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Editorial: Hanukkah rededicates with light and faith

| Saturday, Dec. 1, 2018, 3:33 p.m.
Pittsburgh will celebrate the Festival of Chanukah, the festival of lights, on Dec. 4 with a menorah parade and other activities at the Waterfront in Homestead.
Pittsburgh will celebrate the Festival of Chanukah, the festival of lights, on Dec. 4 with a menorah parade and other activities at the Waterfront in Homestead.

Hanukkah is a holiday of miracles.

It celebrates a wonder in the Jewish history, and the reclaiming of a place of worship.

Many people have heard the bones of the story, how the eight-night observation recalls the eight days that a lamp burned when it only had enough oil for one. That was the miracle, that something the people needed became enough to get them through the darkness until they could find more light.

But the darkness came when the temple in Jerusalem was taken by an opposing force. The temple was desecrated with blood and sacrifices and when the Jewish people claimed victory, they had to cleanse the holy space and make it sacred once more.

The temple was cleaned. The altar was rebuilt. The flames were lit and the oil lasted until more was made. The temple was pure again.

So does Hanukkah commemorate the oil? The light? Yes, but really, it is more. It honors the spirit of a people who rise in faith each time they fall.

The word Hanukkah comes from the Hebrew word for dedication, because on that day more than 2,000 years ago, the Maccabees, Jewish warriors of Judea, would not allow their temple to be lost because of what was done to crush their culture and their religion.

It isn’t hard to find the comparisons to the Tree of Life synagogue in Squirrel Hill, and to the Jewish community that lost 11 people to a gunman’s bullets. The building was occupied. The sanctuary was desecrated. The faithful were sacrificed because the man with the gun didn’t want them to worship the way they did.

On this first Hanukkah since the October assault, may the Tree of Life be rededicated.

May the congregations of the synagogue find a way to keep their faith burning bright.

Like the first candle of Hanukkah — the shamash — does not dim as it shares its flame with the others each night, may more people find the fire within them to stand up, to move forward and strive for what is right.

May the people touched by the losses find comfort in the glow of that light.

And just as it is the miracle that is remembered and celebrated, may the lives of Joyce Fienberg, Richard Gottfried, Rose Mallinger, Daniel Stein, Jerry Rabinowitz, David and Cecil Rosenthal, Bernice and Sylvan Simon, Melvin Wax and Irving Younger be the candles that burn far longer than the time they had.

Happy Hanukkah.

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