Chanukah - Festival of Lights

Chanukah, also known as the Jewish "Festival of Lights", is an eight-day holiday followed yearly between Thanksgiving and the secular New Year. It memorializes a movement of national liberation for religious and political freedom by Jews.


As a result of the break-up of Alexander the Great's empire, rulers from Damascus subsequently founded idol-worshiping practices in the cities of Judea and eventually in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. Jews who believed in the oneness of God decamped at the hills and intermittently attacked the Syrio-Greek garrisons until, in 165 BCE, Jerusalem was taken.

These traditionalists were known as "Maccabees" (Hebrew for "Hammer"), and even though the battles lasted for three more years, primarily Syrio-Greek rule over Judea was broken when Jerusalem fell. The Maccabees found the Temple and its Holy of Holies destroyed and defiled.

They began cleaning and purifying places and utensils used in the Divine Service. The work was completed on the 25th day of the Hebrew month of Kislev (late fall), was set for the Chanukat ha-bayit, the Dedication of the Temple, to be commemorated for eight days (after which Thanksgiving is celebrated).

Presently, Chanukah is observed in Jewish homes and synagogues by lighting candles for eight nights in sequence. Special foods are like jelly doughnuts or (German-style) potato pancakes called "latkes" are consumed during this time.


As per the rabbinic legend when the Maccabees searched for olive oil for the Temple lamps only a pint of ritually pure (kosher) oil was found. Miraculously, this oil lasted for eight days until new supplies could be found, hence, the eight-day observance. However, this is only a legend and is not the sole reason for the celebration.

Chanukah means "dedication." Its celebratory lights summons all to rededicate themselves morally and in practice to the beliefs in God. In spirit and indeed all should rededicate themselves as a God-fearing people to live with each other in mutual respect and support each other, regardless of race or rank, and join in harmony to create a feeling of true, lasting peace in the world.

The Jewish Chapel community at Navy Great Lakes observes Chanukah as part of regular Sabbath Eve worship. All worship is at Recruit Training Command Chapel.