Chanukah, the Festival of Lights, is one of the most adored Jewish holidays for many reasons; fried food, Sufganiyot, presents, and dreidel! While the holiday is fun, the meaning behind it is quite significant. During the year 168 B.C.E. King Antiochus Epiphanes of Syria sent soldiers to take the Holy Temple of Jerusalem and force the Jews to worship the Greek gods. Practicing Judaism became illegal. A group of Jews who created a resistance movement, led by Judah Maccabee, fought to take back the temple. Though outnumbered, the Maccabees defeated the Syrian army and reclaimed the Holy Temple.
The first thing the Maccabees did to start rededicating and purifying the temple was light the eternal flame. Each jar of oil lit the flame for one day, and the Maccabees only had one jar. The journey to get more oil would take 8 days, meaning the eternal flame would likely become extinguished. By the time the Maccabees returned with more oil, the eternal flame was still ablaze, creating a true miracle! Therefore, Chanukah was created as an 8-day festival and the 9-stem menorah (8 regular stems and one Shamash or “helper” candle) was introduced.
What does this mean for modern day Jews? We eat fried potato pancakes (latkes) and spin a dreidel to win gelt. However, there is a deeper meaning we can connect to the holiday. The oil lasting 8 days allowed the Jewish people to get back on their feet and rededicate and purify the Holy Temple. At Jewish Free Loan, we understand the importance of help in order to get you on your feet. You can’t “rebuild your temple” when you don’t have the resources. This is why our mission is to provide interest-free loans to Jewish Arizonans.
In the past six months we have distributed over $360,000 in interest-free loans to 60 households in Arizona’s Jewish community. Without the burden of interest and with an individualized repayment schedule, our loans can be used as the oil was; to stay afloat and alleviate stress. Interest-free loans are available in a variety of categories, including but not limited to, education, Jewish life cycle events, medical, business, and emergency loans. Whether something unexpected has come up or you just need extra help, JFL wants to give you the resources to last eight days (and beyond) so you can shine to your fullest potential.
As you take in the glowing lights on the Menorah this year, please check out our go-to guide for all things Chanukah – history, games, songs, and prayers which can be found at www.jewishfreeloan.org/Chanukah.
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