Temple Shalom celebrates Hanukkah ‘miracle’

AUBURN – Rabbi Hillel Katzir plans to lead a community-wide Hanukkah party on Sunday evening, lighting the fifth candle on the giant outdoor menorah and leading folks in songs.

“It’s pretty much as we’ve done it every year,” said Katzir, who leads Temple Shalom Synagogue Center. However, the rabbi hopes to draw a larger-than-usual crowd this year.

The holiday’s celebration this year in early December – rather than later in the month when so many people go away for family vacations – may mean events will be better attended, he said.

The eight-night holiday began at sundown Tuesday and will conclude next Wednesday.

Small groups usually attend the nightly lightings, Katzir said. The Sunday party is for families and couples, anyone who wishes to celebrate the holiday. Traditionally, people bring their children. They play games and eat latkes, Jewish potato pancakes.

“We can have anywhere from 30 to 50 people at the party,” Katzir said.

More would be better.

“We’re commanded to publicize the miracle of the holiday,” he said. The candle lighting is meant to be public. When people light a menorah at home, they are encouraged to place it in a window.

The popular version of the miracle is the story of the rededication of the temple by the Maccabees in Jerusalem. The temple lamp was ordered to stay lit as a symbol of the presence of God, Katzir said.

“They could only find enough oil to theoretically keep it burning for a day,” he said. “But the oil burned for eight days instead of just the one.”

There’s also a more theological, more adult story, Katzir said.

The Maccabees were fighting against a large and powerful force, he said.

“They had the chutzpah, as they say in Yiddish, the faith to actually go out and fight this very powerful army and win. We all need to have the courage to stand up and fight for what we know is right. That’s the miracle.”

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