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Wednesday, December 8, 2010

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Chanukah Day 7
Rosh Chodesh Tevet
Halachic Times (Zmanim)
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Jewish History

"And Esther was taken to King Achashverosh, to his palace, in the tenth month, which is the month of Tevet, in the seventh year of his reign. And the king loved Esther more than all the women, and she won his favor and kindness more than all the virgins; he placed the royal crown on her head and made her queen in Vashti's stead" (Book of Esther 2:16-17). This set the stage for the miracle of Purim six years later, on the 13th and 14th of Adar of the year 3405 from creation (356 BCE).

Link: Love in the Ice Age

Laws and Customs

Today is the 2nd of the two Rosh Chodesh ("Head of the Month") days for the month of Tevet (when a month has 30 days, both the last day of the month and the first day of the following month serve as the following month's Rosh Chodesh).

The Yaaleh V'yavo prayer is added to the Amidah and to Grace After Meals, and the additional Musaf prayer is said. Because it is also Chanukah today, the "full" Hallel (Psalms 113-118) is recited (and not the "partial Hallel" said on the Rosh Chodesh days of other months).

Many have the custom to mark Rosh Chodesh with a festive meal and reduced work activity. The latter custom is prevalent amongst women, who have a special affinity with Rosh Chodesh -- the month being the feminine aspect of the Jewish Calendar.

Links: The 29th Day; The Lunar Files

In commemoration of the miracle of Chanukah (see "Today in Jewish History" for Kislev 25) we kindle the Chanukah lights -- oil lamps or candles -- each evening of the eight-day festival, increasing the number of lights each evening. Tonight we kindle eight lights. (In the Jewish calendar, the day begins at nightfall; this evening, then, commences the 8th and last day of Chanukah).

The lights—which ideally should be kindled soon after sunset—must burn for at least half an hour after nightfall. Learn more about the proper lighting time here.

For a more detailed guide to Chanukah lighting click here. For text and audio of the blessings recited before lighting, click here.

Additional Chanukah observances and customs are listed below:

Special prayers of thanksgiving -- Hallel (in its full version) and Al HaNissim -- are added to the daily prayers and Grace After Meals on all eight days of Chanukah. Tachnun (confession of sins) and similar prayers are omitted for the duration of trhe festival.

On Chanukah we eat foods fried in oil -- such as latkes (potato cakes) and sufganiot (doughnuts) -- in commemoration of the miracle of the oil.

It is also customary to eat dairy foods in commemoration of Judith's heroic deed.

It is customary to play dreidel -- a game played with a spinning top inscribed with the Hebrew letters Nun, Gimmel, Hei and Shin, which spell the phrase Nes Gadol Hayah Sham, "a great miracle happened there." (It is said that when the Greeks forbade the study of Torah, Jewish children continued the study with their teachers in caves and cellars; when the agents of the king were seen approaching, the children would hide their scrolls and start to play with spinning tops...)

Links: About the dreidel

It is an age-old custom to distribute gifts of Chanukah gelt ("Chanukah money") to children on Chanukah. (It was the custom of the rebbes of Chabad-Lubavitch to give Chanukah gelt to their children and other family members on the fourth or fifth night of Chanukah; more recently, however, the Lubavitcher Rebbe encouraged the giving of Chanukah gelt every day of the festival -- except for Shabbat, when handling money is forbidden.)

Tonight, starting with the Maariv evening prayers, we begin inserting a request for rain -- "v'ten tal u'matar" -- in the 9th blessing of the Amidah (in the Holy Land, the request for rain is inserted beginning on Cheshvan 7)

Links:
The Rainmaker Winter Rain

Daily Thought

They say the most profound darkness comes just before the dawn. The harshest oppression of our forefathers in Egypt came just before their liberation.

That was a coarse darkness of slavery of the body. Today it is a darkness of the soul, a deep slumber of the spirit of Man. There are sparks of light, glimmerings of a sun that never shone before—but the darkness of night overwhelms all.

Prepare for dawn.