Celebrating Hanukkah


Helaine Berman

H. Berman

Hanukkah is a Jewish holiday that celebrates an event that took place around 166 B.C. Syrians invaded Jerusalem and their King, Antiochus IV Epiphanes, outlawed the practice of Jewish religion. A rebellion was led by a Jewish priest, Mattathias, and his five sons. When Mattathias died his son, Judah Maccabee, led the rebellion and within two years the Jews had successfully driven the Syrians out of Jerusalem.

The miracle of Hanukkah is that after the Syrians were driven out; Judah Maccabee asked his followers to light the menorah of The Second Temple. There was only enough olive oil to keep the candle burning for a single day but the candles continued burning for eight days until they found more oil. This event inspired Hanukkah – “the festival of light.” 

Today Jews celebrate Hanukkah by lighting their own menorah for eight nights. Every night a candle is added to the menorah and is lit by the tallest, ninth, candle in the middle, the Shamish.

Kings High School junior, Leila Ashworth, likes that Hanukkah provides an opportunity to look back on Jewish history

“Hanukkah’s a time for my family to reflect on our heritage and the challenges Jews have had to overcome,” she said. “It’s a reminder of God’s miracles in preserving the Jewish faith.”

Ashworth also likes that Hanukkah brings her family closer together and how peaceful it is to just watch the candles burn.

“Hanukkah’s great because it lasts for eight days and my family and I can light the menorah, playhanukkah dreidel and come together,” she said. “We make potato pancakes with applesauce. Hanukkah was on Thanksgiving this year so we had a lot more food.”

Rachel Wolf, Hebrew teacher at Beth Messiah Synagogue, thinks that Hanukkah has helped bring Jews together in times of distress.

“Hanukkah has been a holiday that has sustained Jews in very bad circumstances.” She said. “It gives Israelis hope and inspiration when they’re in tight spots,” she said.

Wolf also loves the food associated with Hanukkah and that she gets to spend time with her family.

“Any Jewish holiday is either associated with feasting or fasting. A lot of food is eaten with oil because of the story of Hanukkah involves the oil lasting eight nights instead of one.” She said. “Lighting the candles creates such a nice atmosphere and it’s nice to have the family there.” She said.

Wolf thinks that the message of Hanukkah is still relevant to today’s events. “Hanukkah is about remembering the miracles of that day, but also acknowledging that God is miraculous in our times as well.”

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