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Hanukkah Begins Tuesday, Celebrates Jewish Survival And Freedom

Rabbi Andrew Sklarz of Greenwich Reform Synagogue.
Rabbi Andrew Sklarz of Greenwich Reform Synagogue. Photo Credit: Contributed

GREENWICH, Conn. -- Although Hanukkah is a Jewish celebration of religious freedom, it also resonates with all who believe in freedom, the rabbi of the Greenwich Reform Synagogue says.

"It recounts the events in the lives of the Jewish people, but its themes are universal and its implications are far-reaching," said Rabbi Andrew Sklarz. "The festival of Hanukkah, as so many holidays on the Jewish calendar, reminds us that persecution and oppression against those who may not fit the status quo is immoral in the eyes of God."

Known as the Festival of Lights and beginning at sundown Tuesday across Fairfield County and the world, Hanukkah is an eight-day Jewish holiday that commemorates the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem at the time of the Maccabean revolt against the Syrian Empire in the 2nd century B.C.

Sklarz said it was King Antiochus IV who desecrated the great temple in Jerusalem and outlawed the study and practice of Judaism in an attempt to bring an end to a religion and value system that did not conform to the dominant customs of his empire.

In 165 B.C., Judah Maccabee led the Jewish people to victory against the Syrians. Legend says that a cruse of oil, sufficient enough to light the menorah for only one day, lasted for eight, Sklarz said.

"When Jews across the world light the menorah for Hanukkah, they are not only remembering the freedom which came to our people at this time, but the call for justice for all people," Sklarz said.

The lights remind everyone that every individual, every diverse group, adds to the "beauty and richness of God's creation. Each human being, a child of God, brings his or her own unique sparks of the Divine into our world," he said.

The lights are also a reminder of Jewish survival in the face of centuries of attempts to eliminate them, he said.

"With the brilliant flames of the candles, we recall, not only that despite numerous attempts to annihilate the Jewish people, our flame is still aglow, but of no less importance, that  the brightness that all human beings bring must never be allowed to be extinguished," Sklarz said.

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