Moshe was supremely happy. His favorite time of the year was back again. Today was the beginning of Hanukkah – the Jewish festival of lights. Moshe and his family were Jews. Like how Christians celebrate Christmas, Hindus celebrate Diwali and Muslims celebrate Id, Jews all over the world celebrate Hanukkah!
This eight day festival each year brings along a lot of fun and frolic for Moshe. Just like every year, his cousins Abraham and Josef were to join his family for this year’s celebrations.
In the evening, a car horn blared at the gate. Moshe jumped out of his bed and darted out to meet his brothers. He greeted them with a loud shalom (shah-lohm, meaning Hello) and a tight hug. Together, they ran to the garden to play. It had been a couple of hours of playing when savta (grandmother) called them inside. The sun was setting, and it was time to burn oil in a “menorah”. Menorah(muh-nawr-uh) is a branched candlestick which is lit throughout the eight days of Hanukkah. A special candle called shamash is used to light all the other candles each night. On the first night, the Shamash plus one other candle is lit. The next night another candle is added, so it becomes the Shamash plus two candles. This goes on for eight nights.
While lighting Shamash, Savta told them the interesting story of Hanukkah and reason behind lighting menorah. Around 2500 years ago, a mean king Antiochus, asked Jewish people to forget their own customs and instead pray to Greek gods. A statue of Antiochus was erected in the Jewish temple. A brave jew Juda Maccabees along with few other Jews rebelled against the king and threw him out of Jerusalem. The Jews then cleaned and repaired their Temple. They rededicated it to God by lighting the lamp called Menorah – which was a symbol of God’s presence. There was very little oil in the jar but miraculously the lamp stayed alight for eight days. Ever since then, Hanukkah celebrates one of the greatest miracles in Jewish history.
Moshes was mesmerized by the Hanukkah story like always. The celebrations of the first day were coming to an end, but not before everyone gorged on Hanukkah special Latkes(laht-kuhs) – the potato pancakes and Sufganiyot – sweet jelly- filled doughnuts!!