Hanukkah: The Festival of Lights

By: Leslie Richards, Secretary of Transportation

December 06, 2015

Tonight, at sundown, those who practice the Jewish faith will begin to celebrate Hanukkah.

A 2011 Pew poll showed that a quarter of a million Pennsylvanians identify as Jewish.

Hanukkah is the Jewish Festival of Lights, an eight-day celebration commemorating the Jewish people’s successful rebellion against Greek oppression and the recapturing of a particularly important Jewish holy temple from the Greeks’ rule, the Second Temple in ancient Jerusalem.

During the siege, Judah, the leader of the revolt, ordered the Second Temple to be cleansed and adorned with the traditional Jewish holy vessels. According to Jewish practices, one such item was to be a menorah filled with unadulterated and undefiled pure olive oil, adorned with the seal of the high priest, to sustain the menorah’s flame throughout the night every night. After they could only find enough of this kosher oil to burn for one day, they were amazed to see the menorah burn for eight days — providing enough time to prepare a new batch of oil.

This eight-day miracle is the foundation of the Hanukkah holiday. Today, the holiday is commemorated by lighting eight candles on a menorah on each of the eight nights and remembering this recapturing of a holy Jewish temple by our ancient ancestors.

Hanukkah is also time to both reflect on Jewish heritage with traditional fare — including traditional fried foods (which alludes to the significance of oil to the holiday) — songs, games, and an opportunity to recommit to building a bright future.

The commonwealth is proud to reaffirm William Penn’s principles of religious freedom by honoring the Jewish people’s struggle for religious freedom as we celebrate the Festival of Lights.

Chag Sameach to all Pennsylvanians who are celebrating.

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You can watch Governor Wolf’s Hanukkah message for Pennsylvanians here.

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