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Friday, December 27, 2019

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.

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

“They are stronger than us.” —The spies.

“They meant to say that the people of the land are stronger than G‑d. So to speak, the homeowner can’t remove his own belongings from his home.”—Talmud, Sota 6b.

They saw the miracles in Egypt, they witnessed Pharaoh and his army drowning in the sea.
They ate manna from heaven and they heard the mighty voice of G‑d and Mount Sinai.
How could they imagine any force in this world to be more powerful than the G‑d who created it from nothing?

Because they had witnessed G‑d disrupting the cosmic order, but they had yet to see Him play by the rules of the game.
They had witnessed a G‑d beyond all things, but had not yet seen that the same G‑d was also within all things.

And so now, when they were to enter the land themselves, as mortal beings with mortal powers, to conquer the land, plow the land, sow and harvest from the land by their own hands—

Now they said, “If G‑d will play by the laws of nature, we cannot win. Only by an open miracle can we win.”

These laws of nature, they are nothing but G‑d in disguise, doing as He wills and concealing His acts within a weave of patterns.
Go out into the world and you will see: He can achieve anything He desires in any way He pleases.

For in truth there is nothing else but Him.

Likutei Sichot, Vol. 4, pp. 1041-1047