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December 22, 2005 - Image 20

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2005-12-22

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Happy Chanukah

The story and traditions
behind the lights.

1 Elizabeth Applebaum
1 Contributing Editor

• When It Occurs: This year,
Chanukah begins after sundown on
Sunday, Dec. 25. On the Jewish calen-
dar, this eight-day festival starts on
the.25th of Kislev.


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• How We Celebrate: Kindle lights
(oil is preferable, but most families
use candles) in a menorah or
chanukiyah. Light candles progres-
sively each night: one light the first
night, two the second, and so on.
Though most prefer to place their
candles in a menorah, it is permissible
to light these in individual holders in
a line. The menorah should be in a
window facing the street for the sake
of pirsumey nisah (publicize the mira-
cle), but it also may be set within the
house in a place where it can be
observed by all members of the

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December 22 . 2005

• What It Commemorates: Chanukah
marks the victory of the Jews, led by
members of the priestly Hasmonean
family (especially Judah IvIaccabee),
over the Greco-Syrians (Seleucids) in
164 B.C.E.
The Seleucids had repressed the
practice of Judaism and converted the
Temple in Jerusalem into a house of
pagan worship. The Hasmoneans
restored the Temple and its altar.
Chanukah is the Hebrew word for
"dedication." It comes from the
phrase, chanukat ha-mizbayach,
meaning "dedication of the altar?'

• Rules, Rituals And Regulations:
Chanukah lights may be kindled only
after sundown (except before
Shabbat). They may not be used for
anything, such as reading or lighting
cigarettes, other than display. Unlike
the major Jewish holidays, Chanukah
has no restrictions on the use of elec-
tricity, vehicles, handling money, etc.
On 'Friday evening, light Chanukah
candles before the Shabbat candles;
and the Chanukah light must be suffi-
cient to burn 30 minutes into Shabbat.
A blessing is said before lighting
candles on the menorah, and a prayer

is said after lighting. You can find
these in most Jewish prayer books.
Daily prayers include Al ha-Nisim in
the Amidah (silent, standing prayer)
and in Birkat Ha-Mazon (grace after
meals); the full Hallel prayer is recited
each day.
In the synagogue, there is a special
Torah reading for each day (Numbers
7-8:4), with four persons called up.
Chanukah straddles two Jewish
months, Kislev and Tevet. The sixth
day is also Rosh Chodesh Kislev (the
first day of the month) and includes
an additional Torah reading. On
Shabbat, the Torah'portion is read
with the Chanukah maftir (the eighth,
and last, aliyah during the Torah read-
ing). A special Haftorah for Chanukah
(Zechariah 2:14-4:7) is read.

Customs and Traditions:
• Singing "Maoz Tzur." Some also
recite or sing Psalm 30.
• Chow down on potato pancakes, or
latkes, fried in oil, reminiscent of the
oil that burned for eight days, when it
was supposed to last only one, in the
Holy Temple.
• Israelis, and many Americans, eat
jelly doughnuts, sufganiot.
• Children play dreidel, a spinning top
inscribed with a Hebrew letter on each
of four sides (nun for nes (miracle),
gimmel for- gadol (great), hey for haya
(happened), shin for sham (there): a
great miracle happened there. The
game is played for chocolate coins,
candy or nuts. Each player takes a
turn spinning and, depending on
which Hebrew letter turns up when
the dreidl stops, the player either gets
or gives to the pot.
• Gift-giving is a Christmas tradition
and has nothing to with Chanukah.

Did You Know?: The story of Judith,
and the story of Hannah and Her
Seven Sons, are associated with
Chanukah. Judith is in the Book of
'Judith; while Hannah comes from the
Second Book of Maccabees. Although
neither is part of the Jewish Bible,
they are of Jewish origin and widely
Heroes and Villains: Exactly who

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