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Friday, December 18, 2020

Halachic Times (Zmanim)
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Chanukah Day 8
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

Jacob Frank claimed to be the reincarnation of the false Messiah Shabbetai Zvi. In the mid-1700’s, he sought to create a new religion that would incorporate both Judaism and Christianity, leading to the formation of the Frankist sect, centered in Poland. Many rabbis of the time, including the Baal Shem Tov, battled the new sect and its leader vigorously and successfully halted their influence.

Link: Belief in Moshiach

Laws and Customs

The eighth day of Chanukah is also known as Zot Chanukah (lit., "this is Chanukah"), after a key phrase in the special Chanukah Torah reading for this day (Numbers 7:54-8:4). For the deeper significance of this name, see link to "Accumulating Lights" below.

In the Jewish calendar, the day begins at nightfall; thus, the last kindling of the Chanukah lights is held on the evening preceding the 8th day of Chanukah, when eight lights are lit (see "Laws & Customs" for yesterday's date). The festival of Chanukah concludes at nightfall this evening.

It is customary, however, to light candles during the daytime as well, in synagogues, in public spaces, and at gatherings held in honor of the festival. These lightings are done without recitation of the blessings as they do not constitute an observance of the mitzvah of kindling the Chanukah lights.

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.

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

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.