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Glossary for the Holiday of Hanukkah

Glossary for the Holiday of Hanukkah

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Antiochus IV Epiphanes: the Syrian-Greek emperor (2nd century BCE) who desecrated the Holy Temple and enacted laws against Jewish practices during the Second Temple era. The Maccabees fought, and miraculously defeated his armies. The miracle of his defeat, and the subsequent rededication of the Temple, is commemorated on the holiday of Hanukkah.

Beit Hamikdash: the Holy Temple that stood in Jerusalem.

Chanukah: (lit. “rededication”); the eight-day festival of Hanukkah, beginning on the Jewish date of 25 Kislev, celebrating the Maccabees’ recapture of the second Temple from the Greek-Syrians, and its rededication. Marked by the kindling of lights on a candelabrum called a menorah or chanukiah.

Chanukah Gelt: (lit. "Hanukkah money"); monetary gifts given on Hanukkah.

Chanukah Sameach: (lit. “happy Hanukkah”); traditional holiday greeting.

Chashmonaim: Hasmoneans, priestly family who led the Maccabee armies in the battle against the Greeks. They later became the kings of the Kingdom of Judea.

Chanukiah: The nine-branched candelabrum kindled on Hanukkah commemorating the miracle of Hanukkah.

Dmei Chanukah: (lit. "Hanukkah money"); monetary gifts given on Hanukkah

Dreidel: spinning top marked with the Hebrew letters nun, gimmel, hei and shin, an acronym for Nes Gadol Hayah Sham, "a great miracle happened there."

Freilachen Chanukah: (lit, “happy Hanukkah); traditional holiday greeting.

Hallel: (lit. “praise”); a portion of Psalms (113-118) recited in the prayer service on festivals.

Haneirot Halalu: (lit. “these flames”); traditional prayer sung after the lighting of the Menorah.

Kislev, Month of: Jewish month corresponding to November - December when Hanukkah occurs.

Latke: fried potato pancake, traditionally served on Hanukkah.

Levivah: fried potato pancake, traditionally served on Hanukkah.

Maccabees, The: The Jewish army that revolted against the Syrian-Greek occupation in 139 BCE, whose miraculous victory culminated in the festival of Hanukkah. Their name is an acronym for their battle cry, whose Hebrew words from the verse in Psalms (86:8), “Mi kamocha b’eileim Hashem,” - “who is likened unto You amongst all powers, O, G‑d.”

Maoz Tzur: (lit. “mighty stronghold”); traditional song sung after the lighting of the menorah.

Matityahu, Mattathias ben Johanan: father of the Maccabees (d. 139 BCE), led the rebellion against the Syrian-Greeks, culminating in the miraculous victory which is celebrated on the festival of Hanukkah.

Menorah: the seven-branched gold candelabrum in the Temple, also refers to the nine-branched candelabrum kindled on Hanukkah commemorating the holiday miracle.

Sevivon: spinning top marked with the Hebrew letters nun, gimmel, hei and shin, an acronym for Nes Gadol Hayah Sham, "a great miracle happened there."

Shamash, The: (lit. “attendant”); the candle used to light the Hanukkah lamps.

Shemen zayit zach: pure, pressed olive oil.

Sufganiot: fried donuts, a traditional Hanukkah food.

V’Al HaNissim: (lit. “and for the miracles”), the opening phrase of a passage added to the daily prayers and the grace after meals on the holidays of Hanukkah and Purim, gratefully acknowledging the miracles G‑d performed on those days.

Yehuda Maccabee: a member of the Hasmonean family who led the Maccabees to victory.

Yehudit: a member of the Hasmonean family who ingeniously planned and executed the assassination of the Syrian-Greek General Holofernes, ending the siege on the city of Bethulia and saving its residents from starvation.


See also:

Hanukkah in a Nutshell

Hanukkah FAQs

Hanukkah Event Directory - Hanukkah Menorah Lightings, Parties and more

By Chabad.org Staff
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