Voices from Russia

Sunday, 21 December 2008

The Light of Hanukkah Menorahs shall Shine all over Russia

Filed under: church/state,Holy Land,Jewish,religious,Russian — 01varvara @ 00.00


This evening, menorahs shall be lit all over Russia as Russian Jews join in Hanukkah celebrations. When the sun sets tonight, Jews in all countries of the world, including Russia, shall remember an event in their history that happened more than two millennia ago. The holiday is especially dear to children, as Hanukkah is the only time in the year when they are allowed to play with a dreidel, a four-sided spinning top with Hebrew letters imprinted on its sides. These letters are an acronym for Hebrew words that translate into English as “A great miracle happened there”. The parents usually cook various tasty things for the children, such as latki (potato pancakes) and plum dumplings, and a Hanukkah menorah (an eight-branched candelabrum) is placed in the middle of the table.

Hanukkah, also known as the Festival of Lights, is an 8-day Jewish holiday commemorating the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem in the 2nd century BC. The name of the holiday is taken from the Hebrew expression Khannukat kha-bat, which means “the Consecration of the Temple”. Hanukkah is observed for eight nights, starting on the 25th day of Kislev according to the Hebrew calendar, and may occur from late November to late December on the Gregorian calendar. The tradition dates back to the Maccabean Revolt against Antiochus IV in 167 BC. As he was a haughty tyrant, King Antiochus forbade Jewish religious practise and demanded that the people worship the Greek gods. The immediate cause of the revolt was the execution of two Jewish women for refusing to worship the pagan gods.

After a brave Jewish resistance, Judas Maccabeus drove out all the pagan occupiers from Israel, retook Jerusalem, and restored the freedom of the people, as well as restoring the damage caused to the Temple by Antiochus, and reconsecrated it for Jewish prayer. “That was a great day for all Jews and we shall never forget it”, a spokesman for the Federation of Jewish Communities in Russia, Andrei Glotser, told the Voice of Russia. “A mere handful of Jews, only a very small band of brave men, expelled the heathen occupiers from Israel.  Hanukkah symbolises the end of the Syrian despotism over the Jews. Indeed, this was a surprising event, that an inexperienced militia overcame the force of one of the strongest armies of the ancient world”.

According to Jewish tradition, a special oil candelabrum called a menorah, or hanukkah, was to be lit on the Temple’s opening day. It was to be kept burning continuously, but, there was only enough olive oil in the Temple to fuel the menorah for just one day. Miraculously, it burned for whole eight days, as long as was needed to prepare and consecrate fresh oil. Those days began to be celebrated as Hanukkah, or, the Festival of Lights.

Mr Glotser went on to say to us, “Hanukkah is a holiday of light, happiness, and merriment, so, it is not surprising that children particularly love it. This year, despite the global crisis, the light of Hanukkah candles will shine not only for kids, but, for all Jews across Russia. In the outgoing year, as never before, Jews had the support and understanding of the government. For us, this support is very important, and we are pleased that the Russian government shows its support for all the traditional religious confessions, in particular, for its care for our Jewish community.

Without this support, the full-blooded rebirth of Jewish life in Russia would have been impossible. Firstly, the state returned to us many buildings that were owned by the Jewish community before the Revolution. Today, the government actively cooperates with the Jewish community in tackling social problems. Recently, our community won one of the support grants for non-commercial organisations. With God’s guidance, we will use it to implement our plans in the incoming year. Generally speaking, without the involvement on the part of the state, the Jewish community would have been unable to achieve the successes it has achieved in the sphere of education, enlightenment, and religious life”.

Eight days of Hanukkah celebrations will take place from 21 to 29 December throughout the entire country. During these days, in Moscow, there will be holiday concerts, fairs, and music and arts festivals, which shall bring together ensembles and performers from many Russian regions, Israel, and Jewish communities around the world.

21 December 2008

Milena Faustova

Voice of Russia World Service


Editor’s Note:


Rav Berel Lazar (1964- ), the Chief Rabbi of Russia, in front of the main Hanukkah menorah in Red Square in Moscow in 2007

VOR gets a Big Green Weenie Award of the second rank for its translation of the original Russian text. Mind you, it was not an unreadable “penny-dreadful” Interfax horror; indeed, the English used was grammatical and correct. However, there was material cut out, and, that, Mr Zhamkin, is not acceptable. FOR SHAME!

As far as accusations of Russian anti-Semitism are concerned, I would note that this article was written by VOR’s main religion writer, who is an Orthodox Christian. Yes, there are anti-Semitic louts in Russia, as there are in any country, I am afraid. The government does not sponsor them. In fact, in years past, President Putin helped to light the Hanukkah menorah in Moscow, and, last year, Mayor Luzhkov was present at the lighting ceremony. If anti-Semitic thugs are caught, they are thrown in the Butyrki, where they have abundant time to reflect on their deeds. There is a new Russia, and the facts bear this out.

To all my Jewish friends, I wish you joy and happiness on your holiday. God bless you all.



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