3 In Your Town: A brief Hanukkah explanation

Mizpah Congregation has been a positive influence on the city of Chattanooga for 150 years. They continue to educate, worship and welcome anyone that needs direction. We thought we'd ask Rabbi Craig Lewis for a little direction when it came to understanding this time of year and the holiday of Hanukkah.

 "You know the biggest misconception about Hanukkah, specifically, is that it's the Jewish Christmas,” he explained. “There are reasons why it has that appearance, and that has to do with Jewish children feeling left out for many years because their friends get gifts under the tree. So then there became this concept of where you can get one gift for each night, which loses focus on the meaning of the holiday."

The true meaning of Hanukkah is based on the Maccabean Jews regaining control of Jerusalem and rededicated the Temple.

"It was a fight for freedom. The Maccabees, in ancient Israel, fought against the Syrian invaders who were trying to Hellenize, make them follow the Greek style of idol worship. The Maccabees fought a revolution, fought a war against them and pushed out the invaders and they went to rededicate their temple. That's what Hanukkah means, dedication."

The Menorah is used today as a proud proclamation of the Jewish faith.

"The legend teaches that they wanted to light the eternal light and there was only enough oil to last for one day and miraculously it happened for eight nights. That's when it's a little less historical, more legend."

The Festival of Lights, a holiday of religious freedom.

"Christmas is a beautiful holiday about the birth of the Christian’s savior and Hanukkah is a Jewish holiday about survival and fighting for our freedom and our rights to be different. At the core of it it's about being able to be who you are, to follow your own faith practices and not let outside forces dictate to you."