LAKE CHARLES, La. — Thursday's sunset marked the beginning of Hanukkah, a tradition some in Acadiana look forward to each year. The eight-day Jewish festival that is also known as the Jewish Festival of Lights, but a Lake Charles rabbi says the festival is also the celebration of religious freedom.
Rabbi Barry Weinstein of Lake Charles' Temple Sinai searched for a new menorah at a Baton Rouge Judicia shop Thursday. For eight nights, from December 10 to December 18, he and his wife will light a candle.
"It's a light in the darkness of the wintertime. It's a light for faith, for us, for God," explained Weinstein. "It's an important holiday."
The holiday honors the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem during the second century B.C. following victory over the Syrian army, and is celebrated with the nightly lighting of the menorah.
"They found oil that they thought would only last one night. The oil actually burned for eight nights, which makes us have the eight nights of Hanukkah, to celebrate the rededication of the temple," he said.
Weinstein said that while Hanukkah is important, it's not related to the birth of Jesus.
"It's not a Passover, it's not like Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, the major festivals," the rabbi added. "But it has become very important to us."
Hanukkah is celebrated with only immediate family, with games, songs, and lots of food, Weinstein explained, and some aspects of the food preparation are even reminders of the holiday's significance.
"The oil used to make the potato cakes reminds us of the crude oil used to rededicate the temple," he said.
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