Tonight is the second night of Hanukkah. Last night, we celebrated the beginning of Hanukkah with dear friends. Each year they celebrate this important festival as part of their heritage. We’ve had the privilege of celebrating with them for the past couple of years. The following will give you a simplified description of what Hanukkah is all about:
The holiday originated when Judah the Maccabee and his followers reclaimed the temple in the village of Modi'in from Syrian King Antiochus IV. The temple was cleansed and prepared for rededication. The Hebrew word Hanukkah means "dedication." When the sacred temple Menorah (candelabra) was relit, there was only enough sacred oil to burn for one day. Yet, according to tradition, the oil miraculously lasted eight days until more purified oil could be found. In remembrance, a candle is lit each of the eight days of Hanukkah. Children receive gifts of gelt (in remembrance of the coins minted by the new independent Maccabee state) or money and play games of dreidel (a spinning four-sided top.) The tradition of receiving a gift on each of the eight days of Hanukkah is fairly recent. The holiday is commonly referred to as Hanukkah, or the more traditional spelling of Chanukah.
Three of the common traditions were incorporated into the evening’s activities: lighting the menorah, spinning the dreidel and eating lots and lots of latkes.
Rabbi David Freedman brought his menorah and Rebecca, our hostess, had the family menorah. Rabbi David lit the tallest candle, called the Helper candle, and used it to light the first candle of Hanukkah. He sang a blessing in Hebrew as he lit the candle. It was a goose-bump moment for me to hear the Hebrew and hear the interpretation.
A popular Hanukkah game is spinning the dreidel, which is a four-sided top with Hebrew letters written on each side. Several dreidels were on the table for us to play with during our meal. Gelt, which are chocolate coins covered with tin foil, are part of this game. Dove chocolates were this year’s gelt.
Since Hanukkah celebrates the miracle of oil, it is traditional to eat fried foods such as latkes. Latkes are pancakes made out of potatoes and onions, which are fried in oil. We ate ours with sour cream and applesauce. Ooh la la we all ate lots and lots of latkes!
And then we played with the kids and enjoyed each other's company.
Shalom. Peace. God's peace is amazing. May you experience His peace during this Hanukkah season.