More than dreidels: What Hanukkah is all about

  • Published
  • By Chaplain (Capt.) Jeremy Casky
  • Hill AFB Chapel
When you think of Hanukkah what is the first thing that comes to mind? If you are an adherent of Judaism, you probably know what Hanukkah represents.

But for those who do not, what do you think of? Do you think of Adam Sandler singing his Hanukkah Song or spinning dreidels, also known as tops, or do you think of something more? How did Hanukkah come about?

In 168 B.C. the Greeks had entered Israel by force.

They desecrated the temple in Jerusalem, built an altar to their god, Zeus, and sacrificed an unclean animal upon the altar within the Jewish temple complex. As a result, a Jewish rebellion broke out, led by Judas Maccabeus.

Within two years the Jews drove out the invaders. Judas Maccabeus and his followers cleansed the temple, re-dedicating it to the worship of God. Within the temple, it was customary for the menorah, or a candelabrum, to stay
lit throughout the evening. However, a shortage of oil meant that the menorah could remain lit for only one day.

According to the Talmud -- a central text in Judaism -- the candle remained burning for eight days, until more oil could be brought. And thus, the miracle of Hanukkah began.

Jews and adherents to Judaism celebrate and commemorate this miracle throughout the world, for eight days every year. This year, Hanukkah begins on Dec. 16 and ends Dec. 24.

Traditionally, loved ones exchange one present per day; families gather to eat fried foods such as potato pancakes, or latkes, light the menorah, and play games; in particular, the dreidel: a top-like game.

Air Force Chaplain (Capt.) Alan Kahan, a Jewish, orthodox rabbi, explains that everything they do to celebrate symbolizes and commemorates that miracle. They light the menorah and eat foods cooked in oil to remember what God had done.

If you are Jewish, remember what God has done for his people this Hanukkah. If you are not, know and appreciate that Hanukkah is much more than Sandler's Hanukkah Song or a time for games and presents.

Happy Hanukkah!