Today we will be discussing the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah.  This holiday is also called the “Feast of Lights”.  The word Hanukkah in Hebrew means dedication.  This celebration is a time to commemorate the Jewish people’s victory in the first recorded battle for religious liberty.  The Menorah represents the miracle by which the eternal light of the Temple, which had been put out by the Syrians, was rekindled and remained burning for 8 days eventho there was oil for only one day.

First I’d like to tell you the Hanukkah story.  Over 2100 years ago in the land of Judea, which is now called Isreal,  a Syrian-Greek emperor named Antiochus conquered the country and the Holy City.  He outlawed the study of the Torah, and all the obervances of the Lord.  He also defiled the Holy Temple in Jerusalem by bringing into the temple idols of Greek gods and goddesses.

Many Jews did what he asked but some did not.  In a small village called Modin, a man named Judah Maccabee led a small band of Jewish farmers, sepherds, and teachers in a fight against the emperor.  They drove the more powerful Greek army out of their country.

When they reclaimed the Holy Temple, on the 25th day of Kislev, they wanted to light the Temple’s “eternal flame” or menorah.  Only they discovered that the Greek’s had contaminated virtually all the oil.  They only found one cruse of pure oil, which would only last one day and night.  It would take eight days to get more of the pure oil.  But they lit the flame anyway and miraculously the one-day supply of oil lasted eight days.  And this is the miracle of Hanukkah.

This year Hanukkah will begin on Tuesday evening, December 20th.

Now let’s look at the Menorah.  The Menorah has eight candles plus a nineth candle, called the Shamash or attendant candle.  The information I read said that some Menorahs are made for oil and wicks and that that is preferred.  Since the miracle of Hanukkah had to do with the oil in the temple, the Jewish people like using oil Menorahs.  The eight candles of the Menorah are to be in a straight, even line.  They can not be zigzagged or uneven.  The Shamash candle is to be a little higher or a little lower than the other eight.  Here is a picture of a Menorah with the Shamash lower and another where the Shamash is higher.

                         

The Shamash is used to light the other candles.  It is lit first and then is kept lit until the end of the service each night.  If one of the Hanukkah candles goes out you use the Shamash to relight it.  It is forbidden to use one of the Hanukkah candles to light another.  That is why the Shamash is kept lit.

Next is the when and where of Hanukkah.  When is on the 25th day of Kislev, which for the year (2011) is December 20th.  The candles are lit either just before sunset or right at sunset.  They are kept lit for at least 30 minutes after sunset.

There are two preferred locations for the menorah.  You can set up the Menorah in a central doorway. Place it on a chair or small table near the doorpost that is opposite the mezuzah.   Or you can set up your Menorah on a windowsill facing the street.  This option should only be exercised if the window is less than thirty feet above ground level.

Lighting the Menorah                                         

1.  Arrange the candles.  I thought it was interesting that the candles are not put into the Menorah until the night they are lit.  Also that the candles are put into the Menorah from right to left, but then lit from left to right.

2.  Get everyone together

3.  Light the Shamash candle.  Hold it in your right hand (unless you are left-handed).

4. While standing, recited the appropriate blessing.

5.  Light candles.  Each night, light the newest (left most) candle first and continue lighting from the left to right.

The Blessing:

“Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments, and commanded us to kindle the Hanukkah lights.

Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, who performed miracles for our forefathers in those days, at this time.”

On the first night of Hanukkah add the following blessing:

“Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, who has granted us life, sustained us, and enabled us to reach this occasion.”

Relish the Lights

The Menorah lights are to be kept lit until 30 minutes after sunset.  During that time Hanukkah hymns are sung, the Draidel game is played and fried foods are eaten.

I read that Jewish women will not perform any household chores during the time that the Hanukkah lights are lit.

Special Shabbat (Sabbath) Rules

Because the Jewish Sabbath begins at sunset on Friday night, the Hanukkah lights have to be lit before sunset on that day.  They are kept lit throughout the Sabbath meal and service.  So on this night, the candles will stay lit for about one and a half hours.

It was while I was reading about this that I read that most Hanukkah candles only last for about 30 minutes, so for the Sabbath special candles have to be put into the Menorah.

I have two recipes that will be part of the download file.  They are for Latkes (Potato pancakes) and for Sufganiot (spiced fried donuts).  The donut recipe I have also has a chocolate variation, donut frying tips and how to store your donuts.

The last thing we are going to discuss is the Dreidel game.

First, get two or more players together.  Give each player the same number of objects.  Nuts, raisins, pennies, or Hanukkah gelt will work.  Hanukkah gelt are chocolate coins covered in gold foil.  Next, everyone puts one object in the middle, which is called the pot.  Now it’s time to spin the dreidel!  Each player take a turn spinning.

If the dreidel lands on:

Nun: the player does nothing

Gimel: the player takes everything in the pot

Heh: the player takes half the pot (or half the pot plus one extra if there is an odd number in the pot)

Shin: the player puts one object in the pot

Whenever the pot is empty, or there is only one object left in it, each player puts one object in before the next spin.  When one player has all the objects,  he or she wins.

Well that’s about it for my information on Hanukkah.  I hope you enjoyed it!

If you are interested in purchasing the Hanukkah booklet, please email me at

cstanley@afr.net or go to my paypal account.  The email for that accounts is  rcstanley@ms.metrocast.net

What is included in the booklet is all the information and even more about Hanukkah, two recipes, a Hanukkah song, and how to play the Dreidel game.  The booklet is $3.00.  If you do deposit the money into my paypal account, please email me and let me know where to send the file.