The Story of the Modern Day Maccabees

The Story of the Modern Day Maccabees

Relive the miraculous 1976 Operation Entebbe which was carried out by a group referred to by former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin as the “Modern Day Maccabees.”

The Story of the Modern Day Maccabees is presented by Rabbi Steven Weil, the Senior Managing Director of the OU.

2016 represents the 40th anniversary of the Israel Defense Force’s miraculous rescue of over 100 hostages whose Paris bound Air France Airbus was hijacked by cruel terrorists. After their heroic return, Menachem Begin referred to the Israeli commandos who risked their lives flying thousands of miles from home as “Dor Makabim Bi’yameinu” modern day Maccabees. NJOP presents the story of this heroic rescue mission, told by Rabbi Steven Weil, Senior Managing Director of the OU. The rescue of many Jewish lives at Entebbe is the equivalent of a modern day Chanukah miracle, mirroring the original miraculous events that we celebrate each year.

 

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Trailer:

Chanukah

On Chanukah, Jewish families around the world gather together in their homes and light the Chanukah candles. Chanukah, the Festival of Lights, celebrates the great miracles that happened during the Maccabee revolt in the time of the Second Temple period.

Learn more

Programs and Classes

Host or attend the exciting Chanukah programs and classes provided by NJOP and find out how you or your community can participate.

Resources

Discover, read and download our comprehensive guides and walkthroughs, watch videos and learn about the various aspects of Chanukah.

Articles

Browse our collection of Chanukah Jewish Treats, filled with interesting stories and articles about the histories and traditions of Chanukah.


Brachot and Songs

Chanukah Resources

Chanukah

On Chanukah, Jewish families around the world gather together in their homes and light the Chanukah candles. Chanukah, the Festival of Lights, celebrates the great miracles that happened during the Maccabee revolt in the time of the Second Temple period.

Learn more

Programs and Classes

Host or attend the exciting Chanukah programs and classes provided by NJOP and find out how you or your community can participate.

Resources

Discover, read and download our comprehensive guides and walkthroughs, watch videos and learn about the various aspects of Chanukah.

Articles

Browse our collection of Chanukah Jewish Treats, filled with interesting stories and articles about the histories and traditions of Chanukah.


Candle Lighting Poster

Chanukah Resources

Chanukah

On Chanukah, Jewish families around the world gather together in their homes and light the Chanukah candles. Chanukah, the Festival of Lights, celebrates the great miracles that happened during the Maccabee revolt in the time of the Second Temple period.

Learn more

Programs and Classes

Host or attend the exciting Chanukah programs and classes provided by NJOP and find out how you or your community can participate.

Resources

Discover, read and download our comprehensive guides and walkthroughs, watch videos and learn about the various aspects of Chanukah.

Articles

Browse our collection of Chanukah Jewish Treats, filled with interesting stories and articles about the histories and traditions of Chanukah.


Chanukah Jewish Treats

Jewish Treats about

Chanukah

Browse our archive of Chanukah related Jewish Treats.

Chanukah

On Chanukah, Jewish families around the world gather together in their homes and light the Chanukah candles. Chanukah, the Festival of Lights, celebrates the great miracles that happened during the Maccabee revolt in the time of the Second Temple period.

Learn more

Programs and Classes

Host or attend the exciting Chanukah programs and classes provided by NJOP and find out how you or your community can participate.

Resources

Discover, read and download our comprehensive guides and walkthroughs, watch videos and learn about the various aspects of Chanukah.

Articles

Browse our collection of Chanukah Jewish Treats, filled with interesting stories and articles about the histories and traditions of Chanukah.


Rabbi Buchwald on Chanukah

Rabbi Buchwald on Chanukah

Web Series

Let Rabbi Ephraim Z. Buchwald, Founder and Director of NJOP, take you through the essential elements of Chanukah with his collection of entertaining YouTube videos focused on the holiday.

Chanukah

On Chanukah, Jewish families around the world gather together in their homes and light the Chanukah candles. Chanukah, the Festival of Lights, celebrates the great miracles that happened during the Maccabee revolt in the time of the Second Temple period.

Learn more

Programs and Classes

Host or attend the exciting Chanukah programs and classes provided by NJOP and find out how you or your community can participate.

Resources

Discover, read and download our comprehensive guides and walkthroughs, watch videos and learn about the various aspects of Chanukah.

Articles

Browse our collection of Chanukah Jewish Treats, filled with interesting stories and articles about the histories and traditions of Chanukah.


Chanukah Recipes

Chanukah Resources

Chanukah

On Chanukah, Jewish families around the world gather together in their homes and light the Chanukah candles. Chanukah, the Festival of Lights, celebrates the great miracles that happened during the Maccabee revolt in the time of the Second Temple period.

Learn more

Programs and Classes

Host or attend the exciting Chanukah programs and classes provided by NJOP and find out how you or your community can participate.

Resources

Discover, read and download our comprehensive guides and walkthroughs, watch videos and learn about the various aspects of Chanukah.

