- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 24, 2005

Hanukkah begins the same day as Christmas this year, and the District will mark the Jewish festival of lights celebration with one of the biggest menorahs anywhere.

The holidays are close every year, but rarely are they on the same day, said Rabbi Levi Shemtov, director of the D.C. office of American Friends of Lubavitch.

The menorah symbolizes the Jewish Maccabean army’s defeat of Syrian enemies for the right to practice their religion more than 2,000 years ago. It has eight candles to represent the miracle of how one day’s supply of purified oil burned for eight days when the Jews were rededicating their temple in Jerusalem after the victory.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff is expected to join Mr. Shemtov and hundreds of guests for the 26th annual National Menorah lighting ceremony tonight on the Ellipse, behind the White House.

The menorah has to be displayed in public as a commandment from God, said Mr. Shemtov, who has been part of the national lighting for about 13 years.

“When you place the menorah at a window, what you are proclaiming to everyone who sees through that window is that you are someone who believes in the possibility of miracles,” he said.

The National Menorah is 30 feet tall — the maximum allowed by Jewish law.

Similar public displays have been put up around the world, including in such unexpected places as the Red Square in Moscow and at the Brandenburg Gate in Germany.

“It’s not exactly in shy locations,” Mr. Shemtov said. “We do it on the most prominent lawn in the nation.”

Free personal menorah kits and dreidels will be handed out tonight as well as traditional Hanukkah latkes — potato pancakes — and donuts.

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