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Hanukkah

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Tovah Silverstein
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« on: November 17, 2007, 01:53:52 am »



Several Hanukiyot on the eighth night of the festival.
Official name Hebrew: חֲנֻכָּה or חנוכה
English translation: "Renewal/Rededication" (of the Temple in Jerusalem)
Also called Festival of Lights, Festival of Dedication
Observed by Jews in Judaism
Type Jewish
Significance The Maccabees successfully rebelled against Antiochus IV Epiphanes. The Temple was purified and the wicks of the menorah miraculously burned for eight days.
Begins 25 Kislev
Ends 2 Tevet or 3 Tevet
2007 date sunset, December 4 to sunset, December 12
2008 date sunset, December 21 to sunset, December 29
Celebrations Lighting candles each night in a Hanukkah menorah (or hanukkiyah). Singing special songs, such as Ma'oz Tzur. Reciting Hallel prayer. Eating festive meals and foods fried in oil, such as latkes and sufganiyot. Playing the dreidel game, and giving Hanukkah gelt
Related to Purim, as a rabbinically decreed holiday.
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Tovah Silverstein
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« Reply #1 on: November 17, 2007, 01:55:38 am »

Hanukkah (Hebrew: חנוכה‎, also spelled Chanukah), also known as the Festival of Lights, is an eight-day holiday beginning on the 25th day of the month of Kislev, which may fall anytime from late November to late December. It celebrates the re-kindling of the Temple menorah at the time of the Maccabee rebellion.

The festival is observed in Jewish homes by the kindling of lights on each night of the holiday - one on the first night, two on the second, and so on.

Hanukkah, from the Hebrew word for "dedication" or "consecration", marks the re-dedication of the Temple after its desecration by Antiochus IV and commemorates the "miracle of the container of oil." According to the Talmud, at the re-dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem following the victory of the Maccabees over the Seleucid Empire, there was only enough consecrated olive oil to fuel the eternal flame in the Temple for one day. Miraculously, the oil burned for eight days - which was the length of time it took to press, prepare and consecrate new oil.

Hanukkah is also mentioned in the deuterocanonical books of 1 Maccabees and 2 Maccabees. 1 Maccabees states: "For eight days they celebrated the rededication of the altar. Then Judah and his brothers and the entire congregation of Israel decreed that the days of the rededication...should be observed...every year...for eight days. (1 Mac.4:56-59)" According to 2 Maccabees, "the Jews celebrated joyfully for eight days as on the feast of Booths."

The martyrdom of Hannah and her seven sons has also been linked to Hanukkah. According to the Talmudic story and Book of Maccabees, a Jewish woman named Hannah and her seven sons were tortured and executed by Antiochus' for refusing to bow down to a statue and eat pork, in violation of Jewish law.

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Tovah Silverstein
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« Reply #2 on: November 17, 2007, 01:57:11 am »

Historically, Hanukkah commemorates two events:

•   The triumph of Judaism's spiritual values as embodied in the Torah (symbolized by the Menorah, since the Torah is compared to light) over Hellenistic civilization (considered darkness). Under Antiochus IV, Jewish religious practices were outlawed, and Greek religious symbols were forcibly installed in the Second Temple.
•   The victory of the Jews over the armies of Antiochus IV. The rebellion, begun by Mattathias Maccabee and continued by Judah Maccabee and his brothers, ended in a resounding victory of the "few against the many" and the rededication of the Second Temple.


Because Judaism as a religion shies away from glorifying military victories, because the Hasmoneans later became corrupt, and because civil war between Jews is viewed as deplorable, Hanukkah does not formally commemorate these historical events. Instead, it focuses on the Miracle of the Oil and the positive spiritual aspects of the Temple's rededication; The oil becomes a metaphor for the miraculous survival of the Jewish people through millennia of trials and tribulations.
From an anthropological perspective, it is hard not to draw parallels between Hanukkah observance and the celebrations of winter solstice one finds in so many other religions. Most significantly, Hanukkah always includes within its nights the darkest night of the year. This night is not winter solstice itself, but rather the new moon of Rosh Chodesh Tevet, the night closest to winter solstice in which there is no moonlight. The tradition of increasing the candle light over the days before and after the darkest night recalls in form more explicitly pagan customs to bring back the light of the sun.
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Tovah Silverstein
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« Reply #3 on: November 17, 2007, 01:58:29 am »

