Holyday Thoughts – Chanukah 5770

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					          Holyday Thoughts – Chanukah 5770
     By Rabbis Jeremy Gerber and Corey Helfand
Tonight, in addition to it being Shabbat, we also celebrate the first night of
Chanukah/Hanukah/Hanukkah/‫ .חנוכה‬I would like to thank Rabbi Jeremy Gerber for
creating this last year. While I have updated and added to it, the genius and credit go to
Rabbi Jeremy. I sincerely thank Rabbi Jeremy for his creativity, sense of humor, and
hard work. I hope that you enjoy this special edition of Holyday Thoughts inspired by
Rabbi Jeremy and with my some of my additions, along with a little bit of info, songs,
recipes, and other stuff about your favorite Jewish holidays!

Index: In this issue you’ll find
   I. Chanukah 411
   II. Dear Yenta
   III. Your favorite Chanukah tunes
   IV. Chanukah How To: The Rituals
   V. Tasty Treats
   VI. Fun, Games, and More!

I.     The 411 on Chanukah: all you need to know!

1. What does the name mean?
    Chanukah (feel free to make up your own spelling, most people do!) probably
     comes from the Hebrew three-letter root that means “to dedicate” or “to educate.”
     This is in reference to the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem (see below).
    Chanukah is also known as the Festival of Lights, because of the many candles
     that we light on the holiday.

2. Where does the holiday come from?
    Chanukah celebrates two different events, both of which took place in 165 BCE.
    The first was a military victory of the Jews, led by Judah Maccabee (meaning
     “Judah the Hammer”), over their Seleucid, Hellenistic oppressors and their king,
     Antiochus IV. Antiochus had outlawed the Jewish religion, ordered the erection
          of a statue to Zeus INSIDE the Temple, and commanded sacrificing pigs in the
          Temple! The victory of the Maccabees was the first miracle of Chanukah.
         The second followed right away, when the Jews were rededicating and cleaning
          the Temple. They found that only a small amount of pure oil had survived the
          destruction, and they believed they wouldn’t be able to keep the Menorah, the
          large candelabra, in the Temple lit for the full eight days it would take to bring
          new oil. Miraculously, the oil that they had lasted the full eight days, and the
          Menorah remained lit!

3. How do we greet one another?
    The traditional greeting is “Chanukah Sameach,” which means “Happy
    There is also a practice of saying “Chag Urim Sameach,” which means “Happy
     Festival of Lights”
    Some people also say “Chag Sameach,” which means “Happy holiday,” which is
     also fine.

4. When do we celebrate Chanukah?
    The Jewish calendar follows the moon, known as a lunar calendar, instead of the
     sun (a solar calendar). Therefore, the holidays in the Jewish year always land on
     the same date in the Jewish calendar, but not on the same date in our secular,
     Gregorian calendar.
    Chanukah always falls on the 25th of the Jewish month of Kislev, but the two
     calendars don’t exactly line up.

II.       Your favorite Chanukah tunes
          Here are some fun songs that are connected to Chanukah, and the YouTube files
          where you can hear them sung!

      A. Chanukah Song
      O Chanukah, O Chanukah
      Come light the menorah
      Let’s have a party
      We’ll all dance the horah!

      Gather round the table
      We’ll give you a treat,
      Dreidels to play with
      And latkes to eat!
      And while we are playing
      The candles are burning low.
      One for each night
      They will shed a sweet light
      To remind us of days long ago.
      YouTube (the first 37 seconds):
   B. My Dreidel                             C. Sevivon (Hebrew for Dreidel)
      I have a little dreidel,               Sevivon, sov sov sov
      I made it out of clay,                 Chanukah hu chag tov
      And when it’s dry and ready,           Chanukah hu chag tov
      Then dreidel I will play!              Sevivon, sov sov sov
          Chorus:                            Chag simcha hu la-am
          Oh, dreidel, dreidel, dreidel      Nes gadol ha-ya sham
          I made it out of clay              Nes gadol ha-ya sham
          And when it’s dry and ready        Chag simcha hu la-am
          Oh dreidel I shall play!
      It has a lovely body                   Translation:
      With legs so short and thin            Dreidel, spin, spin, spin!!
      And when it gets all tired             Chanuka is a great holiday
      It drops and then I WIN!               It is a festival of joy for the Jewish
              Chorus                         people
      My dreidel’s always playful,           A great miracle happened there (in
      It loves to dance and spin             Israel).
      A happy game of dreidel
      Come play now, let’s begin!

