Holiday Guide

Hanukkah Lights Are a Beckoning Beacon

Celebrating at Jewish Community Center of LBI
By RABBI MICHAEL S. JAY | Nov 10, 2017

In the Bible, the very first thing that God does is to create light. In the creation story, it is a starting point; everything else that happens only occurs after, and perhaps because of, that initial light. Light is central to the Jewish tradition. As a people, Jews have been charged with the task of being a “light unto the nations” (Isaiah 49:6).

Beginning on the evening of Tuesday, Dec. 12, we will begin celebrating the holiday of Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights. Over the course of eight days we will light our menorahs. We will begin with one candle on the first night and add a candle each night to increase the intensity of the light’s glow, and our own. While we teach that it takes only one small candle to turn darkness into light, the brighter the light, the more we can snuff the darkness out.

Our menorahs, when lit, are intended to shine a light on the possibilities of goodness in this all-too-damaged world of ours. Each menorah that is lit is no less powerful than that first light. This year, as we ponder them, let us each view the Hanukkah flames as a call to connect, as a beacon beckoning us to take a step toward repairing the world. In this way, the next time God says, “Let there be Light,” that light will be us.

Chag Urim Sameach,

A Happy Festival of Lights

The original menorahs were lit by oil. When the Greeks made the Jewish temple in Jerusalem impure, Judah Maccabee and his army retook the temple and purified it. Special oil was needed to light the menorah in the temple; when Judah and his warriors retook it, there was enough oil for only one day. By a miracle, the oil lasted for eight days. This is why Hanukkah is celebrated for eight days.

Because of the miracle of the oil, it is a tradition to eat fried food. The most common fried foods eaten on Hanukkah are potato latkes and jelly doughnuts. Below is a simple recipe for traditional potato latkes:

4 large potatoes (Russet or Yukon Gold work best)

1 medium/large onion

lemon juice

2 eggs

2 tablespoons of matzoh meal or flour

salt

pepper

oil for frying

Peel potatoes and finely grate them together with the onions in a food processor. Sprinkle with lemon juice.  Empty the grated potato/onion mixture onto a large piece of cheesecloth and squeeze out liquid into a bowl.  Let the liquid sit for a while, then pour it off. On the bottom of the bowl will be a “starchy” sediment. Place the grated potato/onion mixture into a large bowl together with the eggs, flour and the starchy sediment from the bowl. Combine well and add salt and pepper.

Fry in hot oil (nonstick skillet or cast iron pot is best) by dropping full tablespoons of the potato mixture into the oil.  Flatten mixture and fry in batches over medium-high heat. The latkes should be golden brown on both sides. Place cooked latkes on paper towels to drain the oil. To keep warm or reheat, place latkes on a cookie sheet and place in 300-degree oven.

Serve with applesauce or sour cream and enjoy.

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