Chanukah, the Festival of Lights, begins at sundown on Tuesday, December 12, 2017/5778 (25th of Kislev) and lasts until Wednesday, December 20, 2017/5778.
Why Do We Celebrate Chanukah?
On Chanukah, we celebrate the victory of the Maccabees over the Syrian Greeks and their leader Antiochus. In the 2nd century B.C.E., Antiochus tried to stamp out Judaism and allowed the Temple in Jerusalem to be desecrated with idols. The Maccabees (a name taken from the Hebrew word for “hammer”) led a successful revolt against him and his large army, fighting for their right to practice Judaism. They reclaimed and purified the Temple. The word ‘Chanukat’ is short for ‘Chanukat HaBayit,’ the rededication of the Temple.
The Miracle of the Oil
When the Maccabees came to rededicate the Temple, there was only enough oil to light the Temple’s 7-branched menorah for one day. A miracle occurred when the oil lasted for eight days! We delight in this miracle by eating foods fried in oil such as latkes (Yiddish for potato pancakes; levivot, in Hebrew) and sufganiyot (jelly doughnuts).
Menorah or Chanukiah?
Menorah refers to the 7-branched candleholder used in the ancient Temple in Jerusalem. It is has come to be an enduring symbol of Jewish identity and an emblem of Israel. A Chanukiah is used exclusively for the holiday of Chanukah to commemorate the miracle of oil lasting eight nights. Unlike its seven-branched cousin, it has a total of nine candles: 1 for each of the 8 nights of the holiday, in addition to the shamash, the helper candle.
Did you know…
The largest Chanukiah in the world, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, is 32 feet high, 4,000 pounds and stands proudly in Central Park.
Dreidels in Israel look different from dreidels in the diaspora. In Israel, dreidels have the letters: Nun, Gimmel, Heh and Pay, which stand for “Nes Gadol Haya Po” (“A Great Miracle Happened Here”). Outside of Israel, dreidels have the Hebrew letters: Nun, Gimmel, Heh and Shin, which are coincidentally the first letters of the expression “Nes Gadol Haya Sham” (“A Great Miracle Happened There”).
It is a mitzvah to place the Chanukah lights on a windowsill facing the street in order to share the warmth and spirit they represent.
There are at least 44 candles in each box of Chanukah candles, enough for one person to light the Chanukiah during the entire holiday.
Israelis devour some 24 million sufganiyot during Chanukah!
Chag Chanukah Sameach! Happy Chanukah from the RSS Parents Association
(Adapted from My Jewish Learning and Israel21.org)