Ten Interesting Facts About Hanukkah. (Podcast)

Ten Interesting Facts About Hanukkah

  1. The traditional Hanukkah dreidel is a throwback to the times when the Greek armies of King Antiochus controlled the Holy Land, before the Maccabees defeated them. The powerful regime passed a series of laws outlawing the study of Torah and many of the mitzvot (commandments). The Jews were compelled to take their Torah learning “underground.” Jewish children resorted to learning Torah in outlying areas and forests. It is said that if a Greek patrol passed by they would quickly pull out and play with small tops. The Hanukkah dreidel games are a salute to these Jewish heroes of yore.
  2. The modern dreidel game is played for fun. Whoever wins the game gets chocolate coins or candies. Each of the four faces of the dreidel have a Hebrew letter written on them: nun ׁ(נ), gimel (ג), hay (ה), and shin (ש). This is an acronym for nes gadol hayah sham, which means, “a great miracle happened there,” referring to the victory over Antiochus and his armies. Depending on which letter on the dreidel lands facing up, the player will either get the full pot, half the pot, nothing, or will have to add one chocolate coin to the pot.
  3. The menorah used during Hanukkah is different from the menorah used in the temple. The temple menorah has seven branches and was only to be used in the service of the temple. The Hanukkah menorah, called a hanukkiah, has nine branches and is only used during this festival. 
  4. Hanukkah is not mentioned in the Torah, because the events it commemorates did not happen until after the books were canonized. However, it is mentioned in the Gospel of John, where it is called the Festival of Dedication (John 10:22). It is also mentioned in the Book of Maccabees, which is canonical in Catholic Bibles, but not in Protestant Bibles.
  5. The middle candle of the Hanukkah menorah is called the shamash, which means “servant,” or “attendant.” This should remind us of Yeshua, Who came to serve and to give His life for us (Mark 10:45; Philippians 2:7).
  6. Every night, the shamash candle is lit and is used to light the other candles in the hanukkiah. On the first night, one candle is added to the menorah and lit, traditionally in the slot which is furthest to the right. On the second night, another candle is added to the left of the one from yesterday, and the candles are lit from left-to-right. This process continues until the eighth night, when all nine candles are lit. Since the shamash represents Yeshua, the act of lighting the other candles with the shamash should remind us of how Yeshua, the Light of the World, commanded us to follow His example, being light (Matthew 5:14-16; John 8:12; Philippians 2:15) and serving (Luke 17:7-10; Philippians 2:3; 1 Peter 4:10).
  7. The candles of the menorah are lit shortly after sunset in some traditions and shortly after nightfall in other traditions. The candles that light the menorah are not supposed to be the only source of light in the room. Doing so would be considered misusing the menorah, since its purpose is commemorative and holy rather than practical. In addition, from the time the candles are lit until 30 minutes after nightfall it is customary that no work is done. Instead, this should be a time to sit around the menorah and tell stories or play the dreidel game.
  8. It is customary to eat potato pancakes, called latkes, during Hanukkah. Since the latkes are fried in oil, this reminds us of the miracle that God did when He made the one-day’s supply of oil for the temple menorah last a full eight days. For this reason, jelly doughnuts (fried in oil) are also eaten on this holiday.
  9. Another culinary tradition is to eat cheese latkes or other cheese products. This commemorates the events recorded in the non-canonical Book of Judith, which tells the story of a Jewish woman named Judith who gives a feast, including cheese, for one of Nebuchadnezzar’s generals who is encamped at her village. Using his drunkenness as an opportunity, Judith kills the general, which inspires the Israelites to drive out the invading armies. Even though the standard form of this story is set centuries before the events that inspired Hanukkah, other versions instead have it set during the time of Antiochus, and these variants inspired the connection between Judith and Hanukkah.
  10. It is customary for parents and grandparents to give children gelt (money) during Hanukkah. A tithe (10%) is given to charity, and the rest can be spent for wholesome purposes. This teaches children the beauty of generosity. Additionally, it is customary for adults to give more to charity during Hanukkah as well. Giving generously became associated with Hanukkah because Antiochus took over the possessions of the Jewish people and used them for ungodly purposes. In this world, where we have the freedom of using our money how we wish, we have the opportunity to do the opposite of Antiochus by using our money for holy purposes.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *