The Hanukkah Miracle
On the nights of Hanukkah, when the Hanukkah lights burn in the Hanukiah, they softly tell an ancient and wondrous story, and if we pay attention and listen carefully, we, too, will hear it.
Many, many years ago, in the time of the Second Temple, the People of Israel were settled in their own land and wholeheartedly believed in the L-rd and kept all the laws of the Torah. Every morning and evening in the Temple, the Cohen would light the holy Menorah, the seven-branched candelabra. The oil-lamps burnt and radiated their holy light throughout the world.
A 5-Minute Hanukkah Story
It is always good to have a festival when we eat donuts. But this is not the main reason that Hanukkah exists. There are other reasons. The reasons that the festival of Hanukkah was introduced into the Jewish Calendar remind us too much of what is happening today.
The Hanukkah story started long before the miracle of the oil. It started with the fall of the Babylonian and Persian Empires, and the rise of the Greek Empire, headed by Alexander the Great of Macedonia. The appearance of Alexander was marked by a change in the world’s cultural infrastructure. He brought Hellenistic culture with him, and aspired to create a culture that was universal. Alexander of Macedonia assumed that cultural and societal unity would create the infrastructure for a stable empire.
Mitzvot of Hanukkah
- Every evening of the festival of Hanukkah, we light Hanukkah lights.
- On each of the eight days of the festival we say the prayer “Al Hannisim” – “And on the miracles” in the Prayer of Eighteen Blessings (Shemona Esrei) and in the after-blessing on a meal (Bircat Hamazon).
Lighting Hanukkah Candles
- The time for lighting the lights is at dusk. On the eve of Shabbat and on Motze Shabbat – click here. Post priori, (not on Shabbat) we may light with a blessing at any time after dark as long as there are people in the streets. For the blessings, click here.
- The lamps or candles need to burn for at least a half-hour after the stars come out. The Hanukiah is kept in the place it was lit for as long as the lights are burning. In other words, after the half-hour has passed it is permitted to move the Hanukiah to another place.
Blessings on the Hanukkah lights
Before lighting, the blessings are said:
Baruch atah Ado-nai E-lo-hei-nu melech ha’Olam, asher kiddeshanu b’mitzvotav v’tzivanu l’hadlik ner Hanukkah.
[Blessed are You, L-rd our G‑d, King of the universe, Who sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us to light the Hanukkah light.]
Baruch atah Ado-nai E-lo-hei-nu melech ha’Olam, she’asa nissim l’avoteinu, b’yamim hahem b’zman hazeh.
[Blessed are You, L-rd our G‑d, King of the universe, Who wrought miracles for our fathers in those days at this time.]
Hanukkah – Questions and Answers
Why is the festival called “Hanukkah?”
The name denotes the day of victory: “Hanu Koh” – they rested on the 25th day, in other words, on the 25th day of the Hebrew month of Kislev, the Maccabees rested from their enemies. Another reason: following the Maccabees’ victory, the Temple was purified and “Hanukat HaBayit” was made – the Temple was rededicated.
Hanukiah – Menorah
The Hanukiah (Menorah) is a Jewish ritual object, built like a menorah, in which the Hanukkah lights are lit. In the Diaspora, the name commonly used is “Hanukkah menorah” or just “menorah;” the Hebrew name “Hanukiah” only came into use at the end of the nineteenth century, introduced by Hemda, wife of Eliezer Ben Yehuda.
Dreidl – Spinning Top
It appears that the dreidl comes originally from ancient India. The dreidl is a development of a game of luck with a swastika (the shape known today as the Nazi symbol), that represents the sun’s cycle. The dreidl is four-sided, and on each side is written (chiseled, engraved or painted) a letter. The letters represent lots that come up during the game.