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What Is Hanukkah?

What Is Hanukkah?

With a Medley of Chanukah Links


Chanukah -- the eight-day festival of light that begins on the eve of the 25th of the Jewish month of Kislev -- celebrates the triumph of light over darkness, of purity over adulteration, of spirituality over materiality.

More than twenty-one centuries ago, the Holy Land was ruled by the Seleucids (Syrian-Greeks), who sought to forcefully Hellenize the people of Israel. Against all odds, a small band of faithful Jews defeated one of the mightiest armies on earth, drove the Greeks from the land, reclaimed the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and rededicated it to the service of G-d.

When they sought to light the Temple's menorah (the seven branched candelabrum), they found only a single cruse of olive oil that had escaped contamination by the Greeks; miraculously, the one-day supply burned for eight days, until new oil could be prepared under conditions of ritual purity.

To commemorate and publicize these miracles, the sages instituted the festival of Chanukah. At the heart of the festival is the nightly menorah (candelabrum) lighting: a single flame on the first night, two on the second evening, and so on till the eighth night of Chanukah, when all eight lights are kindled.

On Chanukah we also add the Hallel and Al HaNissim in our daily prayers to offer praise and thanksgiving to G-d for "delivering the strong into the hands of the weak, the many into the hands of the few... the wicked into the hands of the righteous."

Chanukah customs include eating foods fried in oil -- latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganiot (doughnuts); playing with the dreidel (a spinning top on which are inscribed the Hebrew letters nun, gimmel, hei and shin, an acronym for Nes Gadol Hayah Sham, "a great miracle happened there"); and the giving of Chanukah gelt, gifts of money, to children.

Click here for the complete story of Chanukah, and here for a comprehensive "How To" guide for the observances and customs of Chanukah.

Image by chassidic artist Shoshannah Brombacher. To view or purchase Ms. Brombacher’s art, click here.
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Discussion (61)
December 16, 2014
Discussion 60 and others: I would not assume that G-d was not consulted prior to battling the Assyrian Greeks. I was not there, nor were you. But if I were, I certainly would have listened carefully for higher guidance and wisdom, and prayed fervently before contending with such a formidable foe. The Maccabees were human beings, with every human characteristic and trait, just like you and me, all perfect and at the same time highly flawed. Chanukah is about redeeming the balance between the light and dark within ourselves and everything. Every coin has two sides or it would not be a coin. We do not worship our heroes, we only praise them and strive to do the right thing, as did they, in a world of terrible wrongs.
Pleasantville, NY
December 16, 2014
because we are talking about Light and so we talk also about Chanukah, why is this so.

this event is so unusual out of most of The Torah battles, why, because it was reactive rather than planned. All other battles involved a consultation with G-d first, either G-d telling the people to go into battle or the people asking if they should go and battle.

Very unusual inspired moment, so what can be learned from this.

many times we wait for G-d to reply to us when we ask for something, but really we only need to do what is right for G-d and His Torah.

we do battles now to defend G-d's Torah but we do this now with compassion and forgiveness. We defend Torah and oursleves by defending Its Values.

So this is how The Light of G-d's Torah is in the world by doing Good.

Sadly we have battles as Israel has today but for many of us its about defending values such as Viktor Frankl and others did at times when thats all they had, no weapons, it was the ultimate defense.

November 24, 2014
Hanukkah! Anonymous, Finland
Shalom, first of all, we do not refer to Chanukah as a "feast", rather a "festival". This festival is celebrated annually - every 12 months in the month of Kislev, unless there's a leap year when a 2nd month of Adar is added, thus causing us to wait 13 months to celebrate. It has been celebrated ever since the Rabbis/Sanhedrin have declared that it was a miracle when the oil lasted for EIGHT days... and has never stopped.... 2,000+ years. In 2014, the first Chanukah candle lighting will be the eve of December 16th when the stars are out, as that is the Hebrew date of 25 Kislev, when the miracle occurred... and the festival lasts for 8 nights... we add one candle each night, until we reach the last night and light EIGHT candles in total. Many light oil vs candles.

Hanukkah! January 18, 2014
I very much identify with Hanukkah in my life.
How often is the feast of Hanukkah celebrated, I meant when was the last time and when is the next time it is celebrated?
God bless
August 12, 2014
To Anonymous
The lights we use on Chanukah are the lights we kindle on the traditional menorah, candelabra, which we light each of the eight nights of the holiday. Staff
August 7, 2014
If Hanukkah is the festival of lights why don't they put up lights during this time? Seems those of us that celebrate Christmas use more lights than they do!
January 18, 2014
I very much identify with Hanukkah in my life.

How often is the feast of Hanukkah celebrated, I meant when was the last time and when is the next time it is celebrated?

God bless
November 26, 2013
It's not in the "Bible"
The series of historical events leading to the celebration of Hanukkah appear in the Books of the Maccabees, which records the origins of the Hanukkah story and of the Hasmonean dynasty, are represented by Josephus in the Jewish Antiquities, Book 12 Chapter 5 through Book 13 Chapter 7. These chapters are primarily a compressed version of the First Book of Maccabees, supplemented by some material from the Second Book of Maccabees War 1 37-47, with some additional changes made by Josephus.

Please consult Jewish sources only when researching Jewish subjects. Thank you.
Pleasantville, NY
November 26, 2013
To Miriam
Please see Is Chanukah Mentioned in the Torah? for a response to your question.
Mrs. Chana Benjaminson
November 26, 2013
I am also Jewish, I think Hanukkah is a very special thing and people should respect it whether or not they worship it.
Sarah Bedferd
November 26, 2013
What Book and chapter in the Bible tells the story of Hannukah? Can anyone tell me?
Otherwise I will google it or refer to my Concordance which is a Bible dictionary that gives book and chapter
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