In Hebrew Hanukah means “dedication.” In the years prior to 164 BCE, the Seleucid Empire (Syrian-Greeks) took over the Temple in Jerusalem, defiling it with pagan worship. When the Maccabees recaptured the Temple in 164 BCE , they ritually cleansed and rededicated it for Jewish worship once again. To mark this triumph, Hannukah was established as an 8-day national holiday, beginning on the 25th day of Kislev. The word Hannukah is also related to the Hebrew word for “education.” It is transliterated in many ways, including Hanukkah, Chanukkah, Hannukah and Channukah.
A 7-branched candelabrum, literally: “lamp”. The Torah gives specific instructions for how the Menorah was to be made and tended, and its light was to come from the purest olive oil. It is the oldest surviving symbol of Judaism. The golden Menorah that was made in the Desert stood inside the ancient Temple in Jerusalem . After the Maccabean victory, the Menorah was rekindled and rededicated. After the Second Temple’s destruction, and the seizure of the golden Menorah by the Romans in 70 CE, the menorah became a symbol of Jewish survival and continuity. The State of Israel has it as its emblem, and today it is a symbol often found in Jewish art and synagogue décor around the world.
This is a special kind of menorah used only during Hannukah, with branches or spaces for 9 candles -one for each of the 8 nights plus one for the “shammash” (see below). Hanuki’yot (plural) can be found today in a wide variety of designs, shapes, colors & materials. Traditionally, there are eight individual places for candles or flames all on the same level, far enough apart so as not to merge into a single flame. Jewish law stipulates that the 8 candles are not to be used for any practical purposes. They are not meant to be a light source for us to work by, but rather they are to be enjoyed for their beauty and as a reminder of the Hannukah miracles. The flames must last at least 30 minutes. While olive oil and wicks were used for centuries, today candles are typically used, though many Jews use oil and wicks to honor past traditions.
A “service” or utilitarian candle, called the “shammash,” is used to light the other candles on each of the 8 nights of Hannukah. It is lit first, then the brachot (blessings) are said or chanted, and then it’s used to light each of the other candles. The space for the shammash candle is set apart, above or below the other flames, to distinguish its status.
In 167 BCE, after the Seleucid king Antiochus issued decrees in Judea forbidding Jewish religious practice, a rural Jewish priest from Modi’in – Mattithias the Hasmonean – sparked the revolt against the Seleucid Empire by refusing to worship the Greek Gods. His son Judah, along with Judah’s 4 brothers, led an army of Jewish dissidents using guerrilla tactics to defeat the Seleucids in a military victory of the few over the many. Judah’s famous nickname was “Maccabee,” which means “hammer,” likely a reference to his military prowess. It may also be an acronym for the Torah verse attributed to Mattithias at the beginning of the revolt: “Mi Hamokha Ba’elim Adonai?” “Who is like You, Eternal, among the mighty? (lit: other gods)”
Dreidel (Yiddish) / Se’vivon (Hebrew)
A 4-sided spinning top. Both terms are related to the word “spin”. The dreidel or sevivon has a letter on each of its 4 sides: Nuhn, Gimmel, Hay, Sheen. These letters stand for “Nes Gadol Hayah Shahm” – A great miracle occurred there. This is a reference to the Talmudic legend describing the miracle of consecrated oil burning for 8 days when there was only enough to last for one. In Israel the sevivon has a different 4th letter, Peh, corresponding to the phrase “Nes Gadol Hayah POH” – A great miracle occurred HERE! The dreidel is used in low-stakes gambling games during Hannukah, involving pennies, M & M’s, nuts or raisins as tokens. It’s traditional to play for at least as long as the Hannukah flames are burning.
Latke (Yiddish) / Le’vivah (Hebrew)
The Ashkenazic (Eastern European) holiday treat is a savory potato pancake fried in oil. It is traditionally served with sour cream and/or apple sauce. Some people prefer them plump and golden, others insist that the thin, crispy variety is superior. In addition, we have the Sephardic (Spanish) treat: Sufganiot, donuts fried in oil with sweet fillings. These are especially popular today in Israel.
