RAPID CITY, S.D. — The story of Hanukkah begins about 200 BCE, when Greek-Assyrians ruled Jerusalem, living in harmony with the Jewish people until King Antiochus decided to subjugate them.
“In doing so, he was insidious. He didn’t outright kill the Jews, what he did was try to kill their spirit,” says Steven Benn, president of the Synagogue of the Hills.
With the practice of Judaism forbidden and the second temple desecrated, only one vial of oil was left to fuel the menorah – enough for one day.
Then…a miracle! The oil burned for eight, hence the celebration of eight nights of Hanukkah.
“We feel the forces of assimilation and the importance of the holiday is to light up the light…light up the night and the seasonal darkness with light,” Benn says. “It’s also a good opportunity for us to rekindle our own inner light in acceptance of who we are [and] what we represent.”
Small gifts are often given throughout the holiday, while some play games of dreidel and eat special foods.
“Potato pancakes – latkes – that are cooked in oil are really a great treat, or jelly donuts. The donuts are cooked in oil…or we call “sufganiyot,” and that’s very popular,” Benn says.
All cooked in oil to celebrate the oil.
All eight candles on the menorah will be lit in front of Mount Rushmore this Sunday at 2:30 p.m. for the last night of Hanukkah.
“It’s important to recognize that Hanukkah is not ‘Jewish Christmas,’” Benn adds.
Happy Hanukkah, or Chag Hanukkah Sameach, to all those who celebrate!