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The history and customs of Hanukkah, Jewish Festival of Lights

Posted at 6:49 AM, Dec 10, 2020

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — The story of Hanukkah begins long ago in Israel in the 2nd century BC.

Antiochus was the King of Syria back then, and he tried to force his culture and beliefs on the people of Israel.

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When Antiochus and his army invaded and took over Israel, he demanded all Jews follow his God and put away their beliefs.

He ordered all Jewish temples to be converted or destroyed, including the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.

But against all odds, a small army called the Maccabees fought the Syrian army.

The Maccabees defeated the Syrian army and drove the Greeks from Israel, reclaiming the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.

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However, when soldiers entered the temple it was destroyed.

As they were cleaning, they found a small container of olive oil which they knew would only light the candle for one night, but then a miracle took place.

"With the faith in God the miracle of Hanukkah is, instead of lasting for one day, the oil lasted for eight days," explained Rabbi Levi Harlig, Chabad of Southern Nevada.

For this reason, Hanukkah is celebrated every year. Those who believe light eight candles, one each night, in their menorah.

At the heart of the holiday is family and faith, a time to eat customary food fried in oil like a potato pancake or jelly donut, play with dreidels or give gifts like chocolate gelts.

But this season, after a challenging year, Rabbi Harlig hopes the gift of lighting the Menorah can be felt by the human race.

"We are in a dark world, a tough and challenging time," Rabbi Harlig said, "but if we all take it upon ourselves to do something better, be that candle and bring light into the world, we will be ok."