Yiddish for “gold “or “money.” Traditionally small coins were given to kids by grandparents or other relatives, as a token gift or to use while playing dreidel. Today, candy companies make a foil-covered chocolate version.
An important note here is that Hannukah is a minor holiday, and not a main gift-giving occasion. The Jewish festivals of Rosh HaShanah and Purim were the traditional times for gifts.
Hug Ureem Sa’me’ah – A Joyous Festival of Lights!
The traditional greeting/blessing we say to each other during Hannukah.
Please mark your calendars for these upcoming events.
- Saturday-Sunday, 12/24-25/2016, 24-25 Kislev, 5777: Christmas at the Mercy Home. Please see separate article in Ram’s Horn.
- Saturday, 12/24/2016—Saturday, 01/01/2017, 24 Kislev — 3 Tevet, 5777: Chanukkah.
- Saturday, 12/24/2016, 24 Kislev, 5777, 5:30 P.M.: Erev Chanukah. We will light the first candle of the Diane Kaplan Memorial Chanukkiah at the Civic Center. If you come at 5:30.30, you’ll probably miss it, especially if it is cold.
- Sunday, 12/25/2016, 25 Kislev, 5777: First day of Chanukah. We will light the second candle at the Civic Center at precisely 5:30 P.M.
- Monday, 12/26/2016, 26 Kislev, 5777: Second day of Chanukah. We will light the third candle at the Civic Center at precisely 5:30 P.M.
- Tuesday, 12/27/2016, 27 Kislev, 5777: Third day of Chanukah. We will light the fourth candle at the Civic Center at precisely 5:30 P.M.
- Wednesday, 12/28/2016, 28 Kislev, 5777, 12:00 P.M.: Menorah lighting at the Montana State Capitol in Helena, followed by a MAJCo meeting at 1:00 P.M.
- Wednesday, 12/28/2016, 28 Kislev, 5777: Fourth day of chanukah. We will light the fifth candle at the Civic Center at precisely 5:30 P.M.
- Thursday, 12/29/2016, 29 Kislev, 5777: Fifth day of Chanukah. We will light the sixth candle at the Civic Center at precisely 5:30 P.M.
- Friday, 12/30/2016, 1 Tevet, 5777: Sixtht day of Chanukah. We will light the seventh candle at the Civic Center at precisely 5:30 P.m. From there we will go to the home of Jerry and Nadyne Weissman, 2777 Green Briar Drive, for the annual community Chanukah party. Please bring a milchig (dairy) dish to share, and a hearty appetite for latkes and Sufganiyot.
- Saturday, 12/31/2016, 2 Tevet, 5777: Seventh day of Chanukah. We will light the eighth candle at the Civic Center at precisely 5:30 P.m.
- Sunday, 01/01/2017, 3 Tevet, 5777: Eighth day of Chanukah.
CHABAD-LUBAVITCH OF MONTANA INVITES YOU TO…
PLEASE JOIN ELI & BEREL, THE VISITING YESHIVA STUDENTS, WHO WILL ATTEND THE GRAND MENORAH LIGHTING @ THE CIVIC CENTER
TONIGHT DEC. 10, 5:30 PM
SUFGANIYOT FROM NEW YORK WILL BE SERVED
UPDATE: The road conditions for these young men were just too great to overcome. After the meetings and funeral in Helena, Nadyne, Aaron and Jerry returned in time to assist in lighting the Menorah in front of the Civic Center. We gave out the Sufganiyot from Brooklyn and they were enjoyed. The final box of these sugared jelly filled fried pastries were taken to Paris Gibson Square and given to them for their art opening on Thursday evening by Mimi and Gary Wolf.
Again thanks to Lubavitch Montana for providing.
