The Jewish festival of lights, Hanukkah, begins Thursday.
Rabbi Ashira Stevens, of Haverhill’s Temple Emanu-El in Haverhill, speaking on WHAV’s “Win for Breakfast” program, discussed the historical significance of the holiday.
“When the Jews won against their enemies, back in those days, back in the days of the Maccabees, they then rededicated their temple. The word Hanukkah itself actually means dedication, or rededication, and when they did that, they cleaned everything up. The temple had been made into a complete mess, and they shined the menorah and they looked around for oil to light it, and they only found one cruise of oil, one small container. They thought it would only last for one day, and by some great miracle it lasted for eight days,” she explained.
Stevens says services at Temple Emanu-El use prayer books written in Hebrew, but include English transliterations for those who don’t know how to read Hebrew.
“People often know the prayers because they’ve grown up with them, so they know them by memory. Some people, because they know them by memory can follow along in the text. Some people know the language, absolutely. I don’t think it’s the majority of my congregation. I think a lot of people appreciate having the transliteration. A lot of people appreciate when we are doing the same prayers with the same melodies, because they can follow along. And, people like to have a mix of Hebrew and English because then it’s in their language as well and we all speak English around here and we can talk to God in whatever language we need to. Having a little mix like that helps people feel more connected,” she added.
Earlier this year, Stevens came to Temple Emanu-El as its rabbi. Her installation ceremony takes place Saturday, Dec. 16, beginning at 9:30 a.m., at 514 Main St., Haverhill.
The entire interview may be heard on WHAV’s “Merrimack Valley Newsmakers” podcasts, available at WHAV.net and Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music, Spotify, iHeart Radio, Google Podcasts, TuneIn and Alexa.