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Thursday, December 2, 2021

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Chanukah Day 4
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

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. Tonight we kindle five lights. (In the Jewish calendar, the day begins at nightfall; this evening, then, commences the 5th day of Chanukah).

The lights—which ideally should be kindled soon after sunset—must burn for at least half an hour after nightfall. Learn more about the proper lighting time.

Links:

Text and Audio of the Menorah Blessings

How to Light the Menorah

Additional Chanukah observances and customs are listed below:

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.)

Links:
Why the Chanukah Gelt?

Daily Thought

Joseph had spent an entire year in prison when one morning he noticed that two Egyptian prisoners seemed more unhappy than usual.

So he asked them what was wrong. And out of that question, years later, emerged not only his own release from prison, but the rescue of all Egypt, indeed all the known world, from a famine of seven years.

Everything Joseph did defied human nature.

These were, after all, former officials of the royal court. It was just such an Egyptian official who had thrown him in the dungeon to begin with. It’s only human to harbor prejudice against the ilk of those who have caused you harm.

And why shouldn’t they be miserable? They’re in a dungeon, where hope dims every day as the ugly claws of despair suffocate the human spirit.

Indeed, by human nature, Joseph more than anyone else should have long ago succumbed to bitter apathy, as a helpless victim of a cruel and unjust world.

He was imprisoned despite his excellent service only because he stuck to his principles in the face of overwhelming temptation. And before that, he had been sold by his own brothers as a slave as a direct result of faithfully carrying out his father’s request.

Yet when Joseph saw two of G‑d’s creations were unhappy with how G‑d had made them and where He had put them, he felt it was his responsibility to do something. G‑d’s world was his world, and if any creature’s sadness reached out to him, it was a mission handed to him from Above.

When your world looks dim, when you feel you are stuck in a prison and all is unjust, do yourself a favor. Look up and see what’s going on with the people around you. Do something, however small it may be, for a fellow human or two.

You will liberate yourself, perhaps even your entire world.

Miketz 5734