Sparky: Because I care - and apologies about the formatting ... We'll rip baby J a new one on the day that's supposedly his birthday ...
Family gathers to enjoy, celebrate and light the candles
- Learn about the holiday. Hanukkah is about family and faith. The holiday celebrates the triumph of faith and courage over military might, the classic underdog story. The Jews were prohibited under penalty of death from studying their sacred texts or celebrating Jewish holidays. Their holy Temple had been defiled, and they were ordered to worship other gods. A small band of faithful Jews, known as the Maccabees, rose up and defeated the invaders, reclaimed the Temple, and rededicated it to G-d. The eternal flame in the Temple's great menorah (lamp stand) had to be lit. But the sacred olive oil needed to burn in the lamp stand took 8 days to press and purify. The Jews had only a one-day supply of oil. They decided, in faith, to light the flame anyway. And, a great miracle occurred. The Temple's great menorah continued to burn for 8 days with only a small amount of oil... the exact time it took to prepare new oil! This story is even mentioned by Josephus, the first century Jewish historian (Antiquities of the Jews, Book 12, chapter 7, sections 6 and 7). Since that time, Hanukkah has been celebrated for 8 days to recall the miracle when the menorah burned for 8 days at the Temple
- Get a Hannukiah.The most basic thing you need to celebrate Hanukkah is a 9-branched candelabra, called a Hannukiah (or often a Menorah, although technically a Menorah is a 7-branched candelabra), and candles. Eight of the branches represent the eight nights, while the last one (usually higher than the rest) is called the shamash or helper candle, and is used to light the rest of the candles. On the first night, the shamash is lit, a blessing is recited, and the first candle is lit. On the second night, the shamash plus two candles are lit and so on until the eighth night, when all nine branches contain lit candles. You should place the candles to the right, but you always light the left (newest) candle first. Traditionally, the lighted Hannukiah is placed near a window, so that everyone passing by can remember the miracle of Hanukkah. Some families that place the Hannukiah near the window light the candles left to right so that it appears right to left to a passer-by.
Menorah is lit every night and each night gifts are given out to celebrate.
- Play dreidel. A four sided top, called a dreidel or sivivon is used to play a gambling game with small candies or nuts. Players get an equal amount of candies, and some are placed into a "pot" in the center. Players take turns spinning the dreidel. Each side of the dreidel bears a letter which tells the players whether to put in or take out candies. The game ends when someone has all the candies, or when the candies have all been eaten (usually the case in homes with small children!)
- Give small tokens to children. Small gifts of toys or money (gelt) are given to children on each night of Hanukkah. Chocolate coins are also popular as treats and gifts during Hanukkah. Be creative with your gifts, especially as children grow older. For example, in addition to a small trinket, consider giving each child a 5 dollar blank check each night to make out to the charity of their choice. Celebrate sending these gifts to those who need a miracle in their own lives.
- Eat the foods cooked in oil. Hanukkah just wouldn't be the same without the traditional latkes and applesauce. Latkes, pancakes made from shredded potatoes, onions, matzoh meal and salt, are fried in oil to crispy gold brown, then served with applesauce (and often sour cream). The frying oil reminds celebrants of the miracle of the oil. Small powdered sugar donuts, called sufgeniot are also a popular Hanukkah treat, especially in Israel.
Grandma enjoys frying the latkes and it is a typical tradition
- Practice Tikun Olam Use the holiday as a chance to talk with children about what they believe in, and what it means to stand up for your beliefs. Find causes that support free speech and religious freedom, and help them to spread those messages centuries after the miracle of Hanukkah.
- Don't try to make Hanukkah compete with Christmas. Although they occur at about the same time of year, they are not related in any way. Enjoy the holiday for what it means to our lives today about faith, and standing up for one's beliefs in the face of strong opposition.
- Hanukkah can be spelled a number of ways, including Chanukah, Chanukkah, Hanukkah...all are correct, as the word is a transliteration of a word in Hebrew.
- As well as being a time for the whole family, Hanukkah is a time for fun and enjoyment. Don't forget that.
- Always watch lighted candles carefully. Do not place the Hannukia on a ledge, near the edge or a surface, or near anything that might catch on fire. Be sure that small children, long hair, and loose clothing stay away from the flames.
- Do not blow the candles out unless it is absolutely necessary. The object is to let the candles burn until they are gone. Unless you are leaving the house and have no one to attend to the candles, let them go for as long as possible. If you're worried about creating a mess, use non-drip candles, or place foil underneath the Hannukiah.
The most central feature of the Jewish Festival of Lights is the Chanukiya. Every evening for 8 days, one extra light is included in those that are lit until at the end of the week, you have all the lights lit. The center or tallest one, which is above all the lights is always lit as well. On the first night of Chanukah, two lights are lit, the center one, and one on the bottom. At the end of the 8 days this is how the Chanukiya looks. This is the cermony for the Chanukiya lighting.
- Begin at sunset of the 24th day of the month known in Hebrew as Kislev. (The Jewish calendar is very complicated, so just look up this year's date).
- Call everyone in the house into the room just before sunset. You are going to light the candles at sunset and let them burn until they go out on their own--which should be about 40 minutes or so.
- Station the Chanukiyas (each member of the family can have his or her own) near a window for all the world to see. In the Jewish tradition of Chanukah's, there has been a commandment to publicize the miracle of Chanukah each night of the eight day Chanukah season. This is no time to be hiding your light under a bushel.
- Place one candle in the far right position. Then place the Shamash in the central position. Be sure to put the candles in from right to left, and to light them from left to right.
- Say all three blessings as seen below, and at this time, light the Shamash and use the Shamash to light the far right candle.
- Baruk Atah Adonai Eloheynu Melek Ha-olam Asher Kiddeeshonu Be-mitzvasov Vi-tsivonu Lehadlik Ner Shel Chunukah.
- Baruk Atah Adonai Eloheynu Melek Ha-olam She-asa Nissim La-avoteynu Ba-yamim Ha-hem Ba-zzman Ha-zzeh.
- Baruk Atah Adonai Eloheynu Melek Ha-olam Sha-hekheeyonu Ve-keeyeemonu Ve-heeggee'onu La-zzman Ha-zzeh.
- after each blessing, everyone need to say "Amen"
- the third prayer is generally only said on the first night. All other nights only the first two are said.
- Replace the Shamash.
- Remember not to extinguish the candles, but to let them run their course.
- Using the Chanukah candles for anything other than just to look at them is forbidden. Therefore the eight candles in the Chanukah Chanukiya are accompanied by the Shamash. This candle, which marks the central spot, is used to light the others.
- Roughly speaking, the blessings mean:
- Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, who has sanctified us by His commandments, and has commanded us to kindle the lights of Hanukkah
- Blessed are you, Lord our God, King of the universe, who wrought miracles for our fathers in days of old, at this season.
- Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, who has kept us alive, and has preserved us, and enabled us to reach this time.
- *Place a plate under the candles so that the wax does not drip onto the tablecloth.
- Use an electric Chanukiyaif you have small children around, and fear for them touching the lit candles.
- Electric Chanukiya can be placed in front of the windows, so you can see them from the street. You can use them in more than one window and in more than one room.
- Keep the candles away from any articles that might catch on fire.
- Make sure that the children cannot reach or touch them
- On Fridays, the menorah must be lit before sunset and before lighting the Shabbat candles. Long-lasting Chanukah candles should be used on this day, as the Chanukah lights must last until at least 30 minutes after nightfall (approximately 72 minutes after sunset). Tea lights will do the trick!
Things You'll Need
- Electric Menorah if you prefer
How to Play Dreidel
Dreidel is a traditional Hebrew game played during the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah. It shares its name with a four-sided top that has four letters. Together, the letters are a Hebrew acronym for, "Nes Gadol Haya Sham" or, "a great miracle happened there." With a dreidel and some tokens, you can take part in this holiday tradition, too!
- Get a group of people together. You can play with as few as two, but the more the merrier!
- Distribute the tokens evenly among all of the players. The tokens can be any little thing: pennies, nuts, raisins, matchsticks, etc.
- Direct each player to place one token in the middle of the circle to create "the pot."
- Take turns spinning the dreidel. (In some variations of the game, it always starts with the youngest player.) The dreidel will land in such a way that one and only one letter shows on top. According to the letter appearing, the player should perform the following action:
- Pass the dreidel on to the next player.
- Keep playing until someone wins by collecting all the tokens in the pot!
- If the pot empties, or has only one token left, each player should put another token in the pot.
- If a player runs out of tokens, he either leaves the game or takes a loan of tokens from another player.
- A fun variation is to use chocolate instead of coins, so you can eat your winnings when the game ends.
- In Israel, the letter shin is usually replaced with the letter peh for the word "poh" to create the phrase "a great miracle happened here."
- In another version of the game, you may match the pot when Shin appears, and put one in when Nun appears.
- In Yiddish, the dreidel is also called "fargle" and "varfl." In Israel, the Hebrew term "sevivon" (from the root meaning "turn around or spin") is used.
Things You'll Need
- A few dozen tokens: buttons, coins, or small candies.
Now the hard part.
