1 The Festival of Lights, Hanukkah, is a central holiday in Jewish tradition, but most surprisingly not mentioned or originating in the bible. Its significance is derived from its history. The year is 165 B.C.E., the Syrian tyrant Antiochus Epiphanes won control over Jerusalem, abolished Judaism, and outlawed the observance of Shabbat and Jewish holidays. The second Temple in Jerusalem was replaced with pagan altars and idols for the worship of Greek gods. The Jewish community had two options: surrender or die, but on the 25th day of the Hebrew month of Kislev, when the Temple was renamed after Zeus, the Greek God, a resistance movement— led by a priestly family known as the Hasmoneans, or Maccabees—stood up against this cruelty and managed to defeat the invaders.
2 Hanukah, is a synonym for dedication, to symbolize the rededication of the Temple after releasing it from the Greeks’ hands. Today it reminds us to stay firm and strong against forces attempting to remove us from our Jewish heritage and tradition.
3 The Ner Tamid we see lit in the synagogue is a recreating of the candle lit by the Maccabees in the Temple as they began to reclaim it from the Greeks.
4 The famous story about the Oil miracle came to be when the Maccabees found a single jar of oil, which they believed would last for only one day. The messenger who was sent to secure additional oil took eight days to complete his mission, and the single jar of oil continued to burn until his return, keeping the Menorah lit for 8 days.
5 Did you know that we light the candles on the Hanukkiyah, from right to left to honor the newer thing first? Ever noticed the fact that it is exactly like the Hebrew language, right to left
6 Have you ever noticed that the Hebrew word Chanukah shares the same root as the word chinuch, education in Hebrew? During the Greek occupation, many Jews converted to Hellenism and after defeating the Greeks it was necessary to re-educate the Jewish community and re-establish Torah values.
7 One of Hanukkah’s customs is to give Gelt to children. Gelt is small amounts of money. The origin to this ancient custom is again the re-education process and rewarding children for Torah study. Another reason for the custom’s popularity is to celebrate the freedom to channel material wealth toward spiritual ends, in contrast to the Greeks that tried to infuse Jewish possessions and minds with Greek ideals, as Maimonides clarified.
8 It is forbidden to do anything productive with the Chanukkah candles, so the Shammash candle is taller and for our disposal if we need to do something useful with the candle.
Another great Hanukkah tradition is playing with the dreidel! Not sure why this tradition is so popular? you will find our article on 4 amazing facts about the dreidel very useful and clear!
Loved this article? You will find our articles about 9 vs 7 branched menorah and modern convertible menorahs most fascinating and informative, especially if you are planning to celebrate hanukkah away from home.