Articles

Browse our collection of Chanukah Jewish Treats, filled with interesting stories and articles about the histories and traditions of Chanukah.


Ma'oz Tzur

Ma'oz Tzur

Jewish liturgical poem

Refuge, Rock of my salvation: to You it is a delight to give praise.
Restore my House of prayer, so that there I may offer You thanksgiving.
When You silence the loud-mouthed foe,
then will I complete, with song and psalm, the altar’s dedication.

Troubles sated my soul; my strength was spent with sorrow.
They embittered my life with hardship, when I was enslaved under Egyptian rule.
But God with His great power brought out His treasured people,
While Pharaoh’s host and followers sank like a stone into the deep.

He brought me to His holy abode, but even there I found no rest.
The oppressor came and exiled me, because I had served strange gods.
I had drunk poisoned wine. I almost perished.
Then Babylon fell, Zerubbabel came: within seventy years I was saved.

The Agagite, son of Hammedatha, sought to cut down the tall fir tree,
But it became a trap to him, and his arrogance was brought to an end.
You raised the head of the Benjaminite, and the enemy’s name You blotted out.
His many sons and his household You hanged on the gallows.

Then the Greeks gathered against me, in the days of Hasmoneans.
They broke down the walls of my towers, and defiled all the oils.
But from the last remaining flask, a miracle was wrought for Your beloved.
Therefore the Sages ordained these eight days for song and praise.

Bare Your holy arm, and hasten the time of salvation.
Take retribution against the evil nation on behalf of Your servants,
For the hour [of deliverance] has been too long delayed; there seems no end to the evil days.
Thrust the enemy into the darkness of death, and establish for us the seven Shepherds.

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

רָעוֹת שָׂבְעָה נַפְשִׁי, בְּיָגוֹן כֹּחִי כָּלָה
חַיַּי מֵרְרוּ בְקֹשִׁי, בְּשִׁעְבּוּד מַלְכוּת עֶגְלָה
וּבְיָדוֹ הַגְּדוֹלָה הוֹצִיא אֶת הַסְּגֻלָּה
חֵיל פַּרְעֹה וְכָל זַרְעוֹ יָרְדוּ כְּאֶבֶן בִּמְצוּלָה.

דְּבִיר קָדְשׁוֹ הֱבִיאַנִי, וְגַם שָׁם לֹא שָׁקַטְתִּי
וּבָא נוֹגֵשׂ וְהִגְלַנִי, כִּי זָרִים עָבַדְתִּי
וְיֵין רַעַל מָסַכְתִּי, כִּמְעַט שֶׁעָבַרְתִּי
קֵץ בָּבֶל זְרֻבָּבֶל, לְקֵץ שִׁבְעִים נוֹשַׁעְתִּי.

כְּרוֹת קוֹמַת בְּרוֹשׁ, בִּקֵּשׁ אֲגָגִי בֶּן הַמְּדָתָא
וְנִהְיָתָה לוֹ לְפַח וּלְמוֹקֵשׁ, וְגַאֲוָתוֹ נִשְׁבָּתָה
רֹאשׁ יְמִינִי נִשֵּׂאתָ, וְאוֹיֵב שְׁמוֹ מָחִיתָ
רֹב בָּנָיו וְקִנְיָנָיו עַל הָעֵץ תָּלִיתָ.

יְוָנִים נִקְבְּצוּ עָלַי, אֲזַי בִּימֵי חַשְׁמַנִּים
וּפָרְצוּ חוֹמוֹת מִגְדָּלַי, וְטִמְּאוּ כָּל הַשְּׁמָנִים
וּמִנּוֹתַר קַנְקַנִּים נַעֲשָׂה נֵס לַשּׁוֹשַׁנִּים
בְּנֵי בִינָה יְמֵי שְׁמוֹנָה קָבְעוּ שִׁיר וּרְנָנִים

חֲשׂוֹף זְרוֹעַ קָדְשֶׁךָ וְקָרֵב קֵץ הַיְשׁוּעָה
נְקֹם נִקְמַת עֲבָדֶיךָ מֵאֻמָּה הָרְשָׁעָה
כִּי אָרְכָה הַשָּׁעָה וְאֵין קֵץ לִימֵי הָרָעָה
דְּחֵה אַדְמוֹן בְּצֵל צַלְמוֹן הָקֵם לָנוּ רוֹעִים שִׁבְעָה

Chanukah

On Chanukah, Jewish families around the world gather together in their homes and light the Chanukah candles. Chanukah, the Festival of Lights, celebrates the great miracles that happened during the Maccabee revolt in the time of the Second Temple period.

Learn more

Programs and Classes

Host or attend the exciting Chanukah programs and classes provided by NJOP and find out how you or your community can participate.

Resources

Discover, read and download our comprehensive guides and walkthroughs, watch videos and learn about the various aspects of Chanukah.

Articles

Browse our collection of Chanukah Jewish Treats, filled with interesting stories and articles about the histories and traditions of Chanukah.


Chanukah Heroines

Chanukah Heroines

There are two famous stories about women associated with Chanukah, the story of Yehudit and the story of Hannah and her Seven Sons.

The two stories show the courage and inner-strength of the Jewish people in the time of adversity, and how strength can be shown both in action and in lack of action.

Yehudit/Judith

Life under the Hellenist aggressors was a constant trial. Not only did they forbid basic Jewish observance, but, after the beginning of the Maccabee revolt, they laid siege to cities and towns across the land. And the siege was not simply a siege of food and water, it was also a siege on morality and morale. By decree of the king, any Jewish maiden who was to be married had to first spend the night with the local governor or commander. The Hellenists loathed the very sanctity of Jewish family life, knowing that it was a source of strength for the Jews, and were determined to undermine this lifestyle.

The Hellenist armies, under the command of Holofernes, laid siege to the town of Bethulia where Yehudit, the daughter of Yochanan the High Priest, was a young widow. While she was beautiful and wealthy, Yehudit was also known for her piety and good deeds. Holofernes, let it be known that he desired the beautiful widow.
As the siege persisted against the town of Bethulia, the people grew discouraged. They began to suffer from severe hunger. Out of despair, the town gathered together and the elders announced that in 5 days time, when they ran out of food, they would surrender. But Yehudit spoke out at the meeting, expressing her disappointment in their lack of faith in G-d. As the meeting ended, Yehudit told the elders that she had a plan that would deliver the enemies into their hands, but they must not ask her what it was. They must simply have faith in her. Because of Yehudit’s reputation for wisdom and piety, they agreed.

Taking with her one maidservant and a large basket of cheese, bread and wine, Yehudit left the city and was immediately stopped by the soldiers. She told them that she wished to speak with their commander, Holofernes. When she was brought before him, he welcomed the beautiful woman.
Yehudit told Holofernes that she worried for those in the city who were suffering under the siege and had decided to come and tell him how to capture the city and, hopefully, receive, in return, mercy on her people. He encouraged her to go on.

The people’s faith in G-d remained strong, she explained. So long as they had faith, they would not surrender; and, G-d would not allow the army to take the city. On the other hand, she added, before long, every scrap of kosher food would be gone, and in desperation they would begin to eat the flesh of unclean animals, and then G-d’s anger would be turned against them and the town would fall. She proposed to stay with Holofernes in the camp of his army, but would return to Bethulia each day in order to find out how low the supplies were. Then she would tell Holofernes when the time to strike was. Eager to spend time with the beautiful widow as well as to end the siege victoriously, he agreed.

After several days of Yehudit relaying that the people in Bethulia were almost out of supplies, she felt that she and her maidservant had gained the trust of the army. They came and went as they pleased. It was time to implement the second half of the plan.

Yehudit informed Holofernes that the Bethulia was now out of food and there remained only to wait a few days until they would be eating the non-kosher animals. He invited her to come alone to his tent that night to celebrate. She agreed, insisting that he partake of her renowned’ goat-cheese. As he ate the salty cheese, he grew thirsty and Yehudit hurried to give him the heavy wine she had brought with her. While Yehudit pretended to eat and drink, Holofernes became sluggish from imbibing and eating. Shortly thereafter, he was in a deep sleep. Calling her maidservant in, Yehudit took Holofernes’ sword and cut off his head. The two women wrapped the head in a cloth and returned to Bethulia.

The elders were surprised to see her. Yehudit showed them Holofernes’ head and told them that the men of the city must attack the Syrian-Greeks now. When the soldiers would go to wake their leader they would find him dead. The elders followed her advice and, sure enough, the Syrian-Greek army fled at the surprise attack and after learning that their commander was dead. Thus Yehudit saved the day.

Hannah and her Seven Sons

When Antiochus tried to destroy Jewish culture by outlawing Torah, he mistakenly thought that the Jews would quickly adopt the Hellenistic lifestyle. While some Jews did assimilate without a fight, Antiochus was not prepared for the unprecedented obstinacy of the Jews who refused to give up their heritage. Since the Jews would not quietly submit, Antiochus launched a full-scale culture war.

Those Jews who refused to give up studying Torah, who refused to eat pork, etc., were killed or tortured. Antiochus recognized that Judaism and Hellenism were antithetical and that he could not allow Judaism to survive or Hellenism would disappear. One of the well-known examples of the lengths to which Antiochus went to convert the Jews, and their fierce resistance to his attempts, is the story of “Hannah and her Seven Sons.”

Brought before the king for the crime of being devout Jews, Antiochus demanded that they bow down to an idol before him. The eldest son stepped forward and said:
“What do you wish from us? We are ready to die rather than transgress the laws of our fathers.”

Shocked and angered, the king ordered him tortured. His tongue, hands and feet were cut off and he was placed in a cauldron of boiling water. While the tortures continued, the wicked Antiochus turned to the next son and demanded that he worship the idol. This brother refused as well and was similarly tortured. Antiochus continued down the line and each brother held fast to his faith and gave up his life, tortured in front of his mother and remaining brothers until only Hannah and her youngest son remained.

