29 December 2008

Chanuka Festival

تنسيق-الكليات-لعام سكس نيك كس

Chanuka, which begins Sunday at sundown, is a reminder of the Jewish people's struggle for freedom and liberty.

Origin of Chanuka

The story of Chanuka begins during the reign of Alexander the Great. Alexander conquered Syria, Egypt and Palestine, but allowed the lands under his control to continue observing their own religions and retain a certain degree of autonomy. Under this relatively benevolent rule, many Jews assimilated much of Hellenistic culture, adopting the language, the customs and the dress of the Greeks.

More than a century later, around 175 BCE, a successor of Alexander, Antiochus IV was in control of the region. He began to oppress the Jews severely, placing a Hellenistic priest in the Temple, massacring Jews, prohibiting the practice of the Jewish religion, and desecrating the Temple by requiring the sacrifice of pigs on the altar. Two groups opposed Antiochus: a basically nationalistic group led by Mattathias the Hasmonean and his son Judah Maccabee, and a religious traditionalist group known as the Pharisees. They joined forces in a revolt against both the assimilation of the Hellenistic Jews and oppression by the Seleucid Greek government. The Jewish revolution succeeded and the Temple was rededicated. According to tradition as recorded in the Talmud, at the time of the re-dedication, there was very little oil left that had not been defiled by the Greeks. Oil was needed for the menorah (candelabrum) in the Temple, which was supposed to burn throughout the night every night. There was only enough oil to burn for one day, yet miraculously, it burned for eight days, the time needed to prepare a fresh supply of oil for the menorah. An eight day festival was declared to commemorate this miracle.

When the Macabees went out to battle, they had no feasible chance of winning. Not only were the Jews fewer and weaker than the well-oiled Syrian Greek war machine, but amongst the Jews themselves, only a sparse few went out to battle under the command of Juda Macabee and his brothers. Thus the essential miracle of Chanukah was not the war victory, but rather the very fact that a few Jews realized that "things just cannot go on this way", they arose, and with immense faith in the Almighty, and in an act of incredible courage, declared war on the superpower of their day.
Think of it like the movie the 300, except that the Jews didn't lose!

The relevance of Chanukah is pertinent in modern times as well. When masses of Islamic fundamentalist terrorists are against us, we train for war while hoping for peace.

George Washington, upon learning about Chanuka from a Jewish soldier at Valley Forge said, "Perhaps we are not as lost as our enemies would have us believe. I rejoice in the Macabees' success, though it is long past...It pleases me to think that miracles still happen." (Hat tip Brad Hart)

Chanuka Today

Chanuka is celebrated by a series of rituals that are performed every day throughout the 8-day holiday.

We add additional festive prayers during our thrice daily prayer services. One of the prayers tranlated:

"We thank You also for the miraculous deeds and for the redemption and for the mighty deeds and the saving acts wrought by You,
as well as for the wars which You waged for our ancestors in ancient days at this season. In the days of the Hasmonean Mattathias, son of Johanan the high priest, and his sons, when the iniquitous Greco-Syrian kingdom rose up against Your people Israel, to make them forget Your Torah and to turn them away from the ordinances of Your will, then You in your abundant mercy rose up for them in the time of their trouble, pled their cause, executed judgment, avenged their wrong, and delivered the strong into the hands of the weak, the many into the hands of few, the impure into the hands of the pure, the wicked into the hands of the righteous, and insolent ones into the hands of those occupied with Your Torah. Both unto Yourself did you make a great and holy name in Thy world, and unto Your people did You achieve a great deliverance and redemption. Whereupon your children entered the sanctuary of Your house, cleansed Your temple, purified Your sanctuary, kindled lights in Your holy courts, and appointed these eight days of Chanuka in order to give thanks and praises unto Your holy name."

Candle Lighting, The primary ritual, according to Jewish law and custom, is to light a single light and to add an additional light on each night for all eight nights. Candles or Olive oil are used as fuel for the lights in a decorative candelabra.


Menora (candelabra) lighting should be done in a public place to publicize the miracle.

