ORANGE PARK – The first day of Hanukkah starts an eight-day festival of lights to commemorate the rededication of the Temple by the Maccabees after their victory over the Syrian Greeks.
It’s a celebration that’s more than 2,200 years ago, but for Rabbi Shmuly Feldman, the message of finding light in the darkness of evil has never been more needed.
“How do we face darkness? We fight darkness with lights,” Feldman said. “A little candle can take away a lot of the darkness. We need that more now than in the past.”
Members of the Chabad of Clay County will pause on Monday to light a life-like menorah at Orange Park’s Town Hall to start the eight-day celebration of Hanukkah. The Festival of Lights, Feast of Dedication will start at 5 p.m. Kindling of the menorah will be at 5:30.
Next to Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, which celebrate the Jewish New Year and the day of atonement, Hanukkah is one of the holiest Jewish holidays. It recognizes the improbable victory of a small band of Jewish fighters against the overwhelming numbers of the Syrian Greeks.
“It recalls the victory of a militarily weak, but spiritually strong Jewish people over the might forces of a ruthless enemy,” Feldman said. “It serves as a universal symbol of triumph of freedom over oppression, of spirit over matter, of light over darkness.
“It is the miracle of God.”
Hanukkah, which means dedication, is celebrated for eight days because the Jewish people only had one container of ritually pure oil that carried the seal of a high priest to burn. Instead of lasting one night, the oil miraculously lasted for eight days.
“That’s why we celebrate Hanukkah for eight days,” Feldman said. “Each day is meant to commemorate the miracle of this oil and the Jews over the many and their ability to have taken back Jerusalem.”
The celebration at Orange Park is open to all residents. Feldman said everyone will be treated to latkes, doughnuts, chocolate coins, Hanukkah music and drinks.
“This is so important now,” Feldman said. “We appreciate that we can practice freely. We invite everyone to enjoy the latkes and doughnuts. But more important, enjoy the message.”
For more information, please email email@example.com, or visit www.jewishclaycounty.com.