      (Rockapella version!):                 YouTube:
      v=ZTbbUT_kr8c                          WFqfcpDWY4&feature=related

                                          D. Chanukah Song (It’s made of legos!)
                                          O Chanukah, O Chanukah
                                          Come light the menorah
                                          Let’s have a party
                                          We’ll all dance the horah!

                                          Gather round the table
                                          We’ll give you a treat,
                                          Dreidels to play with
                                          And latkes to eat!
                                          And while we are playing
                                          The candles are burning low.
                                          One for each night
                                          They will shed a sweet light
                                          To remind us of days long ago.
YouTube (the first 37 seconds):
   E. Adam Sandler’s Chanukah Song 
   I’m not including the lyrics, but it’s a very funny song to listen to. You can watch it

                                   III.    Dear Yenta

Dear Yenta,

I really don’t get what’s so special about Chanukah. The story’s really about a small
band of rebels who manage to defeat the government by hiding in the mountains
and ambushing them. Guerilla warfare tactics, however successful they might have
been, don’t seem like something we should be celebrating. So what’s all the fuss

Extremely Left-Wing, Ultra-Liberal, Hippie-Wanna-Be

Dear Wanna-Be,

Let‟s get our story straight, shall we? The „government‟, aka the Greeks, didn‟t let the
Jews practice their religion. (Which is somewhat ironic, since they had plenty of their
own gods. You‟d think they‟d let us just have our one.) They also destroyed our Temple,
brought in unkosher food, knocked things over, wrote vulgar Greek graffitti, that sort of
thing. They were bad men. Very, very bad men. So „the fuss‟ is not really about successful
guerilla tactics, but about standing up for what we believe in. Chanukah is a time for us
to celebrate not only being Jewish, but living in a time and country where we‟re actually
allowed to live Jewish lives.

Dear Yenta,

Although I was asleep for most of Hebrew school (I mean come on 9 am on a
Sunday morning when I could be sleeping?) I do remember learning about the
miracle of Chanukah. The whole oil burning for eight days instead of one thing, and
lighting one candle for each day in commemoration. So we had this menorah
lighting shindig on a boat while sailing out on Lake Norman, and my friend said
that we had to light the candles in the window of the ship. I’d never heard that
before. Is that true, or was my friend just being bossy?

Yours truly,
Wishing for Enlightenment
Dear Enlightenment,

However bossy your friend may normally be, he was right this time. Chanukah is not only
a time when we rejoice in being Jewish (we should be doing that every day), but also a
time when we want to show the whole world who we are. Lighting the menorah or
chanukiah as it‟s called in Hebrew, is a way of publicizing the miracle that happened
over 2000 years ago. It‟s a way of shouting out to the world “I‟m a Jew, and darn proud
of it!”

IV.       The Chanukah “How To”: Rituals for lighting the Menorah
         First of all, it’s really not supposed to be called a Menorah! Menorah has a total of
          seven “arms,” three on either side and one taller one in the middle, and it was
          used in the Temple in Jerusalem (see picture on the right). What we use today is a
          special version of the Menorah designed for Chanukah, called a Chanukiah (you
          can spell that one however you want too!). It has nine arms, four on either side
          and one in the middle (see picture on the left).
         The middle one (or at the far end, doesn’t matter where it’s located, just that it’s
          separate from the other eight!) is called the “Shamash” or “Shames.” The Shames
          is the helper, the one that lights the others. You should light the Shames first, and
          use it to light the other candles.
         The first candle to be lit is the one at the far right. Just one candle on the first day,
          and the Shames. On the second day, we add a second candle, and always light the
          newest candle FIRST! So we start at the right end and add to the left, but we light
          the one furthest to the left first and move down the row to the right. Make sense?
         On the first night of Chanukah, we recite all three blessings. On the seven
          remaining blessings, we only recite the first two.
         Since the first night of Chanukah begins on Shabbat, remember to light the
          Chanukah candles first and then use the Shamash to light the Shabbat candles.
          Candle lighting in Lake Norman is at 4:53 pm. (check your local listings for a
          Shabbat time near you!)
         On Saturday night, we do havdallah first to officially end Shabbat and then we
          proceed with lighting the Chanukah candles.
                                                 Baruch atah Adonai

                                                 eloheinu melech ha'olam

                                                 asher kid'shanu b'mitzvotav

                                                 v'tzivanu l'hadlik neir shel Chanukah.

Blessed are You, Adonai our God, King of the Universe, whose mitzvoth add holiness to
our life and who gave us the mitzvah to light the lights of Chanukah.

