Hanukkah: Historical Past & Traditions

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Hanukkah, the “Competition of Lights,” is a Jewish vacation lasting eight days. It’s sometimes celebrated in late fall or early winter. It begins at sunset on the 25th of Kislev, the ninth month of the Jewish yr. In 2017, Hanukkah begins on Dec. 12 and continues till Dec. 20.

Though it is likely one of the hottest, Hanukkah will not be one of many vital non secular or cultural holidays amongst Jewish individuals. J.D. Kleinke, an creator, cantorial soloist and music director at Congregation Shir Tikvah in Portland, Oregon, ranks Hanukkah round 10th so as of significance.

 “Hanukkah is a really minor and sophisticated vacation – it isn’t what individuals assume it’s,” he mentioned. “It’s not our Christmas … it isn’t fairly the glad easy story that we inform our kids.”

The story of Hanukkah dates again over 2,000 years to across the second century B.C., or the 3500s on the Jewish calendar. The land the place Israel is now was a part of the Seleucid Empire, which arose out of Alexander the Nice’s fractured empire after he died in 323 B.C. It stretched from modern-day Turkey by way of the Center East all the way in which into northwest India. In 200 B.C., the king on the time, Antiochus III, gained the land from Egypt and allowed the Jews to observe their lifestyle in peace. In 188 B.C., nonetheless, the Romans defeated Antiochus and annexed the land. And though they left Antiochus in cost, they required him to gather heavy taxes from the individuals, in line with the Chabad-Lubavitch Media Heart.  

After Antiochus III died in 187 B.C., his successors continued the oppression of Jewish tradition and faith to a fair higher extent. Some Jews accepted features of the Hellenists — those that adopted Syrian-Greek methods — together with idol worshipping.

A divide between the Jewish Hellenists and the Jews deepened, Kleinke mentioned. In 168 B.C., the Hellenists had knowledgeable the king, Seleucus IV, that there have been many riches inside the temple treasury. The funds within the treasury have been made up of contributions from all Jewish adults. The half a shekel contributed yearly by every member of the temple was used for fixing and updating the constructing, taking good care of orphans and funding sacrifices. Seleucus had his minister enter the temple with orders to take all the cash, however the minister failed.

Quickly after, Seleucus was killed, and his brother, Antiochus IV, took his place. He eliminated the excessive priest of the temple and changed him with the priest’s Hellenist brother. The brother not solely elevated Hellenist methods, but additionally shared the wealth with the king. One other excessive priest quickly adopted with guarantees of accumulating much more cash.

When rumors of Antiochus’ demise in battle in Egypt reached the Jews, they rebelled and compelled out the excessive priest and his followers. Nevertheless, the rumors proved to be unfaithful, and when the king returned, he unleashed his military on the Jews as punishment. 1000’s of Jews have been killed. As additional punishment, strict legal guidelines have been enacted that prevented the Jews from worshipping and following their dietary legal guidelines and different customs. Any Jew discovered doing so confronted the penalty of dying.

A bunch of Jews generally known as the Maccabees (the title was fashioned from the primary letters of a Hebrew phrase, “Mi Kamocha Ba’eilim Hashem,” which interprets to “Who Is Like You, God.”) rebelled towards the king’s remedy. Led by Judah the Robust, the Maccabees defended themselves towards a military of greater than 40,000 troopers. After many battles, the a lot smaller group of Maccabees defeated the military. They then returned to Jerusalem to reclaim their temple and rid it of the idols positioned by the Hellenists. The temple was rededicated on the 25th of Kislev within the yr 3622 (139 B.C.).

The Maccabees had a brand new menorah constructed, because the earlier gold one had been stolen, and searched the temple for sufficient oil to mild it. Solely a small quantity of oil was discovered, sufficient to mild the menorah for a single day. However the mild ended up burning for eight days, which is named the miracle of Hanukkah.

“It’s a navy victory, it was a purification of Judea (a part of the traditional line of Judaism), and a purification of the temple from Greek and pagan influences,” Kleinke mentioned. Hanukkah itself will not be a really culturally or religiously important vacation. “It was a one-time occasion, whereas numerous the opposite issues which have occurred, like Passover, are very a lot about taking a historic occasion and making it form of everlasting and tying it to centuries of oppression and popping out of bondage and popping out of slavery.”