How to Convert to JudaismJudaism is among the seminal religions of the world and is considered by many to be the first mono-theistic religion (in which only one G-d is worshiped). It preceded Islam in tracing its shared roots back to Abraham, a patriarch of the Torah, the holiest book to Judaism. It preceded Christianity by as much as four thousand years and, in fact, the fictional “Jesus of Nazareth” was supposed Jewish. What Christians refer to as the "Old Testament" is, in fact, the original Hebrew Bible. While this religion is celebrated by many, it may not be right for everyone. If, after deep consideration, you decide to convert to Judaism, follow these steps.
- Speak with your family about your intention to convert. This can often be a touchy subject among families, so be sure to explain your reasoning and desire to become Jewish. Make sure that you and they are comfortable with your decision to leave your former religion.
- Talk to as many people as you can about Judaism and its principles, philosophies, and customs. Through these conversations and careful study, determine what it is about Judaism that attracts you. Be sure that you are comfortable with leaving your former religion and its customs behind.
- If you are converting because of marriage, speak with your future husband/wife to determine the best course of action, including what denomination you will join. There are three main branches, all with differing levels of observance and ritual: Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform.
- Once you feel that you have sufficient reason to convert, make an appointment with a Rabbi to discuss the process.
- This is not a short process. It will take several months of study (length depending on what denomination you have decided to join), and will almost certainly include learning some Hebrew and proving your knowledge of Jewish history and culture. In Orthodox Judaism, an official questioning about adherence to the Halacha, in Jewish court will take place as part of the conversion proceedings.
- Possibly, as the final step in the conversion process, you will take a test on all you have learned. Good luck!
- If you pass the test, you have successfully converted to the Jewish religion, but realize that you have made a commitment to a certain belief system and lifestyle. Especially in Orthodox communities, the religion is not something to be taken lightly, and you will want to continue to learn and practice its rituals.
- Although not necessary, some choose to have a Bar or Bat Mitzvah. A Bar or Bat Mitzvah is when a boy (usually thirteen) or a girl (traditionally twelve but sometimes thirteen) is considered old enough to read from the Torah (Girls never read from the Torah in Orthodox communities). They are required to perform Mitzvot (commandments from the Torah, often mistranslated as 'good deeds'; though this is what they usually are, this is not the literal translation). It is a "Minhag" (custom which is accepted into law but not an official commandment)to lead a Torah reading service soon after you are bar-mitzvahed(usually within a month). Most Bar or Bat Mitzvahs nowadays are followed by a big party, although the party is strictly optional, has no bearing on the mitzva being performed, and can be customized to your religion and financial level.
- Another idea is to have a Jewish name. Jewish babies are given Jewish names at their bris (boys) or at a naming ceremony (girls). Some popular Jewish names are Avraham, Yitzchak, Ya'akov (boys), Sarah, Rivka, Leah, Rahel (girls). These are the names of the fathers and mothers of Judaism.
- If you intend to convert to Orthodox Judaism, be aware that, unlike other religions, Orthodox does not actively seek converts, and you will be advised to live a moral life without being Jewish several times. This may be the right path for you - consider it carefully.
- Males converting to Orthodox Judaism are required to be circumcised. If you are already circumcised, a drop of blood will suffice. Both males and females must take a ritual bath, which may sometimes be difficult.
- Be prepared for anti-semitism, or anti-Jewish sentiment. Though the world has become more tolerant toward Jews, there are still many groups around the world with hatred towards those who follow the religion.
- If you decide not to convert to Orthodox, keep in mind that: 1) An Orthodox conversion is accepted by all other groups (Reform, Conservative, etc.) while the others are NOT. 2) If you are a woman, your children WILL NOT be considered Jewish by Jewish law and may have difficulty getting into some Jewish schools. 3) If your spouse becomes more religious in the future (which is happening a lot these days), you may need to reconvert and/or remarry in accordance with Jewish law. All this is according to Orthodox practice, however. A Conservative conversion will be seen as legitimate (no different than if you were born Jewish) in every capacity by Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist Judaism. Reform conversion is often accepted along similar lines, but not always. And even if you convert via Orthodox routes, it is not guaranteed that all Orthodox authorities will accept your conversion as authentic.
- It is Jewish tradition for a rabbi when asked for help with conversion to refuse the prospective Jew three times, so in some cases, you need to be persistent if being Jewish is what you really want.
Things You'll Need
- A Rabbi
- suggested reading:
- To Be a Jew: A Guide to Jewish Observance in Contemporary Life by Hayim Halevy Donin
- To Pray As a Jew: A Guide to the Prayer Book and the Synagogue Service by Hayim Halevy Donin
- Why be Jewish? by David Wolpe
- Why Marry Jewish? by Doron Kornbluth