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Friday, December 3, 2021

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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 6th 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.

Links:

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.)

Links:
Why the Chanukah Gelt?

Daily Thought

Joseph had two sons in Egypt. From their names, we learn how a human being can be successful in this world.

He named the first son Menasheh, which means to forget. Whenever Joseph called Menasheh, he remembered that this land was causing him to forget his true home and all that his father had taught him.

And so he never forgot.

He named his second son Ephraim, which means to be productive. Whenever Joseph called Ephraim, he remembered that he had a purpose to accomplish in Egypt, so that his family could eventually settle there in dignity and prosperity.

And so he was successful.

Just as the names of both sons were crucial to Joseph’s success, so too every human being must keep two memories awake at all times:

This material world is not your true place, for your soul descended into this body from a luminous, heavenly place.

And you are here for a purpose, to channel that heavenly light into this world.

Menasheh came first, but Ephraim, Jacob later told Joseph, was greater.

Because first you must remember that this is not your true place.

And only then will you remember to accomplish your true purpose, to bring this earthly world in harmony with that place from which you came.

Likutei Sichot, vol. 15, pg. 433.