Pentagon celebrates the season of Hanukkah
December 21, 2010
In the Pentagon Hall of Heroes Dec. 8, about 60 people of Jewish and other religious faiths joined together to celebrate the beginning of Hanukkah. The Pentagon Chaplains' office hosted the event.
Hanukkah, the Hebrew word, meaning "dedication," is the Jewish festival of lights, celebrated for eight days and nights, starting on the 25th of Kislev on the Hebrew calendar. This year, Hanukkah was celebrated Dec. 1-9.
Chap. (Lt. Col.) Kenneth Williams, deputy Pentagon chaplain, led the audience in singing "The Star Spangled Banner," followed by welcoming remarks by Pentagon Chap. (Col.) Daniel Minjares. In his opening remarks, Minjares pointed out the Pentagon Hanukkah ceremony was represented by Jews, Christians and Muslims.
"Around the world, we don't see this happening very often," he said. "In America and particularly in the military, together we can learn about and appreciate the faith and celebrations of others without compromising our own faith or identity."
Pentagon and Arlington National Cemetery Rabbi Marvin I. Bash delivered the invocation, then Minjares introduced the guest speaker, Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld, of Ohev Sholom - the National Synagogue, the oldest and largest orthodox synagogue in Washington, D.C.
Herzfeld told how the eight-day celebration known as Hanukkah (or Chanukah) commemorates the rededication during the second century of the temple in Jerusalem where Jews had risen up against their Syrian-Greek oppressors in the Maccabean Revolt.
"Hanukkah represented an enormous military victory by this group of ancient Jews when this miracle of Hanukkah happened," said Herzfeld.
He said "the stronger we are on the inside, then the stronger we will be on the outside. That's the message of the Maccabees and that's how they were able to defeat the Syrian-Greeks. That's my message for Hanukkah, and here in the Pentagon, when we are morally strong on the inside, the stronger we will be on the outside."
Herzfeld said one meaning of the word Hanukkah comes from the Hebrew word meaning the rededication of the temple. "According to this approach, the message of the holiday is to dedicate ourselves. Hanukkah is a time for us to think about and reevaluate what is important to us. It's a time for resolution - who are we, what are we trying to accomplish, where are we, why do we think God created us and put us in this world' It's a time to rededicate ourselves to our mission and make a value judgment on where we want to be and what we want to do with our lives. That's a very important message in teaching Hanukkah," said Herzfeld.
Following Herzfeld's remarks, Bash explained the symbolism surrounding the lighting of the Hanukkah Menorah and invited guests to join in lighting the remaining Menorah candles, including: Herzfeld, David Englin, House of Delegates representative 45th district, Maj. Gen. Gadi Shamni, Israel defense and armed forces attache to the U.S., Pat Tamburrino, deputy under secretary of defense for civilian personnel and policy, as well as other Pentagon and Embassy of Israel officials.
After all the candles were lit, Bash gave blessings for the holiday. A sing-along followed with traditional Hanukkah songs.