First Night

It’s the first night of Chanukah tonight, and I thought I’d share the service that my mom and I have created. I don’t know where she got it originally (Mom?) and I’ve done a little re-editing this year. It’s a tradition to eat fried foods for Chanukah, so latkes, here we come!


Tonight we begin the celebration of Chanukah or rededication. A long time ago, the Greeks, led by Alexander the Great, conquered Jerusalem. They put the city under Grecian rule, but allowed the Jews to practice their religion. After Alexander the Great died, Antiochus IV became king and began to oppress the Jews severely.

There were few Jews compared to the Greeks, but the Jews wanted to decide for themselves what to believe and how to be Jewish. The Maccabees, a small army of farmers and teachers fighting with few weapons, led a revolt against the Greeks. The uprising succeeded and the Greeks were defeated- the Maccabean Jews recaptured Jerusalem and the Temple.

After the war, the Jewish fighters became builders. They scrubbed and polished the walls of the Temple, cleaned the yards and planted new trees. They wanted to dedicate the Temple with an eight day festival. They found iron spikes and put small torches on them to make a new menorah, but when they searched for the special, pure oil needed to light the menorah, they were able to find only one jug- with just enough oil for one day. The oil lasted eight days- long enough to make more oil.

As Jews, we celebrate this holiday as a victory of human achievement and freedom from oppression. We celebrate the idea that people can stand up for what they believe is right, even against the odds. In a larger sense, the celebration of Chanukah is also a rededication of all the things we hold dear in our lives. The eight candles we light represent Faith, Freedom, Courage, Love, Integrity, Charity, Knowledge and Peace.

With the first candle we light, we hope to illuminate in our hearts and minds the idea of Faith. Those who fought to rededicate the Temple held in their hearts real and true faith. Being Jewish in the Maccabees’ time meant being different. King Antiochus had ordered all the Jews to observe the Greek religion as he did and many Jews obeyed because they were afraid to be different. The Maccabees knew it was wrong to give up their religion; their victory was a validation of their faith.

But faith can be demonstrated in many ways other than war.

We demonstrate faith by our conduct toward our fellow human beings and our respect for all living things, including our care of the earth. We can have faith, too, in our country. We demonstrate this by taking part in its activities and living our lives as decent and responsible citizens. There is the faith that we must have in our parents and the faith that they must have in their children; the faith that exists between student and teacher; doctor and patient; the faith nurtured between loving partners; and finally the faith of all people in each other.

We cannot blindly assume that all things will always turn out well, but we can have faith enough to overcome our disappointments and frustrations and believe that most people believe more in good than in evil. As we look at this first candle tonight, let us reaffirm once again these different kinds of faith.

We Shall Overcome

We shall overcome, we shall overcome,
We shall overcome some day
Oh, deep in my heart, I do believe we shall overcome some day
We shall all be free, we shall all be free,
We shall all be free some day
Oh, deep in my heart, I do believe we shall overcome some day
We shall live in peace, we shall live in peace,

We shall live in peace some day
Oh, deep in my heart, I do believe we shall overcome some day

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