The light of the Hanukkah candles reminds us of family, community, and fried foods. But where do these traditions come from?
Hanukkah at its core is a military story – the story of the Maccabees who defeated the Greek armies. But, the story teaches us about so much more about:
Repairing the world: Family and friends gather to celebrate Hanukkah, and while we focus on candle lighting, gift giving, and sharing meals, it’s an ideal opportunity to connect with and to create our own modern day miracles. What modern miracles help repair the world and forge deeper connections to each other and to our neighbors in need?
Tolerance: At its core, Hanukkah celebrates tolerance. It illuminates our ability to overcome oppression by seeing the light in our community and each other. Regardless of one’s background or beliefs, all can appreciate this holiday’s physical and metaphorical expression of light and dark.
Knowledge: The light of the candles reminds us that we can be lights unto the world, and through mindfulness, learning, and innovation, we can all play a role in bettering our communities.
During the time of the 2nd Temple, the Holy Land was ruled by cruel Greeks. They robbed the Jews of their property, and set up idols in the holy temple. No one could stand up against them, till Mattityahu and his sons rose up and drove them from the land. The Hanukkah lights remind us of the great miracle that a small band of Jews defeated the mighty Greek armies.
THE MIRACLE OF LIGHT
An even greater miracle than defeating the Greek armies was the miracle of the oil. The Greeks had made all the oil in the holy temple impure. Miraculously, the Maccabees found one jar that had been overlooked. But it only had enough oil for one day. A miracle occurred, and the oil burned for eight days.
Every day of Hanukkah we add another candle till all eight candles of the Menorah are ablaze. By adding a candle every night for 8 days, we charge ourselves up with light, and bring this light to our community.
FILLING THE WORLD WITH LIGHT!
The miracle of Hanukkah occurred in a dark time when there were wicked decrees against the Jews. But the Maccabees had courage and never lost hope.
Aside from lighting the candles, there are many Hanukkah traditions:
Dreidel: We play dreidel to remember the miracle of Hanukkah. “Nun” (nes, meaning miracle), “Gimel” (gadol, meaning big), “Heh” (hayah, meaning happened), and “Shin” (sham, there), don each side of the dreidel.
*fun fact: dreidels outside of Israel say “shin,” as the miracle took place IN the land of Israel. Dreidels in Israel say the letter “Peh” (poh, meaning here).
Fried foods: Latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganiot (jelly donuts) are two of the most popular Hanukkah treats, serving as a reminder of the oil meant to last one day that lasted eight.
Gifts: Many families give gifts for each of the eight nights of the holiday. While this is far from a requirement, it is a nice time of year to think about giving to others.