Munich: Jews celebrate Hanukkah – Munich

The event that the Jews remember of these days goes back thousands of years: In 164 BC – around 3597 according to the Jewish calendar – the Jews of Judea triumphed over the Greeks, who had adopted repressive measures against the Jews under their ruler Antiochus and, among other things, had desecrated the Second Temple of Jerusalem. Through the Maccabees Revolt, the Jews recaptured and rededicated the temple.

According to tradition, there was a candlestick inside the temple, the lights of which had gone out, but according to Jewish belief they always had to be on. Due to the fighting, however, there was only one oil jug in the entire temple, which could burn for a maximum of one day. The production of new, consecrated oil would take eight days, however. Nevertheless, the Jews lit the light – and miraculously the oil jar actually held for eight days until the new oil was made.

Because of this story, Hanukkah is also known as the Jewish festival of lights. Because during the eight-day celebrations, the believers light a light every day on an eight-armed candlestick, the Hanukkia, and thus remember the events in the Second Temple in Jerusalem. In some cases the chandelier has nine arms, with the ninth light being used to light the other. A long time ago there was a discussion among two rabbis about the order in which to light the candles – should all eight be lit on the first day or one every day? “In the meantime, the second variant has prevailed,” explains Rabbi Steven Langnas of the Israelitische Kultusgemeinde Munich. In addition, dishes baked in oil are served on Hanukkah, for example donuts or potato pancakes. “With this, too, we remember the oil from back then,” says Langnas. “But of course you can also eat other things on the side.”

Unlike other Jewish holidays such as Yom Kippur, Hanukkah, which in the Jewish calendar begins on the 25th day of the month of Kislev and therefore on November 28th according to Christian calendar, is not a festival during which believers are prohibited from working prevails. This means that you can run errands or prepare dinner during the festive season. The main part of the celebration is in the evening. This year a lot is different because of Corona, there are hardly any events in the communities. “Fortunately, you can still celebrate at home,” says Langnas. “But of course in a much smaller group.”

Children used to get money – today there are gifts in the western world

In addition to the social component, being together in the community and with the family, Hanukkah, like all Jewish holidays, is also about dialogue with God. And: “Hanukkah is a festival of gratitude,” explains Langnas. “One remembers that Jewish culture has had continuity for several millennia and is grateful for it.” At that time – 164 BC – religious freedom was threatened by the occupiers. By defeating the Greeks, they fought back. “The light penetrates the darkness,” says Langnas about what happened back then.

The children are also honored on Hanukkah. In the past, most of them received money as an incentive to study the Torah, the Jewish scripture, or to donate it to charity. Because the Jewish festival in the western world mostly more or less coincides with Christmas, this custom has changed a little in the meantime. “Now most of the children get presents here,” says Langnas. And that should be enough incentive for even the youngest to grapple with what happened in Jerusalem in 164 BC.

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