Monday, December 19, 2011

Hanukkah

Hanukkah or Chanukah (both spellings are right) is the eight day festival of lights that begins on the eve of the 25th of the Jewish month of Kislev. It celebrates the triumph of light over darkness, of purity over adulteration, of spirituality over materiality. This year Hanukkah begins at sunset on Tuesday, December 20th and ends at sunset Wednesday, December the 28th.

 More than twenty-one centuries ago, the Holy Land of Israel was occupied by the Seleucids. At the start, their rule was fairly benign. But the troubles began in earnest when Antiochus "the madman" ascended to the throne over the Syrian-Greek empire. He enacted a series of harsh decrees. Jewish worship was forbidden; the scrolls of the Jewish Law (Bible) were confiscated and burned. Sabbath (Saturday) rest, circumcision and the dietary laws were prohibited.
One day Mattityahu, the old priest from village of Modyin, rebelled against the invaders. Together with his sons, relatives and friends (called Maccabees) they exclaimed: "Let us fight unto death in defense of our motherland, our freedom, our souls and our Temple!" Against all odds, a small group of these faithful Jews, leaded by Judah, son of Mattityahu, and his brothers, defeated one of the mightiest armies on earth, drove the Seleucids from the land, and liberated Jerusalem. The Maccabees entered the Temple and cleared it of the idols placed there by the Syrian vandals. Judah and his followers reclaimed the Holy Temple and built a new altar, which he dedicated on the twenty-fifth of the month of Kislev, in the year 3622 (remember – there is the 5772 year now) after creation of the world . And they completely rededicated the Temple to the service.
But when they sought to light the Temple's menorah (the seven branched candelabrum), they found only a single cruse of pure olive oil bearing the seal of the High Priest. It was sufficient to light only for one day. By miracle it continued to burn for eight days, till new oil could be prepared under conditions of ritual purity. To commemorate and publicize this miracle and heroism of Maccabees, the Jewish sages instituted the festival of Chanukah. 
 At the heart of the festival is the nightly hahukkiah lighting: a single flame on the first night, two on the second evening, by increasing the number of candles each night till the eighth night of Chanukah, when all eight lights are kindled. By the end of the festival forty-four candles should have been kindled in total. Why not 36 (1+2+3+4+5+6+7+8)? Because each time we first light a special service candle and then light the other candle or candles from it. This special service light called ‘shamash’ - the “servant” candle that kindles the other lights—it should be placed apart from the rest (higher, outside the row, etc.). And even there is no prescribed design for a chanukiah (Chanukah menorah), but the common is that all the lamps or candles should be arranged in a straight row, and should be of equal height and shamash should be set at a different elevation from the others so that it may be easily distinguished and recognized.
  You can see not only family Chanukah menorahs but a lot of large public menorahs all around the world – Columbia University, New York; Barcelona, Spain; Berlin, Germany; Brussels, Belgium; Buenos Aires, Argentina; Miami Beach, Florida; Kiev, Ukraine – and of course in Israel – in all these places and many others you can see public Chanukah menorah lightings usually hold by local Chabad-Lubavitch organizations.
On Chanukah Jews also add to their prays especial thanksgiving to G-d for "delivering the strong into the hands of the weak, the many into the hands of the few... the wicked into the hands of the righteous".
Chanukah customs include eating foods fried in oil like potato pancakes called ‘latkes’ (in Yiddish) and doughnuts called ‘sufganiot’  (in Hebrew).
Kids play with the special Chanukah toy called ‘dreidel’ in Yiddish or ‘sevivon’ in Hebrew. It is a spinning top, whirligig on which are inscribed the four Hebrew letters. The letters are ‘nun’,’ gimmel’, ‘hei’ and ‘shin’ or ‘pei’, depending on the place. These letters is an acronym for Hebrew sentence ‘Nes Gadol Hayah Sham’ means "a great miracle happened there". But in the Land of Israel the last letter ‘shin’ changed by letter ‘pei’ and the meaning of the sentence changes to ‘Nes Gadol Hayah Poh’ means “a great miracle happened here’! 
One of the loveliest Chanukah customs is the giving of Chanukah 'gelt' (gifts of money) to children.
 Story by Natalya (bonbonland)

11 comments:

Adushka said...

Happy Hanukkah guys! nice post Thank you!

IrinaN said...

Happy Hanukkah!-)

SocksAndMittens said...

Love you story, Natalya, thank you and have a happy Hanukkah!

Svetlana said...

Happy Hanukkah! Hag sameach!

Irenka said...

Happy Hanukkah!

Katrinshine said...

Very interesting!

Aleksa Torri said...

Happy Hanukkah!

manonknits said...

Happy Hanukkah!-)

Yana said...

Thank you for this great article! Happy Hanukkah!

elenushka said...

Very interesting!

Natalka Pavlysh said...

Happy Hanukkah!

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