'Yes, you can light up a life'


RABBI BEREL ZAKLIKOFSKY of the Chabad Jewish Center of Goodyear adjusts a menorah on top of his van in Goodyear Wednesday. The rabbi is organizing the building of a large menorah made of canned goods to celebrate Chanukah. The food will be donated to local food banks after the holiday. View photo by Michael Clawson
Traditions of Chanukah

In celebrating Chanukah, Jewish families and communities partake in several rituals.
Perhaps the best known of these rituals is the lighting of the nine-branched Chanukah menorah, which begins at the first sunset of the eight-night festival.

On the first night, the shamash, which is often in the middle of the menorah, is the first candle to be lit, and is used to light the candle on the far right.

On the second night, the shamash is lit, as are the two candles on the far right of the menorah. On the third night, the shamash and three candles are lit, and so on.

The candle-lighting continues from right to left each night, until all eight candles, plus the shamash, are lit.

During the candle-lighting ritual, prayers are recited, praising God.

Other customs during Chanukah include playing dreidel - a game featuring a spinning top bearing four letters of the Hebrew alphabet, which stand for "a great miracle happened there."

Another activity is the giving and receiving of "gelt" (coins), chocolates and gifts.

Chanukah is also a time to eat delicious fried foods, such as potato pancakes called "latkes," and jelly doughnuts called "sufganiyot."

A menorah constructed from donated cans of food will highlight this year's Chanukah celebration in the Southwest Valley.
"Yes, you can light up a life," said Rabbi Berel Zaklikofsky, director of the Chabad Jewish Center of Goodyear, which is organizing the event.

Some 250 people are expected to attend the lighting of the giant can menorah to take place from 4:30 to 6 p.m. Dec. 21 at the Southwest Valley Family YMCA at Thomas and Litchfield roads.

The event kicks off the Jewish holiday of Chanukah, also known as the Festival of Lights, an eight-day celebration commemorating the Miracle of the Oil and the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.

The story of Chanukah
The holiday marks the successful rebellion of the Maccabees over the Syrian Greeks of the Seleucid Empire, led by Antiochus IV Epiphanes.

Under Antiochus IV, who began his rule in 175 B.C., Jews were killed, Judaism was forbidden and the Temple in Jerusalem was desecrated.

In 167 B.C., Antiochus ordered that an altar to the Greek god Zeus be erected in the Temple for worship.

Angered by this, a Jewish priest named Mattathias Maccabee and his five sons, John, Simon, Eleazar, Jonathan and Judah, led a revolt against the Seleucid monarchy. A year later, Mattathias died and Judah took over as leader of the rebellion.

By 165 B.C., the Maccabees' uprising proved successful, and the Temple was reclaimed, cleansed and rededicated with a new altar.

Soon thereafter, it was realized that the supply of sacred olive oil necessary for the Temple's menorah was limited. While the menorah's flame was supposed to burn every night, there was only enough oil to keep the menorah lit for one night.

But miraculously, the menorah stayed lit for eight consecutive days, allowing just enough time to prepare a fresh supply of oil.

To honor the Miracle of the Oil that kept the menorah lit for eight days, an eight-day festival called Chanukah was declared.