What Is Hanukkah, And Why Is It Celebrated? What Does Hanukkah Mean?

All Jewish Holidays, Hanukkah -

What Is Hanukkah, And Why Is It Celebrated? What Does Hanukkah Mean?

December is heading our way, and with it arrives one of my very favorite holidays. 

Hanukkah celebrated for 8 days with daily menorah lighting, known as "the festival of lights," is proof that miracles can happen. So What is Hanukkah, and why is it celebrated? What does Hanukkah mean?

The story is...

Way back in the 2nd Century, the Maccabee leader Judah along with a small band of poorly armed devotees, defeated a mighty Greek army and reclaimed the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. When looking to light the temple's Menorah (candelabra), there was barely enough oil to last for 1 night.  The miracle is that the Menorah remained lit for EIGHT days.  To publicize and commemorate this miracle, the festival of LIGHTS began.  

Jews observe Hannukah (which begins on the eve of Kislev) by playing games, singing songs, and lighting the Hanukiah.  We cook foods fried in oil to symbolize the miracle of that first evening. Potato pancakes (latkes) are a classic nosh taken from the Eastern Europeans that melt in your mouth with a touch of applesauce or sour cream. In Israel, we go for sufganiyot..... you know it as a jelly donut...YUM!!!

hanukkah sufganiyot and latkes food for jewish holiday

Each Menorah has 9 candles. One for each night, and the middle candle (shamash) is used to light the others until all of the Menorah is lit.  We play with a 4 sided spinner called a dreidel. It has a letter on each side, nun, gimmel, hei, and shin (nes gadol haya sham), or a great miracle happened here'.

We play a game, and the winner (according to what letter the dreidel lands on) and get a chance to win the customary chocolate (YUM), gelt (who doesn't need a little moolah?), or nuts. There is a great feeling of togetherness and joy, and for most of us, any excuse to get together with those you care about and top that off with GREAT FOOD... .is a win-win.  

The idea of gift-giving is not where the importance lies. Traditionally we give GELT (Hannukah cash) to children in reward for good behavior and devotion for Torah study.  This, in turn, gives the children the chance to "pay it forward" and give TZEDAKAH (charity).  

This holiday magic sparks togetherness, playfulness, generosity, kindness, and thoughtfulness.  It is a MITZVAH (blessing) to do for others.  

The RABBI reminds us to listen to the flickering lights of the Menorah.  LISTEN............... ???? Here are the messages......

  1. Never be afraid to stand up for what is right (ala Judah Macabee)
  2. Keep improving and growing with your Torah studies and doing for others
  3. A little light can go a long way and turn things around
  4. Share the joy of the holiday out loud with others.  
  5. Never be too shy to do mitzvahs. Similar to the Menorah... shine your light on others


Some interesting facts

Yes, there are 8 nights, which makes 7 days.  The 7 represents 7 days of a week, the 7 classical planets, and even 7 musical notes.

The world was also created in 7 days!!!!!!!!