Here's a great tip:
Enter your email address and we'll send you our weekly magazine by email with fresh, exciting and thoughtful content that will enrich your inbox and your life, week after week. And it's free.
Oh, and don't forget to like our facebook page too!
Printed from chabad.org
All Departments
Jewish Holidays
TheRebbe.org
Jewish.TV - Video
Jewish Audio
News
Kabbalah Online
JewishWoman.org
Kids Zone

Printable Chanukah Guide - 2014

Printable Chanukah Guide - 2014

E-mail

Chanukah in a Nutshell


What Is Hanukkah?

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.

Blessings on the Kindling of the Menorah

Click here for the blessings in Hebrew, transliteration and translation of the blessings on the kindling of the menorah.

V'al Hanissim

During the eight days of Chanukah, we add the V'al Hanissim ("And for the miracles...") section in the amidah (daily silent prayers) and in the Grace after Meals. In this section we summarize the miracles of the Maccabee victory, and thank G‑d for the "miracles, redemption, mighty deeds, saving acts and wonders" that He wrought for our ancestors.

Click here for the Hebrew text of the V'al Hanissim, as well as an English translation.

Hallel

Every day of Chanukah, we recite the complete Hallel in the course of the morning prayers. The Hallel is a sequence of praise and gratitude-themed psalms (Psalms 113-118) that is recited on Jewish holidays.

Torah Reading

The Torah is read every day immediately following the Hallel. The Chanukah readings are from the Book of Numbers (7:1-8:4), and discuss the dedication of the Tabernacle, the gifts that the tribal leaders brought in honor of the inauguration, and the command to Aaron to kindle the Tabernacle Menorah daily.

On Chanukah, too, we celebrate the dedication (or, to be precise, the re-dedication) of the Temple by the Maccabees after it had been defiled and contaminated by the Greeks. And the command to Aaron to kindle the Menorah is also an allusion to the Chanukah Menorah, a mitzvah that we have thanks to the bravery of Aaron's descendants—the priestly Hasmonean family that led the Maccabeean armies in battle against the Greeks.

Click here for the Chanukah readings along with commentary and contemporary insights.

Chanukah Hymns

Various hymns have been composed in honor of Chanukah. The two most popular ones are Maoz Tzur and Haneirot Halalu, which are traditionally sung after the lighting of the Menorah.

Chanukah Gelt

During Chanukah it is customary to give gelt (money) to children, so that we can teach them to give some of it to charity—and just to keep things festive and happy. Some have the admirable custom of gelt-giving each weeknight of Chanukah. In Chabad, it is customary to give gelt every night, but to hand out a heftier sum on the fourth or fifth night.

Click here for some deeper reasons for the Chanukah gelt custom.

On Chanukah, it is also customary to increase one's daily disbursement to charity.

Chanukah Foods

Oil played a significant role in the Chanukah story—the small jug of oil that miraculously provided fuel for the Temple Menorah for eight days. It is a Jewish tradition to eat foods that reflect the significance of a holiday – such as matzah on Passover, and apple dipped in honey on Rosh Hashanah – and Chanukah is no exception. For at least the last thousand years, Jews have traditionally eaten oily foods on Chanukah.

Among the most popular Chanukah dishes are potato latkes (pancakes) and sufganiot (deep-fried doughnuts).

Actually, oil is also symbolic of the spiritual war waged by the Maccabees. See The War Is All About The Oil for more on this topic.

It is also customary to eat dairy foods on Chanukah, in commemoration of the bravery of Yehudit. Click here to read the story of this brave woman whose daring courage led to a great Maccabee victory.

Click here for traditional Chanukah recipes.

Dreidel Playing Guide

The traditional Chanukah dreidel (spinning top) is a throwback to the times when the Greek armies of King Antiochus controlled the Holy Land, before the Maccabees defeated them and sent them packing. The powerful regime passed a series of laws outlawing the study of Torah and many of the mitzvot. The Jews were compelled to take their Torah learning “underground,” for they knew that a Jew without Torah is like a fish out of water.