The name "Hanukkah" is interpreted in many ways.
•   Some scholars say the word was derived from the Hebrew verb "חנך" meaning "to dedicate." When a new house is built, it is customary to hold a "חנוכת בית" or dedication ceremony, before moving in. On Hanukkah, the Jews mark the rededication of the House of the Lord.
•   Others argue that the name can be broken down into "חנו", from the Hebrew word for encampment, and the Hebrew letters כ"ה, which stand for the 25th day of Kislev, the day on which the holiday begins: Hence, the Jews sat in their camp, i.e., rested from fighting, on the 25th day of Kislev.
•   Hanukkah is also the Hebrew acronym for "ח' נרות והלכה כבית הלל" meaning "eight candles as determined by House of Hillel". This is a reference to the disagreement between two rabbinical schools of thought - Hillel and the House of Shammai - on the proper way to light Hanukkah candles. Shammai said that eight candles should be lit from the start, and reduced by one candle every night, whereas Hillel argued in favor of starting with one candle and lighting an additional one every night. The custom today is based on Hillel's opinion.
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Tovah Silverstein
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« Reply #4 on: November 17, 2007, 01:59:39 am »

In the Talmud
The miracle of Hanukkah is described in the Talmud. The Gemara, in tractate Shabbat 21b, says that after the occupiers had been driven from the Temple, the Maccabees discovered that almost all of the ritual olive oil had been profaned. They found only a single container that was still sealed by the High Priest, with enough oil to keep the Menorah in the Temple lit for a single day. They used this, and miraculously, that oil burned for eight days (the time it took to have new oil pressed and made ready).
The Talmud presents three customs:
1.   Lighting one light each night per household,
2.   One light each night for each member of the household, or,
3.   The most beautiful method, where the number of candles changed each night.
There was a dispute over how the last option was to be performed: either display eight lamps on the first night of the festival, and reduce the number on each successive night; or begin with one lamp the first night, increasing the number till the eighth night. The followers of Shammai favored the former custom; the followers of Hillel advocated the latter. As is the case in most such disputes, Jews today follow Hillel. Except in times of danger, the lights were to be placed outside one's door or in the window closest to the street.
Josephus could not believe that the lights were symbolic of the liberty obtained by the Jews on the day that Hanukkah commemorates. Rashi, in a note to Shabbat 21b, says their purpose is to publicize the miracle. Hanukkah is also mentioned in the (older) Mishnah (TB Megillah 30b).
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Tovah Silverstein
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« Reply #5 on: November 17, 2007, 02:00:57 am »

In the Septuagint and other sources

The story of Hanukkah is alluded in the books of 1 Maccabees and 2 Maccabees. But Hannukah is not specially mentioned, rather, a story similar in character, and obviously older in date, is the one alluded to in 2 Maccabees 1:18 et seq., according to which the relighting of the altar-fire by Nehemiah was due to a miracle which occurred on the twenty-fifth of Kislev, and which appears to be given as the reason for the selection of the same date for the rededication of the altar by Judah Maccabeus.

The Books of Maccabees are not part of the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible), but are part of deuterocanonical historical and religious material preserved in the Septuagint. The Tanakh ends with the consequences following the events of Purim, and had already been codified many centuries earlier by the Men of the Great Assembly (Anshei Knesset HaGedolah).

Another source is the Megillat Antiochus. This work (also known as "Megillat HaHasmonaim", or "Megillat Hanukkah") has come down to us in both Aramaic and Hebrew; the Hebrew version is a literal translation from the Aramaic original. Recent scholarship dates it to somewhere between the 2nd and 5th Centuries, probably in the 2nd Century, with the Hebrew dating to the seventh century. It was published for the first time in Mantua in 1557. Saadia Gaon, who translated it into Arabic in the 9th Century, ascribed it to the Maccabees themselves, but this seems unlikely, since it gives dates as so many years before the destruction of the second temple in 70 AD. The Hebrew text with an English translation can be found in the Siddur of Philip Birnbaum.

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Tovah Silverstein
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« Reply #6 on: November 17, 2007, 02:02:43 am »

Hasmonean

Around 200 BC Jews lived as an autonomous people in the land of Israel, also referred to as Judea, which at that time was controlled by the Seleucid king of Syria. The Jewish people paid taxes to Syria and accepted its legal authority, and by and large were free to follow their own faith, maintain their own jobs, and engage in trade.

