Chanukah has just begun here in Israel, and while you’re reading this we will be at our daughter’s house together with our other children and multitudes of grandchildren, lighting the candles and stuffing ourselves on assorted festive goodies.
Chanukah celebrates the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem after it was desecrated by the occupying Greeks. This became possible by the miraculous military victory of the small and weak Jewish army led by Judah Maccabee and his brothers from the Hasmonean dynasty against the mighty Greek army.
But beyond the simple military victory there occurred an amazing miracle of a spiritual nature – the miracle of the single cruse of pure oil that was found, which enabled the rededication of the Temple to take place. The oil was only enough to burn for one day, while 8 days were needed to prepare a new batch of pure olive oil for the Menorah. The miracles continued when that little cruse of oil sufficed for the full 8 days. Thus we celebrate Chanukah for 8 days, lighting candles each night of the festival.
There are several customs associated with Channukah, chief amongst them eating foods made with or fried in oil (to commemorate the miracle of the jar of oil), especially latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganiyot (jam-filled doughnuts – or jelly donuts for the Americans amongst us) and playing with the dreidel, a little spinning top. According to tradition, under Greek rule it was forbidden to study Torah, so students would gather in secret. If they were discovered by the Greeks they would pull out dreidels and pretend to be gambling or playing games.
As I like to do every year, here is a cute video to entertain you and put you in the Chanukah mood (h/t Hadassah). The blurb below the video explains the songs and what’s going on in the video. Enjoy!
חג אורים שמח!