Hanukkah is the most widely celebrated American Jewish holiday, possibly because it is a fun, child-centered occasion. It is celebrated with excellent food, an exchange of gifts, and the lighting of beautiful menorahs (special Hanukkah candelabras) filled with brightly colored candles. Unlike some of the other Jewish holidays, which require intense spiritual reflection or elaborate preparation, it is easy to celebrate.

Many Jewish holidays commemorate events invested with historical and religious meaning, and Hanukkah is no exception. Hanukkah means "rededication," and it commemorates the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem after its desecration by foreign forces. The celebration also reaffirms the continuing struggle to live by God's commandments and to lead Jewish lives.

When all is said and done, perhaps the most important message of Hanukkah may be found in the name of the holiday itself: Dedication. When Jews have dedicated themselves, through faith and action, to the pursuit of high religious and human ideals, Judaism has been strong. That imperative, to strengthen our religion and our people, remains an important challenge at this season, in every generation. Hanukkah begins every year on the 25th of the Hebrew month of "Kislev." This year, the 25th of Kislev corresponds to the evening of Tuesday, December 20th, 2011.