By 175 BC Antiochus IV Epiphanes ascended to the Seleucid throne. At first little changed, but under his reign, the Temple in Jerusalem was looted, Jews were massacred, and Judaism was effectively outlawed. In 167 BC Antiochus ordered an altar to Zeus erected in the Temple.

Many modern scholars argue that the king may have been interveneing in an internal civil war between the traditionalist Jews in the country and the Hellenized elite Jews in Jerusalem. These competed violently over who would be the High Priest, with traditionalists with Hebrew/Aramaic like Onias overthrown by Hellenizers with Greek names like Jason and Menelaus. As the conflict escalated, Antiochus took the side of the Hellenizers by prohibiting the religious practices the traditionalists had rallied around. This may explain why the king, in a total departure from Seleucid practice in all other places and times, banned the traditional religion of a whole people.

In any case, Antiochus' actions proved to be a major miscalculation as they provoked a large-scale revolt. Mattathias, a Jewish priest, and his five sons Jochanan, Simeon, Eleazar, Jonathan, and Judah led a rebellion against Antiochus. Judah became known as Judah Maccabee ("Judah the Hammer"). By 166 BC Mattathias had died, and Judah took his place as leader. By 165 BC the Jewish revolt against the Seleucid monarchy was successful. The Temple was liberated and rededicated. The festival of Hanukkah was instituted by Judah Maccabee and his brothers to celebrate this event. After recovering Jerusalem and the Temple, Judah ordered the Temple to be cleansed, a new altar to be built in place of the polluted one and new holy vessels to be made. According to the Talmud, oil was needed for the menorah in the Temple, which was supposed to burn throughout the night every night. But there was only enough oil to burn for one day, yet miraculously, it burned for eight days, the time needed to prepare a fresh supply of oil for the menorah. An eight-day festival was declared to commemorate this miracle.

The version of the story in 1 Maccabees, on the other hand, states that an eight day celebration of songs and sacrifices was proclaimed upon rededication of the altar, and makes no mention of the miracle of the oil. A number of historians believe that the reason for the eight-day celebration was that the first Hanukkah was in effect a belated celebration of the festivals of Sukkot and Shemini Atzeret. During the war the Jews were not able to celebrate Sukkot/Shemini Atzeret properly; the combined festivals also last eight days, and the Sukkot festivities featured the lighting of lamps in the Temple (Suk.v. 2-4). The historian Josephus mentions the eight-day festival and its customs, but does not tell us the origin of the eight day lighting custom. Given that his audience was Hellenized Romans, perhaps his silence on the origin of the eight-day custom is due to its miraculous nature. In any event, he does report that lights were kindled in the household and the popular name of the festival was, therefore the "Festival of Lights" ("And from that time to this we celebrate this festival, and call it Lights").

It has been noted that Jewish festivals are connected to the harvesting of the Biblical seven fruits which Israel was famed for. Pesach is a celebration of the barley harvest, Shavuot of the wheat, Sukkot of the figs, dates, pomegranates and grapes, and Hanukkah of the olives. The olive harvest is in November and olive oil would be ready in time for Hanukkah in December.

It has also been noted that the number eight has special significance in Jewish theology, as representing transcendence and the Jewish People's special role in human history. Seven is the number of days of creation, that is, of completion of the material cosmos, and also of the classical planets. Eight, being one step beyond seven, represents the Infinite. Hence, the Eighth Day of the Assembly festival, mentioned above, is according to Jewish Law a festival for Jews only (unlike Sukkoth, when all peoples were welcome in Jerusalem). Similarly, the rite of circumcision, which brings a Jewish male into God's Covenant, is performed on the eighth day. Hence, Hanukkah's eight days (in celebration of monotheistic morality's victory over Hellenistic humanism) have great symbolic importance for practicing Jews.

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« Reply #7 on: November 17, 2007, 02:04:18 am »



Hanukkah lamp unearthed near Jerusalem, c. 1900.

Hanukkah is celebrated by a series of rituals that are performed every day throughout the 8-day holiday. Some are family-based and others are communal. There are special additions to the daily prayer service, and a section is added to the blessing after meals. Hanukkah is not a "Sabbath-like" holiday, and there is no obligation to refrain from activities that are forbidden on the Sabbath, as specified in the Shulkhan Arukh People go to work as usual, but may leave early in order to be home to kindle the lights at nightfall. There is no religious reason for schools to be closed, although, in Israel, schools close for the whole week of Hanukkah.

