Chanukah

In 2020, Chanukah began on Thursday December 10 and in 2021 will start on 28 November at sunset. On this page, you can learn about Chanukah history, customs, have some fun and read details of exciting events presented by Emanuel Synagogue.

What is Chanukah?

Chanukah (also spelled “Hanukkah”) is an eight-day “festival of lights,” which begins each year on the 25th day of the Jewish month of Kislev.

2020 Events

Chanukah on the Beach

Join us for our famous Chanukah at the Beach on Thursday 17 December. The fun starts at 4:00pm at Parsley Bay Beach, Vaucluse. Fun for all the family! Bring a picnic dinner. We’ll supply the sufganiyot!

Chanukah Inspirations

Chanukah Inspirations 10-18 December Receive a daily email with teachings about Light and Jewish Mysticism, from Rabbi Dr. Orna Triguboff. To join, please email orna@emanuel.org.au
Kabbalat Shabbat

Chanukah Kabbalat Shabbat in Nature

Shabbat 6:00 pm 11 December Light the candles, sing, pray and bring a picnic at an Eastern Suburbs beach, with Rabbi Triguboff and guest musicians. To book: orna@emanuel.org.au

Chanukah Drive for Asylum Seekers Centre

Many thanks to all of those who responded to our Chanukah Drive for the Asylum Seekers Centre. Through your generosity we collected more than 80 bags of groceries and toiletries.

The History

Chanukah is the celebration of the victory of the Maccabees, a small band of Jewish fighters, over the mighty Syrian-Greek army in 165 B.C.E. The Syrian­Greek ruler, Antiochus Epiphenes, tried to impose his culture on the Jews, with laws which forbade them from practicing Judaism, studying Torah or identifying as Jews. The Maccabees defeated Antiochus and enabled the Jews to practice their religion once more.

The Legend

During this time the Temple was desecrated. When the Maccabees won, they started to clean the Temple and rededicate it, hence the name of the festival, Chanukah, which means “dedication.” Legend tells that when the Maccabees went to light the menorah in the Temple, they found a single cruse of oil, enough for only one day. Miraculously, the oil lasted for eight days, enough time for more supplies to arrive.

The Candlelighting

We light candles each night of Chanukah, starting with one on the first night and increasing to eight on the last. Thus, the light increases along with our joy and the extent of the miracle of the oil. There are a few rules for lighting the chanukiah:
1. Place the candles in the chanukiah from right to left.
2. Light the candles from left to right
3. Light the Shamash (helper) candle first and use that candle to light all the others.
4. The light from the Chanukah candles can only be used to enjoy, no reading, working or using the light in any other way.
5. Place the lit chanukiyah in the window so that the miracle can be publicised and your candles seen by all who pass by.

The Blessings

Say these blessings and then light the candles

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ
אֱלֹהֵֽינוּ מֶֽלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם
אֲשֶׁר קִדְּשָֽׁנוּ בְּמִצְוֺתָיו
וְצִוָּֽנוּ לְהַדְלִיק נֵר שֶׁל חֲנֻכָּה

 

Baruch ata Adonai Eloheinu melech h’olam asher kidishanu bemitzvotav v’tzivanu l’hadlik ner shel Chanukah.

Blessed are you Adonai our God, sovereign of the universe, who makes us holy by giving us divine commands, and commands us to kindle the lights of Chanukah

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ
אֱלֹהֵֽינוּ מֶֽלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם
שֶׁעָשָׂה נִסִּים לַאֲבוֹתֵֽינוּ וְאִמּוֹתֵֽינוּ
בַּיָּמִים הָהֵם בַּזְּמַן הַזֶּה

Baruch ata Adonai Eloheinu melech h’olam she-asa nisim
la’avoteinu b’yamim ha-hem bazman hazeh.

‘Blessed are you Adonai our God, sovereign of the universe, who did wonders for our ancestors in those days at this season’.

The following Blessing is said on the first evening only:

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, שֶׁהֶחֱיָנוּ וְקִיְּמָנוּ וְהִגִּיעָנוּ לַזְּמַן הַזֶּה

Baruch ata Adonai Eloheinu melech h’olam shehecheyanu v’kiyemanu v’higiyanu lazman hazeh.

‘Blessed are you Adonai our God, sovereign of the universe, who has kept us alive and supported us and brought us to this season’.

