This year, the first night of Chanukah will be on Tuesday evening, December 12. Be sure to attend the candle lighting ceremony in Valor Park in Market Common at 5:30 P.M. on that date and the Chanukah Happening at Temple Shalom on Sunday afternoon, December 17. The following are some commonly asked questions about Chanu-kah:
How is the holiday spelled in English? In Hebrew, it is always spelled the same way. But because there is more than one possible English letter equivalent for some Hebrew letters, there are various ways it is spelled in English. The major problem is that there is no English letter or combination of English letters that has the guttural sound used in pro-nouncing the name of the holiday. Chanukah is my preferred spelling. But Hanukah, Hanuka, Hannukah and Hanukkah are also possi-bilities. Sometimes when an H rather than a Ch is used for the first sound, a “.” is placed under the H to indicate the guttural sound.
How significant is the holiday? It is post-biblical and was traditionally considered a minor holiday. But Judaism has evolved as a religion and it became more important with the passage of time, perhaps in response to a Christian holiday which occurs about the same time of year.
Why do we celebrate the holiday? The holiday commemorates the rededication of the Second Temple by Judah the Maccabee and his followers on the 25th day of Kislev in the year 165 B.C.E. after its desecration by the forces of King Antiochus, a Syrian king who was a proponent of Greek culture. King Antiochus ruled over a Syrian empire, including the land of Judea. He wanted all of his subjects to adhere to Greek culture and religious practices. He outlawed Jewish rituals and installed statues of Greek gods in the temple in Jerusalem. In 168 B.C.E., there was a Jewish revolt led by the Maccabees, which, after three years, was successful in routing the forces of King Antiochus. The temple was cleansed of Greek gods and rededicated as a Jewish temple. The word Chanukah means dedication.
Why is the holiday celebrated for eight days? Most scholars believe the holiday is celebrated for eight days because King Solomon dedicated the first temple on the holiday of Sukkot which, when Sh’mini Atzeret is added on, lasts for eight days and Judah the Maccabee wanted to emphasize the importance of his rededication of the temple. However, there is a legend that the festival was instituted for eight days because the pure olive oil found in the temple , though sufficient for only one day, miraculously burned for eight days, which allowed time for a new supply to be obtained.
Why is the holiday important? If the Maccabees had not been successful, Judaism might have been wiped out. Chanukah should be celebrated as a holiday of religious freedom.
How should the Chanukah menorah (Chanukiah) be lit? The lights are inserted into the menorah from right to left, but the actual lighting is from left to right, beginning with the most recently added candle.
What foods are traditionally eaten on Chanukah? Foods made with oil. Potato latkes are a holiday favorite. In Israel, a type of donut is eaten.
Chag sameach. Happy holiday.
Rabbi David Weissman