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« Reply #8 on: November 17, 2007, 02:06:07 am »


Various menorot used for Hanukkah (Hanukiot). Taken from the 1901-1906 Jewish Encyclopedia, now in the public domain. The locations of the hanukiot given below reflect their locations as of the publication of the Jewish Encyclopedia and not their present locations.
•   1. Bronze, French, attributed to 12th cent. (in the Musée de Cluny, Paris).
•   2. Yellow copper, modern (in the synagogue at Pogrebishche, Russia).
•   3. Silver (?), medieval (in the possession of Dr. Albert Figdor, Vienna).
•   4. Yellow copper, modern (in the synagogue at Padua, Italy).
•   5. Silver and bronze, 17th cent. (in the possession of Jacob H. Schiff. New York).
•   6. Silver, late 19th century (from the collection of the late Rabbi Benjamin Szold, Baltimore).
•   7. Bronze, Italian, 15th cent. (in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London).
•   8. Silver, English (?), 16th cent. (in the possession of E. A. Franklin, London).
•   9. Silver, Nuremberg, 17th cent. (in the possession of N. S. Joseph, London).
•   10. Silver, modern (in the possession of Maurice Herrmann, New York).
« Last Edit: November 17, 2007, 02:07:24 am by Tovah Silverstein » Report Spam   Logged
Tovah Silverstein
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« Reply #9 on: November 17, 2007, 02:08:52 am »

Kindling the Hanukkah Lights

The primary ritual, according to Jewish law and custom, is to light a single light each night for eight nights. As a universally-practiced "beautification" of the mitzvah, the number of lights lit is increased by one each night. An extra light called a shamash, meaning guard or servant is also lit each night, and is given a distinct location, usually higher or lower than the others. The purpose of the extra light is to adhere to the prohibition, specified in the Talmud (Tracate Shabbat 21b-23a), against using the Hanukkah lights for anything other than publicizing - and meditating on - the Hanukkah story. (This differs from Sabbath candles which are meant to be used for illumination). Hence, if one were to need extra illumination on Hanukkah, the shamash candle would be available and one would avoid using the prohibited lights. Some light the shamash candle first and then use it to light the others. So all together, including the shamash, two lights are lit on the first night, three on the second and so on, ending with nine on the last night, for a total of 44.

The lights can be candles or oil lamps. Electric lights are sometimes used and are acceptable in places where open flame is not permitted, such as a hospital room. Most Jewish homes have a special candelabrum or oil lamp holder for Hanukkah, which holds eight lights plus the additional shamash light. In the State of Israel, it is usually called a "chanukkiyah". Ashkenazic Jews (central and east European Jews) mostly call it a "Hanukkah menorah", though chanukkiyah has become more common in Israel. Some Sephardic Jews (west European, Mediterranean and Latin American Jews) simply call it "a hanukkah". By contrast, the Temple menorah, described in Exodus 25:31 ff, which is often used to symbolize Judaism, has six branches plus a central shaft, for a total of seven lamps.

The reason for the Hanukkah lights is not for the "lighting of the house within", but rather for the "illumination of the house without", so that passers-by should see it and be reminded of the holiday's miracle. Accordingly lamps are set up at a prominent window or near the door leading to the street. It is customary amongst some Ashkenazim to have a separate menorah for each family member (customs vary), whereas most Sephardim light one chanukkiyah for the whole household. Only when there was danger of anti-semitic persecution were lamps supposed to be hidden from public view, as was the case in Persia under the rule of the Zoroastrians, or in parts of Europe before and during World War II. However, most Hasidic groups, light lamps near an inside doorway, not necessarily in public view. According to this tradition, the lamps are placed on the opposite side from the mezuzah, so that when one passes through the door he is surrounded by the holiness of mitzvoth.


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« Reply #10 on: November 17, 2007, 02:10:25 am »



Bronze Pal-Bell oil-burning Hanukkah menorah from Israel circa 1948, by Maurice Ascalon.

