The next stop on my "Traditions of the Holiday - An Educational Tour" is the Chanukah-Hanukkah-Hanukah celebration. This is a festival that is practiced by those of the Jewish faith celebrating the miracle of light.
Why are there two different names for the holiday?
From what I can gather, the reason for the name change has something to do with translation. Apparently the closest equivalent to the 'Ch' sound used in Chanukah in the English language is the letter "H".
In the Hebrew, Chanukah is pronounced with the letter chet. The chet’s “ch” sound is not enunciated like the “ch” in child; rather it’s a guttural, throaty sound—like the “ch” in Johann Bach—which does not have an English equivalent. The letter “H” is the closest, but it’s not really it. So while some people spell and pronounce it “Chanukah” and others settle for “Hanukkah,” they really are one and the same.
What is Chanukah?
Chanukah is the "Festival of Lights" that lasts for a period of eight days and nights starting on the 25th day of the Jewish calendar month of Kislev.
What does Chanukah mean?
I have come across two meaning of Chanukah.
Chanukah has two meanings. First, and foremost, it means "dedication" because it was on Chanukah that the Bait Hamikdash (Holy Temple) was purified and rededicated to the service of Hashem, in 165 BCE, after many years of pagan defilement. ("BCE" means "before common era.")
The word Chanukah can also be divided into two: Chanu—they rested, and Kah—which has the numerical value of 25. On the twenty-fifth day of the Hebrew month of Kislev the Maccabees rested from their battle, and triumphantly marched into the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, ready to rededicate it.
Traditions of Chanukah.
1.) Lighting of the Menorah - There are specific instructions on how to light a Menorah during the Chanukah celebration. The higher candle or the one separated from the rest is called the shamash and is used to light the rest of the candles from left to right. The symbolic use of the menorah is to 'publicize the miracle' and should be placed in an area that is visible to the world. The regular candles in the menorah are not to be used for anything other than viewing. There is also a specific order to recite Blessings over the candles.
One of the oldest symbols of the Jewish faith is the menorah, a seven-branched candelabrum used in the Temple. The kohanim lit the menorah in the Sanctuary every evening and cleaned it out every morning, replacing the wicks and putting fresh olive oil into the cups. The illustration at left is based on instructions for construction of the menorah found in Exodus 25:31-40.
It has been said that the menorah is a symbol of the nation of Israel and our mission to be "a light unto the nations." (Isaiah 42:6). The sages emphasize that light is not a violent force; Israel is to accomplish its mission by setting an example, not by using force. This idea is highlighted in the vision in Zechariah 4:1-6. Zechariah sees a menorah, and G-d explains: "Not by might, nor by power, but by My spirit."
The lamp stand in today's synagogues, called the ner tamid (lit. the continual lamp; usually translated as the eternal flame), symbolizes the menorah.
The nine-branched menorah used on Chanukah is commonly patterned after this menorah, because Chanukah commemorates the miracle that a day's worth of oil for this menorah lasted eight days.
2.) Playing Dreidel - Apparently this game was a game played by the children to alert those who where studying the Torah that the Greeks were coming.
The actual origins of the dreidel go back to a game called "totum" or "teetotum" which was played in England and Ireland in the 16th century. It required a four-sided spinning top with a letter inscribed on each side directing the player to take a specific action: T (take all); H (take half); P (put in); N (nothing). When the game was played in Germany, which by all counts appears to be the source of the Jewish version, the letters were as follows: N (nichts/nothing); G (ganz/all); H (halb/half); and S (stell ein/put in). Yiddish-speaking Jews of Eastern Europe substituted the Hebrew letters producing the same sounds: nun, gimel, hay, and shin.
From these four letters (nun, gimel, hay, shin) the phrase "Nes Gadol Haya Sham" ("a great miracle happened there") was created. When the State of Israel was established in 1948, an Israeli version was created. The letter pay was substituted for shin to correspond with the word "po" rendering the phrase "Nes Gadol Haya Po" ("a great miracle happened here").
Legend has it that there was a battle between the Greeks and a group of Jewish people (Maccabees) who wanted to maintain and preserved Jewish practices. The Greeks wanted to assimilate everyone into their own culture and ban this culture that was different than their own - even to the point of death.
It seems one of the ways the Jewish people tried to protect their way of life was through the game of Dreidel. Gambling was legal during this time, coins (gelt) were used. The Jewish people were continuing to learn the Torah, but was outlawed by the Greeks. So if the children saw the Greeks coming, they would pull out their dreidels and pretent that they were playing a game to alert the adults inside. The Hebrew letters and the meanings on the dreidel (top) are - Nun, Gimel, Hei and Shin meaning "Nes Gadol Hayah Sham", a great miracle happened there, referring to the miracle of the oil.
The dreidel, known in Hebrew as a sevivon, dates back to the time of the Syrian-Greek rule over the Holy Land—which set off the Maccabean revolt that culminated in the Chanukah miracle. Learning Torah was outlawed by the enemy, a “crime” punishable by death. The Jewish children resorted to hiding in caves in order to study. If a Greek patrol would approach, the children would pull out their tops and pretend to be playing a game.
Anyway, this group of Jews took on the overwhelming Greek forces and won the war that raged for three years. When the Jews went to Jeruselem into the temple, they found it had been seriously ransacked with Greek idols on display and only one bottle of oil left to keep the lamp lit for one night. To their surprise this lamp stayed lit for eight days - the amount of time needed to make new oil.
Silly Chanukah Songs
Chanukah Service for the Home
The following websites were used in my research for this article...
Judaism Rabbi Scheinerman's Web Page
Jewish Virtual Library
Traditions of the Holiday - An Educational Tour - the series...
- Traditions of the Holiday - An Educational Tour - Part 1 - Musical Overture
- Traditions of the Holiday - An Educational Tour - Part 2 - Winter Solstice
- Traditions of the Holiday - An Educational Tour - Part 3 - Chanukah
- Traditions of the Holiday - An Educational Tour - Part 4 - Kwanzaa
***This "Traditions of the Holiday - An Educational Tour..." series is the original idea of ©PonGoad 2012. All Rights Reserved aka ©LadyGs Creations 2012. All Rights Reserved.
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