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Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Halachic Times (Zmanim)
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Chanukah Day 2
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

Rabbi Avraham ben David of Posquieres (Provence), known by the acronym "Raavad">, wrote the famed hagaot critical notations to Maimonides' Mishneh Torah. Born approximately 1120, he passed away on the 26th of kislev of the year 4959 from creation (1198).

Links: The Lubavitcher Rebbe's analysis of a famous dispute between Maimonides and Raavad on the subject of free choice.
A Biography of the "Raavad"

On this date, the "Touro Synagogue" was dedicated in Newport, Rhode Island. The synagogue, named after Isaac Touro, its first officiating rabbi, is the oldest American synagogue still standing in its original structure.

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 three lights. (In the Jewish calendar, the day begins at nightfall; this evening, then, commences the 3rd 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

“Every human soul is a divine lamp.” (Proverbs 20:27)

Three ways your soul is similar to the lights of Chanukah:

  1. A flame, like your soul, strives constantly upward, seeking to abandon itself for a higher existence.

  2. This struggle of the flame provides the world light and warmth only because a wick holds it in place—as your body holds your soul.

  3. The flame is sustained by a constant supply of fuel. The light of your soul is sustained through mitzvahs and acts of kindness.

Tanya, chapters 19 and 35.