President of the Ladies Sisterhood Group at Temple Israel in Paducah Francis Cooper told The Cadiz Record of the origin of the holiday, and some of the traditions observed. Temple Israel is a reformed congregation and one of the few places of worship for members of the Jewish faith in Western Kentucky.
“Chanukah dates back to the year 165 BCE,” said Cooper. “At that time, the Greeks were in control of what is now Syria, Egypt and Israel. A ruler named Antiochus ruled the land and wanted all of the people to worship the Greek gods.”
Cooper said that the ancient Hebrews did not submit to this edict and Greek soldiers attempted to force their religion upon the people by intimidation and defiling temples and synagogues.
“Mattathias was a Hebrew priest,” said Cooper. “He and his five sons led a rebellion against the Greek army. It was a war of freedom, and a battle for the right of the people to believe as they wish.”
According to Cooper, tenants of the Jewish religion require places of worship to maintain an eternal light at all times. “After Mattathias defeated the Greeks, he began to cleanse the temple, but found that there was only enough oil for one night. The miracle is that the oil lasted for eight days until they were able to purify more oil for the temple.”
Cooper said that Chanukah is not considered a major holiday on the Jewish calendar compared to others such as Passover, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. “This is a fun holiday for us. It gets a lot of attention because it falls at about the same time as Christmas.”
Chanukah began last Tuesday and will conclude tonight on its eighth night. Cooper said that the center candle, known as the Shamus rises above the other eight, and is used to light one candle every night of the festival. As observers of the holiday light the candles, a blessing is said.
For the rest of this story, read this week's Cadiz Record.