Aware that this event had not gone the way he had planned, and, in fact, was becoming a public relations disaster, Antiochus called the child forward and begged him not to be a martyr for such a small thing as bowing before a statue. The king went so far as to promise him wealth beyond his dreams for this one act. When he saw that he was not getting anywhere, he called Hannah forward and beseeched her to talk some sense into her son so that she might have one child left. Hannah agreed to talk to him, and took him to the side, pretending to beg him for his life.

But Hannah was proud of her sons. She knew what this one small act would mean to her child and to the morale of the Jewish people. Without tears, Hannah told her youngest, a mere child: “My son, I carried you for nine months, nourished you for two years, and have provided you with everything until now. Look upon the heaven and the earth — G-d is the Creator of it all. Do not fear this tormentor, but be worthy of being with your brothers.”

Without a second thought, the boy refused to obey the king’s commandment and was put to death. As her child lay dying, she cradled his body and asked him that, when he arrived in heaven, he say to Abraham that he, Abraham, had been willing to sacrifice one son to prove his loyalty to G-d, while she had sacrificed seven. For him it had been a test, for her it was reality. Pleading with G-d that she should be considered worthy to her children in the world to come, Hannah fell to the floor and died.

Hannah is considered a heroine for her faith in G-d. By teaching her sons that sometimes one must give up even life itself for the sake of one’s beliefs and by not begging for mercy from this evil king, by encouraging even her youngest son not to bow to evil, Hannah made a stand that resonates with all who hear her story.

Chanukah

On Chanukah, Jewish families around the world gather together in their homes and light the Chanukah candles. Chanukah, the Festival of Lights, celebrates the great miracles that happened during the Maccabee revolt in the time of the Second Temple period.

Learn more

Programs and Classes

Host or attend the exciting Chanukah programs and classes provided by NJOP and find out how you or your community can participate.

Resources

Discover, read and download our comprehensive guides and walkthroughs, watch videos and learn about the various aspects of Chanukah.

Articles

Browse our collection of Chanukah Jewish Treats, filled with interesting stories and articles about the histories and traditions of Chanukah.


Judaism vs. Hellenism

Judaism vs. Hellenism

Why did the interaction of the Greeks and the Jews create such problems?

What was there about Hellenism that lured so many Jews to assimilate and at the same time, aroused in other Jews such staunch opposition?

Ironically, Greek culture and Judaism are the roots of modern Western civilization. And, in fact, they are similar in that both cultures put great value on understanding the world and the use of one’s intellect. The Greeks nurtured the great philosophers and gave the world Plato and Aristotle. The Jews gave the world the Torah, the Talmud, and the basic concept of ethical monotheism. If both sought “Truth” in the world, why were they hostile to one another?

In order to understand the Chanukah story, it is necessary to understand the differences between these two cultures. Here is a basic outline of Judaism versus Hellenism:

Judaism
Hellenism
One G-d
The belief in one G-d is the first of the Ten Commandments. Judaism believes not only that there is only one G-d who created everything, but that G-d is actively involved in ruling the world.
Gods, Goddesses and
Who Knows What!
The Greeks believed in a multitude of gods. For each object or state of nature there was a different god or goddess, such as Aphrodite, the goddess of love, and Poseidon, the god of the sea.
Man in the Image of G-d
The Jewish view of the Divine is that G-d has no physical form. The Torah does, however, often speak of G-d in human terms, such as “a jealous G-d” or G-d took us out of Egypt with “an outstretched arm.” These are all, however, understood to be metaphors used to help humans relate to G-d by speaking in familiar terms. One of the Thirteen Principle of Faith laid out by Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon (Rambam) is that G-d has no corporeal form.
Gods in the Image of Man
The Greeks gods were almost all conceptualized as humans with supernatural powers. Not only did they possess the same physical image as humankind, but the Greek deities even had human lusts and passions. Greek mythology is filled with images of gods fighting in jealous rivalries, plotting against one another and innocent mortals, and pursuing human lovers. In fact, numerous gods in mythology are born out of god-human relationships. By creating gods who were as spoiled and egocentric as humans, it was easy for a person to negate the will of a god by saying it was the will of a rival god.
The Beauty of Balance
Judaism views the physical body as a partner with the soul. Humankind was created from the physical and from the spiritual (And the L-rd G-d formed the human being of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. Genesis 2:7). This dual level of creation distinguishes humans from animals (completely of the lower world) and angels (completely of the upper worlds), neither of which have free-will. It is the Jewish belief that people must work throughout their lives to synthesize the physical and the spiritual. Finding this balance is, in Judaism’s view, true beauty. Since the Jewish view is that humankind was created in the image of G-d (Genesis 1:27), it is impossible to come to a conclusion that a human may supplement the Divine.
Beauty as Ideal
Greek culture placed the highest value on the physical and gave the world the idea that beauty is, in itself, a supreme ideal. Epitomizing this worship of the physical was the Greek passion for athletics. Among their first actions, the Greeks built gymnasiums in every city they conquered. The Greek athletics were held in the nude, highlighting the beauty of the human being. This physical glorification is one example of the Hellenistic view of nature as supreme. The attitude that the greatness of the human being ruled over the belief in the power of their gods, culminated in Plato’s view that there was a Divine creation, and and then the world was left to run itself.

 

 

These differences created a clash of cultures. The Greeks could not understand why the Jews did not instantly embrace their culture, which catered to the human’s physical desires. They were infuriated by the Jewish refusal to accept Hellenism. In their need to rid the world of Judaism, they singled out three mitzvot (commandments): The sanctification of the new month, the Sabbath, and circumcision. Here’s why:

Rosh Chodesh/the Sanctification of the New Month – The Jewish people follow a lunar calendar and the very first commandment to the Jewish people in the Torah is: “This month shall be yours as the first of months.” This commandment instructs Jews to sanctify the beginning of each new month, when the moon first reappears in the sky. In ancient times, when there was a Temple and a Sanhedrin (High Jewish Court), witnesses would come and declare that the new moon had been seen and the sages would then declare the month sanctified.

What then could be the problem with setting a calendar? When the Jews sanctified the new moon, it, in effect, stated to the world that G-d is in control of time. The month was not declared based on the counting of days, but rather based on the appearance of the new moon, according to G-d’s commandment of how the months should be calculated. Since the Greeks wished to show that humankind was in control of nature, they felt threatened by the Jewish concept of Divinely ordained time. Also, by denying the Jews the ability to sanctify the new month, they inhibited the proper celebration of the Jewish holidays, which are based on dates which start with the declaration of the start of each new month.

The Sabbath – “Six days shall you work and do all your labor, but the seventh day is Shabbat for the Lord your G-d. On it, you shall do no [creative] work.” The seventh day is the Jewish Sabbath on which a Jew does no work. Why did the Greeks have a problem with a day of rest? The Hellenistic culture was a center of great creativity. From ancient Greek traditions, the Western world has inherited a remarkable legacy of literature, sculpture, philosophy, and architecture. Through their marvelous creations, the Greeks proclaimed their might over the world. Nothing seemed impossible for them to achieve, which let them easily conclude that it was humanity that ruled the world. The idea of taking one day to let G-d run the world negated the Greek belief in their own control. It also forced them to acknowledge how lightly they treated their own deities, while the Jews were willing to set aside an entire day to their one deity

Circumcision – Remember, the Greeks idealized the beauty of the physical form, particularly the male body, as can be seen in so many of their sculptures. The idea that the Jews would willing mar the body was outrageous to them (of course, leaving a baby to die from exposure wasn’t a problem). On a deeper level, however, circumcision represents humanity’s ability to have control over one’s physical self. The Greeks believed in fulfilling all of their passions, in contrast to Judaism’s devotion to self discipline. While Judaism teaches humankind to strive to be like G-d, the Greeks created gods who acted with less dignity than many humans. Remember, it was Greek mythology that created nymphs and satyrs, philandering gods and promiscuous goddesses. They abhorred circumcision because it focused on the fact that a person is capable of channeling his/her passions.

Chanukah

On Chanukah, Jewish families around the world gather together in their homes and light the Chanukah candles. Chanukah, the Festival of Lights, celebrates the great miracles that happened during the Maccabee revolt in the time of the Second Temple period.

Learn more

Programs and Classes

Host or attend the exciting Chanukah programs and classes provided by NJOP and find out how you or your community can participate.

Resources

Discover, read and download our comprehensive guides and walkthroughs, watch videos and learn about the various aspects of Chanukah.

Articles

Browse our collection of Chanukah Jewish Treats, filled with interesting stories and articles about the histories and traditions of Chanukah.


What to do on Chanukah

What to do on Chanukah

Chanukah is unique amongst the holidays in that it has only a single mitzvah - publicizing the miracle of Chanukah through the lighting of the menorah.

Table of Contents

The Chanukah Menorah

The Chanukah Menorah is a candelabra with nine branches. It is also called a chanukiah.

The Ninth branch – While there are only eight nights of Chanukah, an extra candle is lit every night to be a “helper,” and is used to light the other candles. This candle is called the shamash. The place for the shamash on the menorah should be differentiated from the other lights. Usually it is higher, lower or out of line with the others.

The Eight Lights

    • Instead of a menorah, one may light a series of tea candles (for example) one next to the other.
    • The lights should be in a straight, even line without any differentiation in height between the eight Chanukah lights, or however many are lit that particular night. The lights may be in a semi-circle as long as all of the lights can be viewed at the same time.
    • There should be enough space between lights so that two flames do not burn together or cause the candle next to it to melt.

Oil or candles — The sages said that it is preferable to use olive oil for the Chanukah lights, since the miracle took place with olive oil. One may use wax or paraffin candles or other types of oils as long as they produce a steady light.

