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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 (56)
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
November 21, 2013
Thank you
Thank you for sharing these powerful testimonies
October 10, 2013
Chanukah occurs in the Hebrew calendar month of Kislev. This year, 2013 the date is November 27-December 5.
Mrs. Chana Benjaminson
October 9, 2013
what month is it
December 23, 2012
Send a card!
Yes, send a card as one would for any other occasion. Communications of loving-kindness and the implicit connection of everyone in a community (a collection of streets and byways) remind me that all roads lead to One G-d. I am keeping in mind the literal meaning of Hanukkah: DEDICATION. Dedication, with grace - khen - to being in action or just being - being at peace and completeness with oneself, one's family, and one's neighbors. Peace. - Shalom.
Pleasantville, NY
December 18, 2012
My ancestors were Jewish immigrants, as the family moved and surname was changed, somwhere along the way, and religion changed too. Where is a good place to learn Judism, understand my ancestors and respect their beliefs? I feel pulled to the Jewish ways, and have for years.
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