Rabbi Kalman Packouz (Originally a Reform Jew from coastal Oregon) and now the sender of Aitz Ha Torah, sent this out today. I like the Latke beginning and am reminded of a young Jewish recruit to the US Army in WW II, who went to the Army Doctor and told him that he was dying. “Why “asked the Doctor, “Well”, he replied,” I have been eating the Army food for two months now and my fire has gone out!”
Mikeitz (Genesis 41:1-44:17)
GOOD MORNING! A friend of mine told me that as he grows older he experiences a personal miracle on Hanukah. He eats one potato latka — and it burns for eight days.
I share with you this week two stories about Hanukah — my Hanukah gift to you!
I heard the following story years ago when I lived in Israel and to the best of my knowledge it is true. Before the USSR let the Jews leave for Israel, Jews used to hire a guide to smuggle them out of Russia. One Hanukah a group of Jews were playing “cat and mouse” with a Soviet army patrol as they approached the border. When the guide thought they had lost the patrol, he announced an half-hour break before continuing the trek. One of the escapees, hearing the “magic” number of “one-half hour” — the minimum time a Hanukah candle must be lit to fulfill the mitzvah — pulls out his menorah, sets up the candles, says the blessing and starts to light the candles. The other escapees immediately pounce upon him and the menorah to put out the candles — just as the Soviet patrol moves in and completely encircles them!
The head of the army patrol speaks: “We were just about to open fire and wipe you out when I saw that man lighting the Hanukah candles. I was overcome with emotion; I remember my zaideh (grandfather) lighting Hanukah candles …. I have decided to let you go in peace.”
There is a verse in the Book of Psalms, (chapter 116, verse 6), “The Almighty protects fools.” Should he have lit the candle? NO! The Talmud tells us (Ta’anis 20b), “One should not put himself in a place of danger saying, ‘Let a miracle happen.’ ” So, while the story is one of action, adventure, suspense … the real lesson is not to rely upon a miracle to save you from danger … but to be thankful if the Almighty performs one to save you!
The second story was sent to me years ago. I was never able to verify it, but I love the story. I offer a prize of $100 to the first person who can prove it true! The story: Young private Winneger was with the U.S. Army as it marched through Europe at the end of World War II. His unit was assigned to a European village with the orders to secure the town, search for any hiding Nazis and to help the villagers any way they could.
Winneger was on patrol one night when he came across a young boy with an ornate menorah. The menorah was his only possession and his only remnant from his family. The boy had survived a concentration camp and was mistrustful of all men in uniforms. He had been forced to watch the shooting of his father. He had no idea what had become of his mother. Winneger calmed the boy, assured him that he himself was Jewish and brought him back to the village.
In the weeks that followed, Winneger took the young boy, David, under his wing. As they became closer and closer, Winneger’s heart went out to the boy. He offered to adopt David and bring him back to New York. David accepted.
Winneger was active in the New York Jewish community. An acquaintance of his, a curator of the Jewish Museum in Manhattan, saw the menorah. He told David it was a very valuable historic, European menorah and should be shared with the entire Jewish Community. He offered David $50,000 for the menorah.
But David refused the generous offer saying the menorah had been in his family for over 200 years and that no amount of money could ever make him sell it.
When Hanukah came, David and Winneger lit the menorah in the window of their home in New York City. David went upstairs to his room to study while Winneger stayed downstairs in the room with the menorah.
There was a knock on the door and Winneger went to answer. He found a woman with a strong German accent who said that she was walking down the street when she saw the menorah in the window. She said that she had once had one just like it in her family and had never seen any other like it. Could she come and take a closer look?
Winneger invited her in and said that the menorah belonged to his son who could perhaps tell her more about it. Winneger went upstairs and called David down to talk to the woman … and that is how David was reunited with his mother.
That’s the place to be Sunday evening after the lighting of the first candle of the Diane Kaplan Memorial Chanukkiah at the Great Falls Civic Center at precisely 5:30 P.M. Who knows, maybe one of the following 17 latke recipes from the Los Angeles Times will be served there, and become the new Aitz Chaim Congregation favorite.
Please mark your calendars to remind you of these upcoming events.