Jewish children resorted to learning Torah in outlying areas and forests. Even this plan was not foolproof, for the enemy had many patrols. The children therefore brought along small tops that they would quickly pull out and play with after secreting away their texts, so that they could pretend to be merely playing games.

Our Chanukah dreidel games are a salute to these Jewish heroes of yore.

The classic dreidel is a four sided spinning top made of wood, plastic, or the proverbial clay. On the four sides of the dreidel appear four letters from the Hebrew alphabet—nun (נ), gimmel (ג), hey (ה), and shin (ש). These four letters are an acronym for "nes gadol hayah sham"—"a great miracle happened there."

In Israel, the actual setting of the Chanukah miracle, the last letter, shin, is substituted with a pey (פ), which stands for "po"—"here."

  1. All players sit around the playing area.
  2. The "ante" is equally divided amongst all players.
  3. Everyone takes a turn at spinning the dreidel; the one with the highest spin has first turn. (Nun is highest, then gimmel, hey, and shin.) If there is a tie for highest, those who tied spin again.
  4. Everyone puts one unit of the ante (penny, nut, etc.) into the pot.
  5. The one who has first turn is followed in clockwise direction by all the others.
  6. Player A spins the dreidel while everyone waits in utter suspense (in the interest of speeding up the game, some knock down the dreidel mid-spin instead of waiting for it to come to a rest).

If the dreidel lands on a...

Nun - נ

You've just wasted your time. Absolutely nothing happens. You may as well have taken a bathroom break instead of that useless spin. Better luck next time!

Nun stands for the Yiddish word nul, which means zero, nothing, nil. After your exercise in futility it's time now for the player to your left to take a spin.

If however your dreidel landed on a...

Gimmel - ג

Wow! Amazing! You did it! You get to take the whole pot! Take it quick and then do a little victory dance around the room. Pay no attention to the envious stares you are getting. You are an absolute dreidel pro!

Gimmel stands for gantz, which means whole. Everyone, including you, now puts another unit of the ante into the pot, and the person to your left tries his luck at spinning.

But, it's hard to be so lucky every time. Sometimes your dreidel will land on a...

Hey - ה

Okay, you could have done better, but you could have done worse. You get to take half of the pot. If the pot has an odd amount of units, don't try to split that penny, nut, or piece of chocolate in half. Leave it there. Take the high road. Let the others believe that it is beneath you to care...

Hey stands for halb, half. The pot has now been diminished, and it's time for the player to your left to take a stab at riches.

But don't complain. The dreidel could have landed on a...

Shin - ש

The absolute worst. The dregs. You now have to put another unit into the pot! You better figure out how to improve your spinning technique before you will be forced to take out a second mortgage on your home.

Shin is for shenk; yes, that means give. Your hope now is that the pot will still be around next time it is your turn to spin. Maybe then you'll get a gimmel and recoup your losses...

The absolute worst. The dregs. You now have to put another unit into the pot! You better figure out how to improve your spinning technique before you will be forced to take out a second mortgage on your home.

Shin is for shenk; yes, that means give. Your hope now is that the pot will still be around next time it is your turn to spin. Maybe then you'll get a gimmel and recoup your losses...

Useful Chanukah Links

How-To and Tools

Global Chanukah Event Search

Holiday E-Greeting Cards

Chanukah 2014 Calendar

Menorah Lighting Guide

Menorah Lighting Guide (Video)

Chanukah Kids' Zone

Chanukah Recipes

Chanukah Shopping

Chanukah Study

Chanukah FAQ

Story of Chanukah

Chanukah Stories

Insights & Inspiration

Chanukah Videos

Holiday Songs

Audio Classes

© Copyright, all rights reserved. If you enjoyed this article, we encourage you to distribute it further, provided that you comply with Chabad.org's copyright policy.
E-mail
FEATURED ON CHABAD.ORG