Wheeling Rabbi: Hanukkah not just a festival for Jews

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WHEELING, W.Va. (WTRF) — Jews across the country are grabbing their lighters and celebrating in their homes this week! Monday night, they will light the second candle for a very important holiday.

It’s a festival of lights (no, not at Oglebay). Hanukkah commemorates the moment the Maccabees re-captured Jerusalem. Lighting the 8 candles this week honors the military victory of 164 BC, where the Jewish minority group, the Maccabees, overthrew the Greek rulers under the Seleucid Empire.

Rabbi Joshua Lief of Wheeling says that ‘hanukkah’ in Hebrew actually means re-dedication. When the Maccabees reclaimed their temple, they had to re-light the fire that keeps the temple holy.

The story goes that one day’s worth of oil lasted for eight days, a miracle.

In the process of relighting the eternal light, the fire that’s always supposed to be burning in God’s eternal presence, they could only find a tiny bit of olive oil that had not been used for the pagan offerings. So while they went to look for more, the little bit lasted for over a week.

Rabbi Joshua Lief, Temple Shalom, Wheeling

You’ll see presents and chocolate coins exchanged. Food fried in oil, like jelly doughnuts, representing the oil in the story.

The rabbi is so excited to celebrate this Friday in-person with his congregation. But he says the story of Hanukkah doesn’t stop with Jews. He says it’s a story of minority groups overcoming persecution, it’s a story of light illuminating the darkness, and it’s a hope that neighbors, of all walks, can hold onto.

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