Guest column: In honor of Hannukah, celebrate ‘Vodka and Latkes’ with Temple Bat Yam (opinion)
As the days become shorter and light diminishes toward the winter solstice, Judaism holds a beautiful response with the festival of lights — Hannukah.
Many are familiar with this well known holiday in the Jewish tradition. The story that gives rise to this celebration is that of the Hasmoneans, known as the Maccabees, prevailing over the much stronger and mightier Greek-Assyrians to re-take the ancient temple in Jerusalem.
As the story goes, the Maccabees rededicated the Temple by rekindling the menorah (a ritual candelabra). With a small amount of oil, they experienced a miraculous moment as it lasted for eight full days. This tradition continues as Jews around the globe celebrate this Chag Orim — Festival of Lights.
At the darkest time of the year, the Jewish tradition responds on this holiday by kindling our Hannukiyot (Hannukah Menorahs). We celebrate the experience of the oil by creating and consuming delicious delicacies so long as they are fried in oil! From latkes (potato pancakes) to sufganiyot (fried jelly filled doughnuts) the flavors certainly tickle our taste buds!
We recount the story of the Maccabees, the tale of religious pride and freedom as we embrace the light of the Hannukah Menorah. Part of the Jewish tradition charges us with Pirsumei Nisah — to publicize the miracle.
It becomes our great PR moment in the year as we share the joy of Hannukah with others.
Yet, at its beginnings there exists a great debate about the observance of this festival. Two great Jewish sages, Hillel and Shammai, debate exactly how to light the menorah.
Shammai argues that we ought to begin on the first night with all eight candles, plus the shamash — the helper candle — and take one away as each day passes. Hillel on the other hand, argues that we ought to begin with one candle and add for each additional day.
Hillel wins the argument and the lighting of the menorah becomes a symbol of bringing more light into the world.
At this time of year, near the winter solstice, the Jewish rituals of Hannukah give us this image of growing light. It is a reminder of the seasons, the cycles of the year and that the days will again grow brighter. It is a charge to all of us to work toward bringing light, bringing goodness and kindness into the world as we ensure freedoms for all!
This year, Temple Bat Yam will be celebrating Hannukah with an exciting opportunity for the whole South Shore community. We invite you to check out our website (www.tbytahoe.org) to learn about “Vodka and Latkes.” This is a fun celebratory way to join the TBY community in the Hannukah Festival.
All are welcome to join us, but tickets are limited. We will continue the Festival of Lights with a family oriented celebration on Sunday morning Dec. 17, at 11 a.m. at Temple Bat Yam at 3260 Pioneer Trail.
Join us to bring some light into the world and enjoy some tasty fried treats!
Evon Yakar has served as a rabbi at Temple Bat Yam: The South Lake Tahoe and Carson Valley Jewish Community since 2011.