Lighting

NOTE: Please be sure to review fire safety procedures with your family

Where

  • The purpose of lighting the Chanukah lights, and its essential mitzvah, is to proclaim the miracle (Pirsumei Nisa). It is important, therefore, to kindle the Chanukah lights where others will see them.
  • The Chanukah lights were originally lit at the entrance to one’s home, facing the street. It was placed on the left side of the entrance, across from the mezuzah.
    • It is now a common practice to place the menorah in a window facing the street.
    • If one lives on a high floor or is unable to place the menorah in a place visible from the street, it is permissible to place the Chanukah lights in any room where the people in the house will be able to see it.

When

  • While there are several opinions about when one should kindle the Chanukah lights, the majority opinion is that it should be done at the time when three stars have appeared in the sky (approximately an 40-50 minutes after sunset).
  • Many people do, however, follow the opinion of the Vilna Gaon (Rabbi Eliyahu of Vilna, 1720 – 1797), and light at sunset. This custom is commonly followed in Jerusalem.
  • If one is unable to light at the appropriate time, one may light later in the night as long as there is someone else in the household who is awake (thus fulfilling the requirements of publicizing the miracle).
    • If it is very late and no one is awake, one should light without the blessing.
    • If there are people in the street or in the apartments of a facing building who would see the lit candles, it is okay to light.
  • If one does not light at all during the night, they cannot do a “make-up” lighting. In such a case, one should just continue on the next night with everyone else.

Who

  • All adults are equally obligated in the lighting of the Chanukah lights and each one may light their own menorah.
  • Children over the age of 9 should light.
  • The head of the household may, however, elect to kindle one set of Chanukah lights for the entire household.

How

  • On the first night, one light is placed on the far right of the menorah. Each succeeding night, one light is added to the left of the previous night’s candle(s). The newest light is always lit first.
  • Before lighting, the following blessings are recited:
    • Baruch Atah Ado-nai, Ehlo-haynu Melech ha’olam, asher kideshanu b’mitzvotav v’tzeevanu l’hadlik ner shel Chanukah.Blessed are You L-rd, our G-d, Ruler of the world, who sanctified us through His commandments and commanded us, to kindle the lights of Chanukah.
    • Baruch Atah Ado-nai, Ehlo-haynu Melech ha’olam, she’asah neesim la’avotaynu, bayamim hahem bazman hazeh.Blessed are You L-rd, our G-d, Ruler of the world, Who wrought miracles for our ancestors in those days at this season.
    • The third blessing is recited on the first night only.Baruch atah Ado-nai, Ehlo-haynu melech Ha-olam, sheh’heh’cheh’yanu v’kee’manu v’hee’gee’anu la’zman ha’zeh.
      Blessed are You L-rd, our G-d, Ruler of the world, Who has kept us alive, sustained us, and brought us to this season.
  • As the lights are kindled, Ha’neyrot Halalu is recited.Ha’neyrot halalu anachnu madlikin al hanisim v’al ha’niflaot, v’al ha’t’shu’ot v’al hamilchamot, she’aseetah la’avotaynu ba’yamim hahem bazman ha’zeh, al y’dey Kohanecha ha’k’doshim. V’chol shmonat y’mey Chanukah, ha’neyrot halalu kodesh hem. V’eyn lanu r’shut l’hishtamesh bahem, ehla lirotam bilvad, k’dey l’hodot u’leha’lel l’shim’cha ha’gadol al neesecha v’al nif’l’otecha v’al y’shu’otecha.These lights we kindle upon the miracles, the wonders, the salvations and on the battles which You performed for our ancestors in those days in this season, through Your holy priests. During all eight days of Chanukah, these lights are sacred. We are not permitted to make ordinary use of them, but to look at them, in order to express thanks and praise to Your great name for Your miracles, Your wonders and Your salvations.
  • After the lights are lit, Ma’oz Tzur is sung. Ma’oz tzur y’shu’ahtee, l’chah nah’eh l’shabeyach; Tee’kone beyt t’feelah’tee, v’sham todah n’zah’beyach; L’ayt tacheen matbeyach, mee’tsahr ham’nabeyach; Ahz egmor b’sheer mizmor, chanukat ha’mizbeyach.
    Rock of Ages let our song, praise Thy saving power. Thou amidst the raging foes, was our sheltering tower. Furious they assailed us, but Thine arm availed us. And thy word, broke their sword, when our own strength failed us.

Duration
The Chanukah lights should stay lit for at least half an hour.
For the first half hour that the lights are burning, it is customary to refrain from common household chores.
One may not use the Chanukah lights for anything except proclaiming the miracle. For instance, one may not read using the light of a menorah.

Chanukah Happenings

Additional Prayers

  1. Al Ha’nisim, “On the Miracles,” is inserted into the daily prayers.
    • During the Silent Amidah of the morning, afternoon and evening service, Al Ha’nisim is recited after Modim (the Thanksgiving blessing).
    • During Bentching/Bircat Hamazon (Grace After Meals), it is added in the middle of the second blessing, Nodeh L’cha.
    • If one forgets to add Al Ha’nisim, neither the Silent Amidah nor Bentching should be repeated.
    • Al Ha’nisim recalls the miracles that occurred on Chanukah, particularly the victory of the Jews over the Syrian-Greek army.
  2. Hallel, Psalms of Praise, is recited after the morning Silent Amidah. – Hallel is a collection of Psalms that are recited on the festivals and Rosh Chodesh (the new month).

