VENTNOR - The Jewish holiday of Hanukkah is often referred to as "the festival of lights" for many reasons.
And as the holiday begins on Saturday night, Jews around the area will light menorahs - an instrument that holds oil or candles - in their homes.
Rabbi Avrohom Rapoport of the Chabad at the Shore on Ventnor Avenue held a refresher course on the holiday with some congregants Thursday. He focused much of the discussion on the menorah and why it's important to add a new light to the menorah each night of the holiday.
"Lighting of the menorah is a symbol of light over darkness, good over evil and freedom," he said. "It has a universal message that everyone should be free to celebrate their lives, heritage and beliefs however they choose."
The holiday celebrates the second-century victory of the Maccabees -- a small army of Jewish rebels in Israel -- over the Syrian Greeks.
The Greeks under the order of King Antiochus IV prohibited the Jews from practicing their religion and desecrated their temple in Jerusalem. But after a miraculous victory the Maccabees re-entered the temple and rededicated it. The word "Hanukkah" comes from the Hebrew word for "dedication."
When the Maccabees wanted to light the menorah in the temple, they had only enough olive oil for one day. But then a second major miracle occurred, and the oil lasted for eight days.
Because of this event it is customary for Jews to eat fried foods made from oil like doughnuts or latkes - a potato pancake.
By lighting the menorah every year the Jewish people are spreading a message of freedom and peace, Rapoport said.
"It lights the world," he said. "It brings brightness and warmth to the household."
Every day a new light is added to the menorah until the eighth and final night, he said. The light represents mitzvot - or good deeds commanded by God - and so every day Jews should strive to do more, he said.
"We're never satisfied with the goodness we did yesterday," he said. "We need to feel the need to add more good deeds."
Margate resident Ron Mangel said Hanukkah is a very joyous holiday and lighting the menorah is a big part of the festivities.
"When you light a candle it brings light into your world and hopefully peace," he said. "Each night is a new candle and it brings brightness and warmth to the household."
The Jewish holiday of Hanukkah begins on Saturday night and ends at sunset Dec. 16. There will be two events Sunday to celebrate the holiday. For more information call 609-822-8500, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.chabadac.com.
Chabad Magic Show and Menorah Lighting from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Shore Mall on the Black Horse Pike in Egg Harbor Township.
Menorah Lighting at The Walk in AC from 5:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday.
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