Kleinke additional defined that the occasions within the Hanukkah story primarily describe a tradition warfare. “It was us versus us,” relatively than us towards the Greeks and Syrians, he mentioned. The Hellenists have been the Jews who had assimilated into the Greek tradition, adopted among the Greek methods of life and included them into the Jewish tradition. The group led by the Maccabees resisted any exterior influences and have been primarily fundamentalists. The Maccabees not solely purged the Greeks, however their very own countrymen.

Kleinke likens these occasions to these in the US as we speak the place a lot of the inhabitants is concerned in some form of tradition warfare and lots of are selling a false narrative of a previous that by no means existed. That is the view, in line with Kleinke, that many take when wanting again at what occurred underneath the reign of the Greeks and Syrians.

“And which may be what the navy victory actually was: it was a victory of fundamentalist individuals over individuals who have been enlightened individuals, who have been in a special class, and that they have been in cahoots with the Greeks.”

Hanukkah is widely known for eight days and eight nights. Celebrations start when the solar units on the 25th of Kislev, which generally happens from late November by way of December. Every night time because the solar units, one department of the Hanukkah menorah (also called a chanukiah) is lit by the shamash, the “attendant” candle making up the ninth and sometimes tallest department on the menorah, Kleinke mentioned. One candle is lit on the primary night time, two on the second and so forth. Historically, candles are added and lit from proper to left, though there is no such thing as a one right order by which to position and light-weight the candles.

Prayers accompany every night time’s candle lighting. Three prayers are historically mentioned or sung on the primary night time of Hanukkah and two prayers every of the next seven nights. As soon as the menorah is lit, it’s usually positioned in a door or window that faces the road to share the sunshine with neighbors. Conventional songs observe all through the night.

Meals performs an vital half in lots of Jewish traditions, and Hanukkah isn’t any exception. Favourite Hanukkah meals embrace these fried in oil to have a good time the miracle, particularly latkes (pancakes made with potatoes, onions, eggs, flour and seasonings), served with applesauce and bitter cream, and sufganiyot (jelly-filled donuts which were deep-fried in oil).

Cheese is one other conventional meals to incorporate in a number of recipes to honor an vital navy victory gained due to a insurgent named Yehudit (Judith) and her do-it-yourself cheese. Different dishes sometimes discovered on a desk throughout Hanukkah embrace brisket, roast rooster or different meats, and greens.

The dreidel (from a Yiddish phrase which means “to spin”) can also be referred to as in Hebrew a “sevivon” (which means “to show round”). It’s utilized in a preferred Hanukkah playing sport. The four-sided high has a special Hebrew letter on all sides: nun (נ), gimel (ג), hei (ה)‎, and shin (ש). These letters stand for the phrase “nes gadol hayah sham,” which interprets to “an incredible miracle occurred there.” In Israel, the phrase is “nes gadol hayah po,” which interprets to “an incredible miracle occurred right here,” and the shin is changed with a pey (פ) on the dreidel.

Every participant takes turns spinning the dreidel, and the letter the dreidel lands on represents an motion, akin to placing forex within the central pot, profitable half or the entire pot, or doing nothing. Something can be utilized for forex, akin to pennies, nuts, chocolate cash or raisins.

Items are usually not a standard a part of Hanukkah. Many, together with Kleinke, see Hanukkah celebrations rising in recognition to replicate that it happens so close to to Christmas, and it helps those that are Jewish not really feel as unnoticed throughout Christmas celebrations. Youngsters are historically given gelt, or cash, throughout Hanukkah partly as a reward for his or her devotion to the Torah and partly to show the youngsters to offer tzedakah, or charity. In the present day, gelt is usually considered the gold-foil-covered chocolate cash.

Whereas Hanukkah is a time for celebrating with household, pals and meals, to many it is likely one of the many instances over the yr for rededicating or purifying themselves personally. The story of Hanukkah has been develop into a metaphor, in line with Kleinke. “What does it imply to have the miracle of the lights, that we took the temple again, purified the temple … that impurity and the contamination could be simply dangerous ideas, dangerous behaviors, issues we’re ashamed of, issues we’re not pleased with. And Hanukkah is a time to actually replicate on that.”


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