The Festival of Chanukah falls in the Hebrew month of Kislev. Shorter days and longer nights symbolize spiritual darkness and it’s our job to bring spiritual light back into the world during this season.
Two thousand two hundred years ago the Syrian Greeks controlled the Land of Israel and feared a national uprising by the Jews. Antiochus, the Syrian-Greek leader, attempted to force the Jews to assimilate into the Hellenistic Greek culture and thereby abandon their national identity. He did this by forbidding the Jews from learning Torah, circumcising their children and observing their calendar, all of which are the foundation of Jewish national identity. Then the Greeks desecrated the Temple in Jerusalem by forcing Jews to sacrifice pigs to pagan gods. Many Jews chose to assimilate, but a small group of the faithful, rose up in rebellion.
Judah the Maccabee led the Jewish revolt against the Hellenist occupiers and eventually won a miraculous military victory with the Almighty’s help. After the final battle, the Maccabee’s came to Jerusalem to rededicate the The Temple to God (Chanukah literally means “dedication”).
During this process of re-dedication, they found a single sealed flask of pure extra-virgin olive oil which had been prepared specifically for the Menorah which needed to be constantly lit. Miraculously this single flask of oil which was enough for only one day, burned for eight days until new olive oil could be prepared.
Even though the greater miracle was the military victory over the Greeks, we do not celebrate Chanukah with a military parade. That might give us the impression that our physical ability helped us win the war. Instead the Rabbis taught us to light the Chanukah menorah for eight days, preferably with olive oil, to remind us and publicize the spiritual underpinnings of the battle. It is God’s light that sustains us and helps us to remove darkness from the world and defeat our enemies who try to extinguish the light of His Torah from the world.
In addition to lighting the Menorah, Jews around the world have the custom of preparing festive foods made with oil during Chanukah. In Israel, there are jelly-filled deep-fried donuts called sufganiot.
In Europe and most of the Ashkenazi communities the food of choice is Potato Latkes (pancakes). We invite you to use your Galilee Green Olive Oil to make your own latkes in the following recipe.