When to light the lights

Hanukkah lights should burn for at least one half hour after it gets dark (the custom of the Vilna Gaon - observed by many residents of Jerusalem as the custom of the city, is to light at sundown, although most Hassidim light later, even in Jerusalem. Many Hassidic Rebbes light much later, because they fulfill the obligation of publicising the miracle by the presence of their Hasidim when they kindle the lights.). The standard inexpensive wax candles sold for Hanukkah burn for approximately half an hour, so on most days this requirement can be met by lighting the candles when it is dark out. Friday night presents a problem, however. Candles must be lit before the start of Shabbat and inexpensive Hanukkah candles do not burn long enough to meet the requirement. A simple solution is to use "tea lights" or Sabbath candles, arranging them in a straight line and setting the shamash candle apart and above the rest, or by using the traditional oil lamps.

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« Reply #11 on: November 17, 2007, 02:12:16 am »



US stamp honoring Hanukkah and showing a Menorah with colored candles

Blessings over the candles

Typically three blessings (Brachot singular Brachah) are recited during this eight-day festival. On the first night of Hanukkah, Jews recite all three blessings, on all subsequent nights, they recite only the first two. The blessings are said before or after the candles are lit depending on tradition. On the first night of Hanukkah one light (candle, lamp, or electric) is lit on the right side of the Menorah, on the following night a second light is placed to the left of the first candle and so on, proceeding from right to left each night.

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« Reply #12 on: November 17, 2007, 02:13:31 am »

The first blessing

Recited all eight nights just prior to lighting the candles:

Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu melech ha-olam, asher kid'shanu b'mitzvotav v'tzivanu l'hadlik neir (shel) chanukah.

Translation: "Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, Who sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us to kindle the Hanukkah lights."

The second blessing

Recited all eight nights just prior to lighting the candles:

Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu melech ha-olam, she-asah nisim la-avoteinu, bayamim haheim, (u)baz'man hazeh.

Translation: "Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, Who performed wondrous deeds for our ancestors, in those days, at this moment."

The third blessing

Recited only on the first night just prior to lighting the candles:

Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu melech ha-olam, shehecheyanu, v'kiyemanu, vehigi-anu laz'man hazeh.

Translation: "Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, Who has kept us in life, sustained us, and brought us to this moment."
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Tovah Silverstein
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« Reply #13 on: November 17, 2007, 02:14:47 am »

After kindling the lights - Hanerot Halalu

When the lights are kindled the Hanerot Halalu prayer is subsequently recited:

(Ashkenazic version):

Hanneirot hallalu anachnu madlikin 'al hannissim ve'al hanniflaot 'al hatteshu'ot ve'al hammilchamot she'asita laavoteinu bayyamim haheim, (u)bazzeman hazeh 'al yedei kohanekha hakkedoshim. Vekhol-shemonat yemei Hanukkah hanneirot hallalu kodesh heim, ve-ein lanu reshut lehishtammesh baheim ella lir'otam bilvad kedei lehodot ul'halleil leshimcha haggadol 'al nissekha ve'al nifleotekha ve'al yeshu'otekha.

Translation: "We light these lights For the miracles and the wonders, for the redemption and the battles that you made for our forefathers, in those days at this season, through your holy priests. During all eight days of Hanukkah these lights are sacred, and we are not permitted to make them serve except for to look at them in order to express thanks and praise to Your great Name for your miracles, Your wonders and Your salvations."
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« Reply #14 on: November 17, 2007, 02:16:02 am »

Singing of Maoz Tzur after lighting

Each night after the lighting of the candles, while remaining within sight of the candles, Ashkenazim (and, in recent decades, some Sephardim and Mizrahim in Western countries) usually sing the hymn Ma'oz Tzur written in Medieval Ashkenaz (Germany). The song contains six stanzas. The first and last deal with general themes of divine salvation, and the middle four deal with events of persecution in Jewish history, and praises God for survival despite these tragedies (the the exodus from Egypt, the Babylonian captivity, the miracle of the holiday of Purim, and the Hasmonean victory).

Other customs

After lighting the candles and Ma'oz Tzur, singing various other Hanukkah songs is customary in many Jewish homes. Various Hasidic and Sefardic traditions have additional prayers that are recited both before and after lighting the Hanukkah lights. This includes the recitation of many Psalms, most notably Psalms 30, 67, and 91 (many Hassidim recite Psalm 91 seven times after lighting the lamps, as was taught by the Baal Shem Tov), as well as other prayers and hymns, each congregation according to its own custom. In North America it is common to exchange presents or give children presents at this time.


« Last Edit: November 17, 2007, 02:16:44 am by Tovah Silverstein » Report Spam   Logged
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