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December 7, 2012

Hanukkah starts at sundown tonight

ANDOVER — When Hanukkah starts at sundown tonight, Jews will use oil to light the first candle on the menorah to commemorate the Macabes’ triumph over the Greco-Syrians who desecrated their temple in Jerusalem.

During the eight-day festival, they also use oil to fry latkes or potatoes pancakes and doughnuts which are staples to the celebration.

Cindy Rivka Marshall takes it one step further.

“The oil reminds us that all we have to do is have hope and faith in time of darkness and the light from the oil is a sign of hope, a metaphor,” Marshall said.

A storyteller for more than 20 years, Marshall performs “Miracle of Light” tomorrow during the Hanukkah family festival at Congregation Beth Israel, 501 S. Main St. Donation is $5 per person or a maximum of $20 per family.

“I see storytelling at the center of Jewish tradition as a wonderful way to teach people about holidays and Jewish values,” Marshall said. “There’s a lot of messages in the metaphors that people can be enriched by.”

As the Jews were about to light the temple’s menorah, or seven branched candelabrum, they only found enough oil for one day. Miraculously, the oil lasted for eight days. The highlight of Hanukkah includes lighting the menorah, a single flame on the first night, two on the second evening, until all eight lights are kindled.

Other Hanukkah customs include playing with the dreidel, a spinning top on which are inscribed the Hebrew letters nun, gimmel, hei and shin, an acronym for Nes Gadol Hayah Sham, “a great miracle happened there” and giving children money or Hanukkah gelt.

Marshall said the stories she tells come from folk tales she has found in books and adapts them as her own using poetic license.

”My work is in the oral tradition. Story tellers don’t memorize like actors do so every time you tell a story, it comes out different,” Marshall said.

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