The Customs of Chanukah

  • Dreidel is a spinning top game played with coins or candies.
  • The Foods of Chanukah
    • Because of the significance of oil in the miracle of Chanukah, it has become customary to partake of foods fried in oil during the holiday. Two traditional treats are latkes and sufganiot (potato pancakes and doughnuts).Click here for recipes
    • Some people eat dairy in honor of Yehudit, a Jewish heroine who saved her city by giving the enemy goat cheese to eat.

Chanukah Gelt (Chanukah Gifts)
Gelt is Yiddish word meaning money. It is customary to give Chanukah gelt to the children.

  • In earlier generations, it was usually shiny pennies or, at most, dimes. Now, probably as a result of inflation, one doesn’t give less than a shiny gold dollar (sometimes filled with chocolate).
  • The custom of Chanukah gelt is often used to reward the child for knowing about the holiday or for learning about Judaism during Chanukah.
  • The custom of Chanukah Gelt is actually found in the Talmud, where it states that even the poorest person must light Chanukah lights. If the person cannot afford oil or candles, than they should actually ask people for money. The Jewish perspective on charity, however, is very sensitive the dignity of the person in need. For this reason, it became customary to distribute money at Chanukah time so that it does not come across as charity, but as Chanukah gelt.
  • The custom of giving gifts is often seen as an extension of Chanukah Gelt.
  • Unfortunately, in the consumer driven American society, Judaism has to compete with the non-Jewish “Holiday Season.” Since children cannot distinguish between their spiritual needs and their material desires, many parents have found it necessary to give Chanukah gifts in competition with Xmas gifts, and thus developed the custom of giving Chanukah presents.

Shabbat Chanukah
Shabbat candles are lit 18 minutes before sunset on Friday night. Since the Chanukah candles are lit during or after sunset, which is already the Sabbath (on which it is prohibited to create a flame), there are specific rules for Shabbat Chanukah.

    1. The Chanukah lights are kindled immediately before the Shabbat candles are lit.
    2. Because the Chanukah lights must burn for at least a half an hour after sunset, extra oil is used or larger candles should be lit.
      • Judaica stores often have special larger, longer candles available.
      • Many people create makeshift menorahs and use Shabbat candles, which burn much longer than the thin Chanukah candles.
    3. After the Chanukah candles are lit, and a moment is taken to enjoy their light, the Shabbat candles are kindled. Click here for Shabbat Candle-lighting directions.

On Saturday night, the Chanukah candles are lit after the Havdalah ceremony, which separates the Sabbath from the weekday, is recited.

Chanukah

On Chanukah, Jewish families around the world gather together in their homes and light the Chanukah candles. Chanukah, the Festival of Lights, celebrates the great miracles that happened during the Maccabee revolt in the time of the Second Temple period.

Learn more

Programs and Classes

Host or attend the exciting Chanukah programs and classes provided by NJOP and find out how you or your community can participate.

Resources

Discover, read and download our comprehensive guides and walkthroughs, watch videos and learn about the various aspects of Chanukah.

Articles

Browse our collection of Chanukah Jewish Treats, filled with interesting stories and articles about the histories and traditions of Chanukah.


The Story of Chanukah

The Story of Chanukah

How a small band of Jewish renegades took on the Syrian-Greek army.

Under the Hellenist Rule
When the Greeks conquered the world, they brought with them their highly developed Hellenistic culture – the philosophies of Plato and Aristotle, the multitude of Greek gods and goddesses, and the worship of the physical. At first, the Greeks were peaceful rulers, luring Jews to their culture by inviting them in and being open to searching the wisdom of Judaism. In the year 199 B.C.E., however, the land of Judea, which had been under the control of the Ptolemies (Greeks ruling from Egypt), was conquered by the Seleucids (Greeks ruling from Syria).

The Syrian-Greeks did not feel that it was appropriate for the Jews, now their subjects, to maintain their own national culture. By now, they felt, the Jews should have seen the error of their “primitive” ways and grasped the “far more advanced” Hellenistic culture with open arms…and many did. The majority of Jews, however, maintained the heritage of their ancestors, incorporating some Hellenistic activities, but remaining faithful to the Torah.

The Syrian-Greeks tried to force the Jews to assimilate. The study of Torah became a capital crime. If a parent was found to have circumcised an infant son, both the parent and child were put to death. The Syrian-Greeks set up idols in town squares and called the Jews to the square and forced them to bow to the statue or sacrifice a pig before it. They even forced Jewish brides before their marriage to sleep with the local Syrian-Greek commander. Their campaign against Judaism began slowly, but by 168 B.C.E. they had desecrated the Holy Temple by setting a statue of Zeus in the main plaza.

