The fifth night of Hanukkah was celebrated by scores of Pasadenans Thursday night at Paseo Pasadena, with a ceremonial lighting of the Menorah led by Rabbi Chaim Hanoka of Chabad of Pasadena.
As Hanoka recalled, the ancient holiday represents the rededication of the Temple in the second century BCE when it was largely destroyed by the Assyrian Greeks, or the Seleucid Empire, as they were known.
“A small Jewish army known as the Maccabees came in and was able somehow to miraculously defeat this great mighty Greek army,” said Hanoka. “When it came to the temple, they had found that all of the jugs of oil, which typically had a wax seal from the high priest on them, had been broken. But the actual jugs still had oil.”
“They weren’t all busted apart, but they had broken all the seals on it, knowing that the Jews wouldn’t use it unless it had that proper seal, because it would be ritually impure.”
“But there was one sealed jug of oil,” Hanoka continued. “It still had the wax seal on it. Typically that would last for one day, but miraculously, that one jug lasted for eight days. So it was a great miracle. And subsequently, we have been celebrating the holiday of Hanukkah for eight days.”
By 164 BCE, said Hanoka, the Jewish revolt was successful. The Temple was liberated and rededicated. The festival of Hanukkah was instituted to celebrate this event. Judah ordered the Temple to be cleansed, a new altar to be built in place of the destroyed one and new holy vessels to be made.
Thus more than 2,000 years later, Jews all over the world celebrate those eight days by lighting eight candles on a menorah, progressively, one a day.
Thursday’s celebration featured a menorah sculpted out of two blocks of ice by ice artist Barrett Covington. As five candles were lit, Rabbi Hanoka led the group in songs and prayers.
As for his holiday message, Hanoka said that the message of Hanukkah is universal.
“The lights of Hanukkah are not strictly catering to the Jewish religion or Jewish people. It has a universal message to the entire world,” he said. “There’s a Hasidic idiom that states that a little bit of light dispels a tremendous amount of darkness. So those little Hanukkah lights, which may seem somewhat insignificant relative to everything going on in the world, can dispel a lot of that darkness — the evil and the hatred that exists in this world, with God’s help.”
“Once that is abolished and gone,” Hanoka continued. “then this world will be this beautiful, scintillating light world filled with blessings for everybody.”