Religions and Spirituality

West Orange Town Menorah Lights Up the Holidays

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Mayor Rob Parisi, left, looks on as Rabbi Mendy Kasowitz lights the first Hanukkah candle. Credits: Julie Levine
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Rabbi Kasowitz says the blessings. Credits: Julie Levine
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Mayor Rob Parisi and Council President Vic Cirilo. Credits: Julie Levine
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Nothing like a delicious Hanukkah donut! Credits: Julie Levine
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Claire Silvestri Krakoviak and Councilman Joe Krakoviak. Credits: Julie Levine
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WEST ORANGE, NJ - Mayor Parisi, town officials, and township residents joined with  Rabbi Mendy Kasowitz of the Lubavitch Center Shul in West Orange Wednesday evening to light the Township Menorah.

 

Hanukkah is called the Jewish Festival of Rededication, as well as the Festival of Lights,and  is an eight day festival beginning on the 25th day of the Jewish month of Kislev.

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After capture by Alexander the Great, a long period of increasing Jewish oppression occurred, which included defilement of the Temple in Jerusalem.  A  nationalistic group led by Mattathias the Hasmonean and his son Judah Maccabee, along with a traditional religious group known as the Chasidim, joined together in a revolt against the Hellenistic Jews and oppression by the Seleucid Greek government. The revolutionaries prevailed and the Temple was rededicated.

The Talmud, second only to the Torah in importance, includes codes of Rabbinic Law, oral histories, and rabbinic opinion on a variety of subjects.  According to the tradition of the Talmud, at the time of the rededication, there was very little pure oil left that had not been defiled by the Greeks.  Pure and undefiled oil was required for the menorah (candelabrum) to be lit and used in the Temple.  There was only enough oil to burn for one day, yet miraculously, it burned for eight days. (It took 8 days to prepare a fresh supply.) As a result, a Festival, lasting 8 days, was declared to commemorate this miracle.

The lighting of the Menorah is the one religious observance related to Hanukkah. The candles are arranged in a candelabrum called a menorah (or sometimes called a hanukkiah). The menorah holds 9 candles, one of which is placed at the far right. The shammus candle, or shamash, (someone who may call others into a service, like a servant) represents the Hanukkah candle that, though not itself one of the eight lit on the eight nights of the holiday, is used to light the others. It is the largest and central candle on the menorah. Three berakhot (blessings) are then recited: l'hadlik neir (a general prayer over candles), she-asah nisim (a prayer thanking G-d for performing miracles for our ancestors at this time), and she-hekhianu (a general prayer thanking G-d for allowing us to reach this time of year). The first candle is then lit with the shammus candle.

Because Hebrew is read from right to left, each new night's candle is lit that way, but the series of candles are lit from left to right (because you pay honor to the newer thing first).  On nights after the first, only the first two blessings are recited; the third blessing, she-hekhianu is only recited on the first night of holidays.

Because oil is important to the Hanukkah celebration, it is considered traditional to eat fried foods, especially latkes (potato pancakes).

More recently, gift-giving has taken on more of a focus in Hanukkah celebrations, though traditionally this was not the case. Families will usually exchange gifts with their own families, especially small children.  The most tradtional gift of Hanukkah is gelt, or small amounts of money.

The Menorah Lightin, along with the Lighting of the Christmas Tree Friday night, and the creche on the lawn of Town Hall, represent the diversity that West Orange strives to embrace. "Chag Chanukah Sameach!" West Orange, 'Happy Hanukkah' to all!

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