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Friday, December 7, 2018

Halachic Times (Zmanim)
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Chanukah Day 5
Jewish History

On the 25th of Kislev in the year 3622 from creation, the Maccabees liberated the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, after defeating the vastly more numerous and powerful armies of the Syrian-Greek king Antiochus IV, who had tried to forcefully uproot the beliefs and practices of Judaism from the people of Israel. The victorious Jews repaired, cleansed and rededicated the Temple to the service of G-d. But all the Temple's oil had been defiled by the pagan invaders; when the Jews sought to light the Temple's menorah (candelabra), they found only one small cruse of ritually pure olive oil. Miraculously, the one-day supply burned for eight days, until new, pure oil could be obtained. In commemoration, the Sages instituted the 8-day festival of Chanukah, on which lights are kindled nightly to recall and publicize the miracle.

Link: The Story of Chanukah

Passing of R. Chizkiyah de Silva (1698)

R. Chizkiyah was born in Italy, and at the age of nineteen, he traveled to Jerusalem, where he studied under R. Moshe Galante (see calendar entry for 21 Shevat). He authored Pri Chadash, a classical commentary on the Code of Jewish Law, and Mayim Chayim. He passed away on 29 Kislev at the age of thirty-nine (some date his passing as 28 Kislev) and is buried on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem.

Laws and Customs

In commemoration of the miracle of Chanukah we kindle the Chanukah lights—oil lamps or candles—each evening of the eight-day festival, increasing the number of lights each evening. For tonight we kindle six lights. (In the Jewish calendar, the day begins at nightfall; this evening, then, commences the 3rd day of Chanukah).

IMPORTANT: Because of the prohibition to kindle fire on Shabbat, the Chanukah lights must be lit before lighting the Shabbat candles, and should contain enough oil (or the candle be big enough) to burn until 30 minutes after nightfall.


Text and Audio of the Menorah Blessings

How to Light the Menorah

Special prayers of thanksgiving -- Hallel (in its full version) and V'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 pancakes) 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: How to Play 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.)

Why the Chanukah Gelt?

Daily Thought

Both the Ancient Greeks and ancient Jews obsessed over wisdom, understanding, and knowledge. But here are six issues on which the Ancient Greeks and Jews disagreed:

  1. Intellect brought many Ancient Greek philosophers to realize that there is a supreme G‑d, which is Intellect. Jews live with only one G‑d, and He is beyond everything, including intellect.

  2. Intellect illuminates the good and the bad, life and death, but cannot tell you what you should choose.
    The Jewish G‑d tells us “choose life.”

  3. Aristotle understood that G‑d could not be concerned with us puny beings.
    The Jew hears G‑d’s concern for the cry of every small creature, finds His breath in every leaf of a tree and feels the caress of His goodness in every drop of rain.

  4. Aristotle understood that time and space have always been, and everything is the way it is because it must be that way.
    Jews know that nothing must be and anything is possible, because in the beginning G‑d created the heavens and the earth..

  5. To the Greeks, beautiful ideas were an end in themselves.
    To the Jews, beautiful ideas are a means toward a beautiful life as our Creator meant us to live.

  6. The Ancient Greeks were certain that the Jews would assimilate into their culture.
    Today, 2,157 years later, the Jews are celebrating Chanukah.

See Shabbat Chanukah 5731.