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Chabad ISU to kick off Hanukkah with menorah lighting

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Whitney Lynn/Iowa State Daily
There are numerous cultural and religious holidays celebrated throughout the month of December. 

A Hanukkah menorah lighting event will be held at 5 p.m. Thursday on the lawn of Parks Library. The event will include music, dreidels and latkes, which are traditional potato pancakes.

Hanukkah is a Jewish holiday lasting for eight days and nights. Rabbi Leibel Jacobson, the director of Chabad ISU, the Center for Jewish Student Life, is hosting the menorah lighting event. 

“The idea [of Hanukkah] is to be able to live in life free of being prosecuted, to not be afraid of outside forces that wish to diminish in a very big way [or] remove in this case Jewish people, Jewish life,” Jacobson said.  

According to Jacobson, the holiday’s history began in 70 C.E. (Common Era) when the second temple in Jerusalem had been overtaken and aws under the rule of Syrian Greeks, who outlawed Jewish life. 

“You couldn’t keep Shabbats [Jewish day of rest on the seventh day of the week]. You couldn’t keep certain Jewish activities. You couldn’t run Torah [first five books in Hebrew Bible],” Jacobson said. 

Jacobson said in Jewish history, a small group called the Maccabees fought to reclaim the temple and rededicated it to be used for proper Jewish purposes. 

“The reason why we light the eight-branch menorah is because when they recovered the temple, there was no oil to be found that had the seal of the high priest, the Kohen Gadol. There was none to be found in the temple,” Jacobson said.

Jacobson said the Maccabees found one little jar with the seal of the high priest and it lasted for eight days and nights, hence the symbolism of the menorah. It symbolizes the rededication of the temple. 

“It was a miracle that the oil lasted,” Jacobson said. 

Along with the lighting of the menorah, Jacobson said there is cuisine attached to the holiday as well. Latkes, or potato pancakes, are savory and often eaten with applesauce or sour cream. Donuts are another traditional Hanukkah food, specifically jelly donuts fried in oil. 

“Oil is something that floats. It’s hard to get rid of oil,” Jacobson said. “This goes to the attachment of the Jewish people. It’s hard to get rid of the Jewish people.” 

Dreidels, a spinning top with Hebrew letters Nun, Gimel, Hey or Chai and Shin, are another part of Jewish tradition. According to Jacobson, these letters represent Nes Gadol Hayah Sham, which translates to “a great miracle happened there.” 

At the event, there will be menorahs for people to take home along with chocolate coins, dreidels and latkes. 

Jacobson said anyone is welcome to join the celebration, regardless of faith. 

According to Jacobson, the universal message of Hanukkah and lighting the menorah is as follows: “That each person with the unique ability has the responsibility and mission to add light, warmth, joy and hope into the world.” 




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