Mobile, AL (WKRG)
Here is a transcript of our interview with Rabbi Steven Silberman
Chad: Joining us this morning is Rabbi Steven Silberman with Congregation Ahavas-Chesed. Thank-you for joining us this morning sir.
Rabbi: Thank-you Chad, thanks for having me on.
Chad: Okay today is the last day of Hanukkah and for people that don’t know, what is Hanukkah?
Rabbi: Hanukkah is a Jewish holiday that celebrates religious freedom 2,300 years ago.
Chad: In terms of different displays of Hanukkah, the menorah, you have many different examples on this table in front of us here talk to us about what the menorah is and what it represents.
Rabbi: There are actually two elements to the menorah this is a replica of an ancient menorah, and in the ancient days you can see there are seven candles it was a symbol of worship to the Jewish people. At one time a Syrian speaking Greek came into the temple and took control and prohibited Jewish people from worshiping. Some Jewish people wanted to give up and not protest and other Jewish people fought and after two and a half years of fighting they gained freedom and they rekindled this seven branch menorah which may have been as tall as five feet in height. My gosh, it’s seven branches and they only had a little oil, the nearest source of oil was eight days away. One day’s worth of oil lasted eight days until new oil could be prepared. And so ever since we have eight days of Hanukkah and now that brings us to the modern Menorah and we have some here on the table.
Chad: How did it go from seven to eight?
Rabbi: Originally, as I said, it was a seven branch menorah needed to be refueled and maintained every single day forever and ever. During this point and time when there was conflict Jewish people had no access to their own religious furnishings, which is a terrible constraint. So once the holiday was established Jewish people in their homes began to re-celebrate the holiday or commemorate the holiday. Instead of holding on to the seven-day menorah they took hold of the eight-day miracle. So we have an eight-day miracle represented in what we call modern menorahs. This is an example of one; this is an example of another. Since we light candles, when we get to a number of candles you don’t want to burn your fingers, some people have a helper candle which would be here or here.
Chad: When we talk about this holiday what’s interesting about it, while it does sort of coincide with Christmas in terms of the time it is observed generally every year it’s not one of the most important holiday in Judaism.
Rabbi: Correct, Hanukkah is a minor holiday it’s not found anywhere in Hebrew scripture. It’s considered a half holiday. Hanukkah occurs according to the Hebrew lunar calendar. Three years ago Hanukkah occurred just after Thanksgiving. So it really has no connection to Christmas. Christmas, of course, is one of the most central holidays to Christianity; Hanukkah is a fairly unimportant holiday from a traditional point of view.
Chad: Often we’ve talked about the secularization of Christmas, how has that affected Hanukkah over the many decades it’s been observed?
Rabbi: Lately, in the last 60-70 years in the 1940’s, American Jewish people, even as they’ve become less inclined to observe the Sabbath, they looked around and have seen their Christian neighbors. So they’ve embraced the idea of decorating and having other celebrations all of which are fun but it’s not part of the original elements of Hanukkah. So you might see people today decorating their homes. Typically people have attached themselves to the colors of blue and white, blue and silver, reminiscent of the modern Israeli flag and that’s fun and that’s all in good fun.