Rabbi Shalom Bochner from Congregation Beth Shalom led the service which included the singing of a number of traditional Chanukah songs, a history of the Jewish festival and, of course, the lighting of a 5-foot tall Menorah. This was the second year the event was held in Central Park in downtown Turlock.
“It’s a celebration of light in the darkest time of the year. You can’t celebrate the light inside, you have to go out into the darkness,” said Rabbi Bochner, who said it was good to see the Menorah candles shining in a community that has such a “wonderful diversity.”
Chanukah, also known as the Festival of Lights, is an eight-day Jewish holiday that commemorates the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem at the time of the Maccabean Revolt in the 2nd century. The Maccabees led a Jewish revolt against the Seleucid empire, which had claimed their territory, including the Holy Temple. The Jewish fighters were able to reclaim the temple, but didn’t have enough oil left to consecrate the holy site. The small jar of oil they found was only enough to light the Temple’s Menorah for one night, but lasted eight nights, allowing for new consecrated oil to be prepared.
The holiday follows the ancient Hebrew lunar calendar and this year started at sundown on Dec. 12, with the last night being Wednesday. Each year the holiday over-laps with the new moon, and thereby always includes the darkest nights of the year.