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12th Kislev 5759, Jerusalem Vol 1   No 5

The Story of Hanukah
by Chaya Eden


Hanukah is an annual eight-day festival starting on the 25th of the Hebrew month Kislev. This year it will be on December 13. Tradition says that Yehudah HaMaccabee and his followers instituted Hanukah. Legends and traditions are woven together. The book I Maccabees (4:36--59) states that Yehudah HaMaccabee entered Jerusalem after defeating the Greek/Syrian general Lysias. The Greeks had been waging a cultural war against the Jewish people and religion, forbidding Jewish religious practice and introducing Pagan rites and customs. Yehudah purified the Holy Temple: the defiled altar was demolished and a new one built. Yehudah made new holy vessels (among them a menorah, incense altar, table and curtains) and set the 25th of Kislev for the rededication of the Temple. The word Hanukah means "dedication."

The altar was reconsecrated with the renewal of the daily sacrificial service, the playing of musical instruments and the chanting of the psalms of Hallel. The celebration lasted for eight days and Yehudah decreed it a holiday for future generations.

The first mention of people kindling lights in their homes is in a Baraita (tradition). The school of Hillel held that one starts with one light and adds lights progressively each day of Hanukah. Another Baraita states that the Maccabees found that the Greeks had defiled all the oil except for one cruse, enough for one day. Miraculously the oil was enough for eight days of lighting the menorah.

The Hanukah menorah should be lit at sunset (or after) and placed outside at the entrance to the house or in a window in order to "advertise" the miracle of Hanukah. Two blessings are recited after each lighting: "Blessed are You, Eternal, our God who has sanctified us by Your commandments and commanded us to light the Hanukah lights," and Blessed are You, Eternal, our God who has made miracles for our ancestors in those days at this season." On the first night of Hanukah there is a special blessing ". . . who has kept us alive, sustained us and brought us to this season."

Oily foods like potato pancakes and jelly donuts are customary to eat on Hanukah. Women don't work while the lights are lit and in some communities don't work all of Hanukah. Children receive presents and play with a dreidel (spinning top). There is a general atmosphere of gaiety and fun and many people enjoy giving and going to parties.

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Visit our Chanukiah Webpage to see an overview of the great buys we have for Chanukah.

Beged Ivri -- the source of the Restored Holy Half-Shekel, the Biblical wedding ceremony and clothing for the third Temple in Jerusalem.

The first winner of this month's Holy Half-Shekel drawing is Linda Carver Clark from North Carolina. All subscribers will again be in the draw next month for a Holy Half-Shekel, courtesy of Beged Ivri.

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