Light the candles then recite the following declaration:

הַנֵּרוֹת הַלָּלוּ שֶׁאָנוּ מַדְלִיקִין, עַל הַנִּסִּים וְעַל הַנִּפְלָאוֹת וְעַל הַתְּשׁוּעוֹת וְעַל הַמִּלְחָמוֹת, שֶׁעָשִׂיתָ לַאֲבוֹתֵינוּ בַּיָּמִים הָהֵם בַּזְּמַן הַזֶּה עַל יְדֵי כֹּהֲנֶיךָ הַקְּדוֹשִׁים. וְכָל שְׁמוֹנַת יְמֵי הַחֲנֻכָּה הַנֵּרוֹת הַלָּלוּ קֹדֶשׁ הֵם וְאֵין לָנוּ רְשׁוּת לְהִשְׁתַּמֵּשׁ בָּהֶם אֶלָּא לִרְאוֹתָם בִּלְבָד כְּדֵי לְהוֹדוֹת וּלְהַלֵּל לְשִׁמְךָ הַגָּדוֹל עַל נִסֶּיךָ וְעַל נִפְלְאוֹתֶיךָ וְעַל יְשׁוּעָתֶךָ

Haneirot ha/a/u anu madlikim al hanisim v’al hanechamot she’asita la’avoteinu beyamim hahem bazman hazeh
al y’day kohanecha hakedoshim.V’chol shemonat y’ m ei Chanukah haneirot halalu kodesh v’einlanu /’hishtamesh bahem, ela lir’otam bilvad, k’day l’hodot l’simcha al nisecha v’al y’shu’atecha v’al niflotecha.

‘We kindle these lights to commemorate the miracles, wonders and the marvellous and consoling deeds which You performed for our ancestors through Your holy priests in those days at this season. During the eight days of Chanukah these lights are holy and we are not permitted to make use of them, but only to look on them in order to thank You for the wonders, the victories and the marvellous deeds:

The Song – Maoz Tzur

מָעוֹז צוּר יְשׁוּעָתִי
לְךָ נָאֶה לְשַׁבֵּחַ
תִּכּוֹן בֵּית תְּפִלָּתִי
וְשָׁם תּוֹדָה נְזַבֵּחַ
לְעֵת תָּכִין מַטְבֵּחַ
מִצָּר הַמְנַבֵּחַ
אָז אֶגְמוֹר בְּשִׁיר מִזְמוֹר
חֲנֻכַּת הַמִּזְבֵּחַ

M a’oz tzur yeshu’ati. Lecha na’ eh l’shabei’ach Tikon beit tefilati V’sham todah n’zabei’ach. L’yet tachin matbei’ach mitzar ham na be’ach.
Az egmor. B’shir mizmor. Chanuakat hamizbei’ach.
Az egmor. B’shir mizmor. Chanuakat hamizbei’ac.h

‘Rock of Ages, to praise You is a delight. Restore my House of Prayer and I will bring a thanksgiving offering. When You have helped us win our battle, then I will sing a song of praise and rededicate the altar.’

The Food

The best-known Chanukah foods are suvganiyot (donuts) and latkes (potato pancakes) both of which are fried in oil, thus the connection to the Chanukah miracle. It is also a tradition to eat Chanukah gelt (chocolate coins) because the Maccabees minted their own coins.

Find some great Sufganiyot and Latkes recipes from the Monday Morning Cooking Club.

The Game

It is traditional to play many games at Chanukah but the most popular is dreidel. During this game participants spin a four-sided top with a letter on each side:nun, gadol, hay and shin. The letters are the first in each word of the Hebrew phrase “nes, gadol haya sham” “A great miracle happened there:

Dreidel is a gambling game. Each player puts in a coin or chip and the dreidel is spun. If it lands on nun the player gets nothing, gimmel: they take everything hey: they win half, and shin: they put one in. It is also fun to see who can make the dreidel spin for the longest time or if you can spin it upside down (the dreidel not the spinner!)

The Trivia

  • Three women performed heroic deeds during the time of Chanukah; Judith plus two women called Hannah. See here for more. As a result of their bravery and courage it is traditional for women not to do any work while the Chanukah candles are burning.
  • Maccabee means “hammer” and was the name given to Judah because he struck the enemy like a hammer! If you take the first letter of the first line of the prayer: “Mi Chamocha Ba’elim Adonai?” “Who is like you amongst the gods?” which we sing every service, it spells the word “Maccabee”
  • One of the reasons Chanukah may have been an eight day festival was because the Maccabees were fighting and could not celebrate Sukkot that year, so they celebrated their victory for eight days like a substitute Sukkot
  • If you light the chanukiah every night of Chanukah you will light 44 candles in total.
  • It is traditional to eat cheese at Chanukah because Judith fed it to Holofernes, the enemy army commander, to make him thirsty so he would drink wine, so he would be drunk, so he would go to sleep, so she could cut off his head, so his army would retreat, so her city would be saved.
  • Chanukah was celebrated on the space station Mir and the NASA space shuttle Endeavour.
  • Chanukah lights are kindled with a blowtorch across an international boundary at Niagara Falls where there is a chanukiah on each side of the waterfall.
  • In America in 1998 a new soft drink was introduced for Chanukah called Gefiltefizz
  • In 1998 Chanukah was celebrated publicly in Spain for the first time in more than five hundred years
  • The world’s largest chanukiah is in Jerusalem. It is more than 20 metres tall and each night of Chanukah a cherry picker lifts a rabbi up to light the candles.