish mayor. “And even after generations of telling our children about the miracle of the oil that lit the temple in Jerusalem for eight days, the message of Hanukkah endures like that flickering flame.”
Garcetti added, “May this time of year always remind us that nothing is brighter or warmer than the light we find within ourselves — and nothing is stronger than the hope we give to each other in our times of greatest need.”
At the White House Hanukkah reception Dec. 14, President Barack Obama said Chanukah’s many lessons include “how a small group can make a big difference.”
“That’s the story of the Maccabees’ unlikely military victory, and of great moral movements around the globe and across time, how a little bit can go a long way, like the small measure of oil that outlasted every expectation,” Obama said.
(©2016 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)