The eight-day Jewish celebration known as Hanukkah or Chanukah commemorates the re-dedication during the second century BCE of the Second Temple in Jerusalem, where according to legend Jews had risen up against their Greek-Syrian oppressors in the Maccabees Revolt. Hanukkah, which means "dedication" in Hebrew, begins on the 25th of Kislev on the Hebrew calendar and usually falls in November or December. The timing is based on the ancient lunar calendar. The celebration is based on events that occurred on about the year 200 BCE. However, there are no written records of any holiday observance of Hanukkah until about 500 years later, in the Talmud. Christmas, was not officially celebrated on December 25th until the third century. I have learned from studying both the old and new testament in Haifa that there is no certainty that the date of either is exact. The spiritual significance of the holidays is what is important and should be celebrated and coveted.
The Festival of Lights holiday is celebrated with the lighting of the menorah, traditional foods, games and gifts. Many Jews and non- Jews consider the holiday to have special significance with the return of the Jewish people to the land of our roots. Many of us in Israel and elsewhere consider Israel to be the third "Bayt" (home) or Temple.
According to the Tanakh, Solomon's Temple was built atop the Temple Mount in the 10th century B.C.E and destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BCE. The Second Temple was completed and dedicated in 516 BCE. Two thousand years ago Jews were expected to pray in The Temple. According to classical Jewish belief, the Temple acted as the figurative "footstool" of God's presence and a Third Temple will be built there in the future. Traditionally, Jerusalem has been the focus of longing for Diaspora Jews who were forced from their land and the Temple of their God. Psalm 137 is the well-known lament of the Babylonian Jews who wept "by the rivers of Babylon" and declared, "If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand wither."
Nearly two thousand years after Judah led his successful revolt, the Jewish people are again free to practice our faith in "The Third Temple". This year marked the sixty fourth year of our return to the place where it all started. Hopefully, we will all understand that the greatest message and truest blessing of Hanukkah is that freedom is worth any price that needs to be paid. Next year in Jerusalem is now!