 

The Maccabees Arise
In the town of Modiin, west of Jerusalem, lived a man named Mattitiyahu (Mattithias). He was from the Hasmonean family, which is one of the branches of the Kohanim (priests). In 167 B.C.E., Syrian-Greek soldiers came to the town and demanded that the Jews sacrifice a pig to one of their gods. Knowing that Mattitiyahu was considered a righteous leader, they signaled him out. But Mattitiyahu refused to sacrifice the animal, even under threat of death. Not all the Jews of Modiin were so brave and devoted. When one of his fellow townsmen stepped forward and volunteered to sacrifice the pig, Mattitiyahu, outraged at the treacherous act, grabbed a sword and slew the heretic. Mattitiyahu’s sons joined him and they attacked the soldiers, decimating the force by the end of the day. Needless to say, Mattitiyahu and his sons fled Modiin and took refuge in the hills. While Mattitiyahu began the revolt, he did not live to see its end. After his passing, within a year of the start of the revolt, the leadership was taken up by his son Judah, a valiant soldier and a wise tactician. In the hill, Judah gathered a band of Jewish freedom fighters who were prepared to fight for the Jewish way of life. They became known as the Maccabees.

 

The Joy of Victory
Under the leadership of Judah Maccabee, the Jews led a guerilla war to free their nation, their primary goal being to cleanse Jerusalem and the Holy Temple from the pagan idols desecrating it.

It was a challenging fight, with the vast power, might and numbers on the side of the Syrian-Greeks. But the Jews had a steadfast will and the knowledge that they were fighting for G-d and Torah. In 165 B.C.E., the Maccabees succeeded in retaking the Temple. They were aghast, however to find that the soldiers had thoroughly rampaged and desecrated the holy site.

The Jews immediately set to work removing statues, scrubbing the altar, and the many tasks necessary to rededicate the Temple. On the southern side of the sanctuary stood the grand, golden Menorah, but there was no oil with which to light it. As the Jews cleansed the Temple they searched for an unopened jar of pure oil. When all seemed lost, however, one small jar, with its seal still in tact, was found. The Jews rejoiced and hurried to the Menorah to rededicate the Temple.

One small jar of oil…It would take another week for a fresh jar of pure olive oil to be made. The Jews were in a quandary. Do they light the Menorah and let it fizzle out while they waited for more oil, or do they wait and use the oil the day before the new oil will arrive, in order to keep the flame continuous. Not wanting to put off the mitzvah, they decided to light the Menorah – and the miracle of Chanukah occurred. Despite the small quantity of oil, THE MENORAH REMAINED LIT FOR THE ENTIRE EIGHT DAYS, announcing to the world that G-d’s presence once again resided in the Temple.

Chanukah

On Chanukah, Jewish families around the world gather together in their homes and light the Chanukah candles. Chanukah, the Festival of Lights, celebrates the great miracles that happened during the Maccabee revolt in the time of the Second Temple period.

Learn more

Programs and Classes

Host or attend the exciting Chanukah programs and classes provided by NJOP and find out how you or your community can participate.

Resources

Discover, read and download our comprehensive guides and walkthroughs, watch videos and learn about the various aspects of Chanukah.

Articles

Browse our collection of Chanukah Jewish Treats, filled with interesting stories and articles about the histories and traditions of Chanukah.


The Dreidel

The Driedel

Ahh, the famous childhood Chanukah song. In fact, many of the favorite Chanukah ditties revolve around the dreidel (no pun intended!). What is this fascinating game?
The Dreidel is a four sided top with a Hebrew letter on each side. Before the game begins, everyone is given an equal number of pennies or candies, and each player places an initial deposit of coins or candies in the middle of the circle. Each person then takes a turn spinning the Dreidel. When it falls, depending on the Hebrew letter that is facing up, the following occurs:

נ Nun:
Nothing happens and the next player spins the dreidel.
ג Gimmel:
The player wins everything in the pot.
ה Hey:
The Player takes half the pot.
ש Shin:
The player must put a penny/candy in the pot.

Gambling! On a Jewish holiday? What could possibly be the derivation of this game? When the Syrian-Greeks ruled Judea (in the year 167 BCE), they banned the study of Torah. The Jewish people, however, continued to study and to teach their children. Under the threat of death, they met in secret, leaving a lookout to watch for signs of the soldiers. When the lookout signaled, the books were quickly hidden away and the Jews pretended to be gambling.

The letters stand for Neis Gadol Hayah Sham- a great miracle happened there.
In Israel, the dreidel has a Pey instead of a Shin, for Neis Gadol Hayah Poh – A Great Miracle Happened Here.

Chanukah

On Chanukah, Jewish families around the world gather together in their homes and light the Chanukah candles. Chanukah, the Festival of Lights, celebrates the great miracles that happened during the Maccabee revolt in the time of the Second Temple period.

Learn more

Programs and Classes

Host or attend the exciting Chanukah programs and classes provided by NJOP and find out how you or your community can participate.

Resources

Discover, read and download our comprehensive guides and walkthroughs, watch videos and learn about the various aspects of Chanukah.

Articles

Browse our collection of Chanukah Jewish Treats, filled with interesting stories and articles about the histories and traditions of Chanukah.