Each night after the lighting of the candles, while remaining within sight of the candles, we sing the hymn Ma'oz Tzur, "Rock of Ages". The song contains six stanzas. The first and last deal with general themes of divine salvation, and the middle four deal with events of persecution in Jewish history, and praises God for survival despite these tragedies (the exodus from Egypt, the Babylonian captivity, the miracle of the holiday of Purim, and the Hasmonean victory).

And for those of you that like to sing, here is the singable translation of all six stanzas of Moaz Tzur (Rock of Ages).

Rock of strength! Great Aid of yore! ‘Tis sweet due praise to sing thee;
Rear our House of Prayer once more! Thank-off’rings there we’ll bring thee;
When dread immolation,Checks the foe’s elation,
I’ll complete with paeans meet, the altar’s consecration.

Evils sore my soul oppressed, Grief consumed my vigor;
Bitter bondage life distressed, Thro’ proud Egypt’s rigor;
But, whilst Heaven’s devotion, Led us forth from Goshen,
Pharaoh’s race, Sank apace, Like pebbles in the ocean.

Scarce led unto Hashem’s holy fane, From duty’s path I swerved there,
By harsh oppressor captive ta’en, Because strange gods I served there.
The madd’ning cup I tasted, Till, seventy sad years wasted
In Babylon spent, Zerubabbel, sent, To my deliv’rance, hasted.

To check our growth when Haman sought, Our pine-like stature felling,
In self-laid snare himself was caught, Soon ceased his proud heart’s swelling:
Whilst Israel’s power extended, The foeman’s race was ended,
When kith and kin, Were, for his sin, On gallows-tree suspended,

When Maccabees with Syrian foe,The mastery disputed,
My forts were crushed, my walls laid low,My Temple-oil polluted;
One cruse, to Heaven’s pure nation,Sufficed for dedication;
Whence sages mine Eight days assign, To song and jubilation.

Bare Your holy arm once more, and hasten the End for salvation.
Avenge the vengeance of Your servants, from the wicked nation.
Our salvation’s too long delayed, and there is no end to the evil days
Repel Edom in the shadow deep, and bring seven shepherds without delays.

Here is a video of IDF Soldiers singing Maoz Tzur at an IDF concert.

Eating cheese, on Hanukkah is a minor custom that has its roots in the story of Judith, as related in the book of Judith. Holofernes, an Assyrian general, had surrounded the village of Bethulia as part of his campaign to conquer Judea. After intense fighting, the water supply of the Jews is cut off and the situation became desperate. Judith, a pious widow, told the city leaders that she had a plan to save the city. Judith went to the Assyrian camps and pretended to surrender. She met Holofernes, who was smitten by her beauty. She went back to his tent with him, where she plied him with cheese and wine. When he fell into a drunken sleep, Judith beheaded him and escaped from the camp, taking the severed head with her. When Holofernes' soldiers found his corpse, they were overcome with fear; the Jews, on the other hand, were emboldened, and launched a successful counterattack. The town was saved, and the Assyrians defeated.

Eating foods cooked in Oil, to remind us of the oil used in the Temple is also very popular. Here in Israel we eat Potato (pancakes) Latkes with Sour Cream and Deep Fried Sufganiyot (Jelly Donuts).

Spinning the Dreidel, is a game played with a four-sided top that children play with on Chanuka. Each side is imprinted with a Hebrew letter. These letters are an acronym for the Hebrew words, נס גדול היה פה, Nes Gadol Haya Poh—"A great miracle happened here"

More here!



red said...

Happy Hanukkah!

belsky said...

Double you r getting religious? Soldiers, Macabees and Bielskis believe in themselves, in a word, defiance of oppression.

DoubleTapper said...

Bielski- Not getting. Always have been.

I live the Jewish way. Kepah on my head, proud to keep on in the way of my ancestors.

There ain't no atheists in foxholes!


irvin said...

The Great Eternal ,Bless Israel.
G-d bless IDF, DoubleTapper.


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