                                           Baruch atah Adonai

                                           Eloheinu melech ha‟olam

                                           She‟asah nisim la‟avoteinu

                                           Ba-yamim haheim baz‟man ha-zeh.

Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, who accomplished miracles for our
ancestors in ancient days, and in our time.

                                            Baruch atah Adonai

                                            Eloheinu melech ha-olam

                                            She‟hecheyanu v‟kiy‟manu

                                            V‟higiyanu lazman ha-zeh.

Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, for granting us life, for sustaining
us, and for enabling us to reach this day.

V.     Tasty Treats
Food – It is customary on Chanukah to eat foods that are fried in oil, to commemorate the
miracle surrounding oil on this holiday. In particular, we eat the following two favorites!

    Latkes. These are potato pancakes. Also known as “Levivot” in Hebrew (“Latkes”
     is Yiddish). Traditionally, they are eaten with sour cream and applesauce, but a lot
     of people have their own crazy family customs that they add to it. I’m a
     traditionalist myself.  (See below for recipes.)
    Sufganiyot. Basically, jelly donuts. It could be any type of donut, but traditionally
     the Jews have gone with jelly donuts, because…. Why not?
You can find tons and tons of great recipes for latkes (the potato pancakes) out there, in
most Jewish cookbooks and anywhere online! This, however, is the one place where you
are going to find the famous Gerber-family latke recipe! 

6-8 potatoes             2 eggs
1 Tbsp flour             pinch of pepper
1 tsp salt               ¼ tsp baking powder
1 lg. onion              oil for frying

   1. Peel and grate potatoes into a large bowl. Pour off the liquid.
   2. Grate the onion and combine with potatoes
   3. Add flour, salt, pepper, and eggs. Mix well.
   4. Add baking powder and mix well.
   5. Heat the oil in a frying pan. Add tablespoons of the potato mixture to the pan and
      fry on both sides until brown.
   6. Place the fried latkes on paper towel to get rid of excess oil.
   7. Serve hot with apple sauce and sour cream.

VI.      Fun, Games, and More!

       Games – There is one primary game that is VERY important to play on
        Chanukah! It is called Dreidel, which is Yiddish, and it refers to the spinning top.
        It is pretty easy to learn how to spin it, but when you get really good, you can spin
        it upside down too! The four sides of the top each have a Hebrew letter on it.
        These are the letters Nun, Gimmel, Hay, and Shin (or Pey if you’re in Israel).
        They stand for the phrase, Nes Gadol Haya Sham, which means “A great miracle
        happened there (in Israel).” In Israel, they replace the last letter with a Pey, for the
        word “Poh,” meaning “here.” See below for game rules.

       Gift giving – Is definitely of major importance in the modern celebration of
        Chanukah! Originally, the tradition associated with Chanukah was to give “gelt,”
        or coins, on Chanukah. Today, we still have a reminder of this, in the piles of
        chocolate coins that are given on Chanukah! Since the middle of the 20th Century,
        giving presents has also become a big part of the Chanukah celebration. This was
       started primarily in North America, as a response to the gift giving associated
       with Christmas. It is interesting, however, that in borrowing this ritual from the
       Christians, we are avoiding the temptation to assimilate out of Judaism and
       observe someone else’s holidays. This is indeed very much in line with the spirit
       of Chanukah, because the Maccabees found their own way of resisting
       assimilation into the Greek culture around them. They adopted some Greek
       customs, but made them Jewish, much like we’ve done with giving presents

There is one game that is an essential part of the Chanukah celebration, and it is almost a
religious requirement that you play at least one game of Dreidel on Chanukah!! This is
how the game works:

    What you will need:
        o One Dreidel (spinning top)
        o Some type of game “currency,” usually raisins, chocolate, or almonds.
            Have a whole bag at your disposal.
        o Minimum of two players, but really it’s more fun with three, four, or
        o A hard, smooth surface to play on.
    The rules:
        o Each person gets the same amount of raisins/chocolate/almonds,
            approximately 30.
        o At the start, each person antes 5 pieces into the pot.
        o Then, each player gets a turn, and based on which side of the Dreidel
            comes up, has to do one of the following:
                 Nun, looks like this ‫ ,נ‬nothing happens and it’s the next person’s
                 Gimmel, looks like this ‫ ,ג‬you win the whole pot, everyone re-antes,
                  and it’s the next person’s turn.
                 Hay, looks like this ‫ ,ה‬you win half the pot, the rest remains, and
                  it’s the next person’s turn.
                 Shin, looks like this ‫ ,ש‬you have to ante 5 more into the pot.

           o You keep playing until one person has won all the raisins/almonds or
             everyone gets bored and you stop.

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