- Monday, 12/07/2015—Monday, 12/14/2015: Chanukkah.
- Sunday, 12/06/2015, 5:30 P.M.: Erev Chanukah. We will light the first candle of the Diane Kaplan Memorial Chanukkiah at the Civic Center. If you come at 5:30.30, you’ll probably miss it, especially if it is cold. From there we will go to the home of Jerry and Nadyne Weissman, 2777 Greenbriar Drive, for the annual community Chanukah party. Please bring a milchig (dairy) dish to share, and a hearty appetite for latkes and Sufganiyot. Please see separate article in Ram’s Horn.
- Monday, 12/07/2015: First day of Chanukah. We will light the second candle at the Civic Center at precisely 5:30 P.M.
- Tuesday, 12/08/2015: Second day of Chanukah. We will light the third candle at the Civic Center at precisely 5:30 P.M.
- Wednesday, 12/09/2015: Third day of Chanukah. We will light the fourth candle at the Civic Center at precisely 5:30 P.M.
- Thursday, 12/10/2015: Fourth day of chanukah. We will light the fifth candle at the Civic Center at precisely 5:30 P.M.
- Thursday, 12/10/2015, 12:00 P.M.: Annual MAJCO Chanukiah lighting at the Capitol Rotunda in Helena. Please see separate article in Ram’s Horn.
- Friday, 12/11/2015, Fifth day of Chanukah. We will light the sixth candle at the Civic Center at precisely 5:30 P.M.
- Saturday, 12/12/2015: Sixtht day of Chanukah. We will light the seventh candle at the Civic Center at precisely 5:30 P.m.
- Saturday, 12/12/2015, 4:00 P.M.: Helena Community Chanukah potluck and celebration. Please see separate article in Ram’s Horn.
- Sunday, 12/13/2015: Seventh day of Chanukah. We will light the eight candle at the Civic Center at precisely 5:30 P.m.
- Monday, 12/14/2015: Eighth day of Chanukah.
- Thursday/Friday, 12/24-25/2015: Christmas at the Mercy Home. Please see separate article in Ram’s Horn.
Now that Thanksgiving is behind us, we can look forward to Chanukah that begins this year on Sunday, December 6th ( just one week from today!).
We will be gathering at the State Capitol rotunda on Thursday, December 10th at high noon for our annual MAJCO chanukiah lighting ceremony and speeches. Everyone is welcome and encouraged to tell their friends. “You don’t have to be Jewish”. The more the merrier. Set up and schmoozing begins at 11a.m. Immediately following this program, we will hold a MAJCO board meeting. Room to be determined. All are welcome to attend.
Then, on Saturday, December 12th, the Helena Jewish Community is hosting a Chanukah potluck and celebration. This program will begin at 4pm in The Forum ( on the 2nd floor) of Touchmark on Saddle Dr. ( 915 Saddle Dr.) At that time, Rabbi Ed will offer a shiur (Jewish study session) on the topic of religious zealotry, focusing on the Chanukah story which begins (in 1 Maccabees chapter 2, as follows:
“A Jew came forward in the sight of all to offer a [Greek style] sacrifice upon the altar in Modein, according to the king’s command.  When Mattathias saw it, be burned with zeal and his heart was stirred. He gave vent to righteous anger; he ran and killed him upon the altar.  At the same time he killed the king’s officerwho was forcing them to sacrifice, and he tore down the altar.  Thus he burned with zeal for the law, as Phinehas did against Zimri the son of Salu.”
At this shiur, we will look at what the Jewish tradition, and especially the Talmud, have to say about this part of the Chanukah story, the preceding Pinchas story, and religious zealotry in general. You may find it surprising. The shiur will be open to whoever wishes to do some Chanukah learning.
Immediately following this study session, we will hold havdalah, followed by chanukiah lighting and a vegetarian potluck. This is a rare opportunity to partake of a little Jewish learning, socializing and holiday celebration right here in Helena. Hope you can attend.
Shavuah tov ( have a good week),
Submitted by Janet Tatz