- Hanukkah; Chanukah; Hannukah etc. חֲנוּכָּה, comes from the Hebrew word: חָנַךְ – khanakh – which means: dedicate, from the sense: formally open or unveil (a building or memorial). The Maccabees cleanse the Temple after it was defiled by the Assyrian Greeks and on the 25th of the month of Kislev, כ”ה בְּכִּסְלֵו – kaf hey bekislev – they formally opened (unveiled) the temple בֵּית הַמִּקְדָשׁ – beit hamikdash.
- Maccabee – The nickname that was given to Judah, the high priest Mattathias first son. Maccabee comes from the word: מַקֶבֶת – ma-ke-vet that means a hammer, a word which describes the strength and power of Yehuda who was the leader of the Jewish Army.
- The war that was waged against the oppressive Greek rulership started on 167B.C. The Maccabees fought for religious freedom.
- It was an untrained and unequipped Jewish army of about 12,000 against at least 40,000 trained and a well-equipped Assyrian-Greek army.
- After three years of wars that mainly took place in the mountains, the Maccabees army won, took over Jerusalem and cleanse the temple.
- Hanukkah gelt: Judah the Maccabee minted gold coins to commemorate the victory over Jerusalem and the rededication of the temple and gave the coins as a gift to the residents of Jerusalem. Hence, the custom to give Hanukkah gelt (money in German/Yiddish) mainly to the young generation.
- It took twenty-five years of wars for the Greek to finally sign a peace agreement with the last surviving son of the high priest Mattathias (מַתִּתְיָהוּ הַכֹּהֵן), Simeon, and to return the sovereignty of the region to the Jews.
- We eat food cooked in oil. When Judah and his followers finished cleaning the temple, they wanted to light the eternal light, known as the N’er Tamid, נֵר תָּמִיד which is present in every Jewish house of worship. Once lit, the oil lamp should never be extinguished. Only a tiny jug of oil was found with only enough for a single day. The oil lamp was filled and lit. Then a miracle occurred as the tiny amount of oil stayed lit not for one day, but for eight days. We eat Jelly doughnuts סופְגָנִיוֹת (sufganiyot); latkes (Yiddish: potato pancakes) לְבִיבוֹת – levivot, etc.
- 8 Days of Hanukkah. We celebrate Hanukkah eight days because of the miracle of the jug of oil. See #8.
- We play the dreidel – spinner (in Yiddish – סְבִיבוֹן (s’vivon). A small four-sided spinning top with a Hebrew letter on each side (נ,ג ה פ – N,G,H,P) a great miracle happened HERE. נס גדול היה פה – nes gadol haya po. The letters on the dreidel anywhere but in Isreal has these four letters: נ.ג.ה.ש – N.G.H.SH – a great miracle happened THERE – נס גדול היה שם – nes gadol haya sham. It is a game the Hebrews played when pretending they were playing while they studied Torah (an activity that was forbidden at that time by the Assyrian-Greeks who wanted all the Jews to give up Judaism and convert to their beliefs. Anyone disobeying the decree executed.
And as a conclusion. Hannukah, is my favorite holiday, not only because of the delicious traditional food, but because of the message that one should fight for his freedom! Freedom of religion. One should never agree for any authority to decide what one should believe in. And that life without faith and a belief in the Supreme Being is life without hope.
I wish you all Chag Sameach (Khag Sameakh) Happy Holiday.