What is Chanukah?

TRANSLATION: Dedication
BEGINS: 25 Kislev on the Hebrew Calendar
THIS YEAR: December 12 at sundown to December 20
DURATION: 8 nights

Chanukah is to the joyous eight-day celebration during which Jews commemorate the victory of the Maccabees over the armies of Syria in 165 B.C.E. and the subsequent liberation and "rededication" of the Temple in Jerusalem. The modern home celebration of Hanukkah centers around the lighting of the chanukiyah, a special menorah for Chanukah; foods prepared in oil including latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganiyot (jelly doughnuts); and special songs and games.

Learn more about Chanukah at reformjudaism.org

Chanukah Candle Lighting Blessings

chanukkiah-square-2We light a special menorah called a Chanukiyah all 8 nights of Chanukah.

Candles are added to the Chanukiyah from right to left but are kindled (lit) starting from left to right. The newest candle is lit first.

Light the Shamash (middle or highest candle) first and use it to kindle the rest of the Chanukah lights.

 

Then say or sing:

Baruch atah, Adonai Eloheinu, Melech haolam, asher kid'shanu b'mitzvotav v'tsivanu l'hadlik ner shel Chanukah.
Blessed are You, Adonai our God, Sovereign of all, who hallows us with mitzvot, commanding us to kindle the Hanukkah lights.
Baruch atah, Adonai Eloheinu, Melech haolam, she-asah nisim laavoteinu v'imoteinu bayamim hahaeim baz'man hazeh.
Blessed are You, Adonai our God, Sovereign of all, who performed wonderous deeds for our ancestors in days of old at this season.

For first night only:
Baruch atah, Adonai Eloheinu, Melech haolam, shehecheyanu v'kiy'manu v'higianu laz'man hazeh.
Blessed are You, Adonai our God, Sovereign of all, for giving us life, for sustaining us, and for enabling us to reach this season.

Need to learn the tune? Listen to a recording of the blessings. Printable version can be found at this link as well.

Need a Chanukiyah or candles? They are available in the Sinai gift shop.

How to Play Dreidel

dreidelThe word dreidel derives from a German word meaning “spinning top,” and is the toy used in a Hanukkah game adapted from an old German gambling game. Hanukkah was one of the few times of the year when rabbis permitted games of chance. The four sides of the top bear four Hebrew letters: nun, gimmel, hey, and shin.

Players begin by putting into a central pot or “kitty” a certain number of coins, chocolate money known as gelt, nuts, buttons or other small objects. Each player in turn spins the dreidel and proceeds as follows:

  • nun – take nothing;
  • gimmel – take everything;
  • hey – take half;
  • shin – put one in.

Over time, the letters on the dreidel were reinterpreted to stand for the first letter of each word in the Hebrew statement “Neis gadol hayah sham,” which means “A great miracle happened there” and refers to the defeat of the Syrian army and the re-dedication of the Temple.  In Israel, one letter on the dreidel differs from thos eused in the rest of the world. The shin has been replaced with a pey, transforming the Hebrew statement into Neis gadol hayah po, which means“A great miracle happened here.

Basic Latka Recipe

latkesIngredients :
1 -1/2 pounds russet potatoes peeled
1/4 cup finely chopped onions or shallots
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons flour (or more)
1-1/2 teaspoons salt and freshly ground black pepper
Vegetable oil for frying

 

Grate the potatoes in a food processor or by hand. Line a sieve with cheesecloth and transfer potatoes to the sieve. Set sieve over a bowl, twist cheesecloth into a pouch, squeezing out some moisture. Let mixture drain for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, pour off liquid from the bowl but leave the white potato starch that settles in the bottom of the bowl.

To that starch add onions or shallots, eggs, flour, 1-1/2 teaspoons of salt and freshly ground pepper. Return drained potatoes to this mixture and toss to combine.

Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Line a baking pan with paper towels. When you are ready to eat, in a large skillet heat 1/4 inch of oil over medium high heat until hot. Drop heaping tablespoonfuls of potato mixture and cook for 3 to 4 minutes a side; latkas should be golden and crisp on both sides. Eat right away or keep warm in oven. Serve with applesauce or sour cream.