All should know 8 things about Hanukah

| December 4, 2015 | 0 Comments


Chaplain (Lt.) Emily Rosenzweig
3rd Radio Battalion
Marine Corps Base Hawaii

Are you up-to-date on the things you should know about Hanukah? Review these eight things and learn about this Jewish holiday season.

1) There is no right way to spell Hanukah in English.

In Hebrew, Hanukah is spelled: khet-nun-kaf-hey.

The letter “khet” is a guttural letter that doesn’t have a direct English equivalent. It sounds like the “ch” sound in Bach, but not the “ch” sound in cheese. As many of us are accustomed to pronouncing “ch” at the start of the word like cheese, some writers drop the “c” from the holiday’s name.

“Kh” is the academic standard for transliterating the letter khet, but not everyone knows that, so it wouldn’t really help. Doubling the n’s or k’s in the spelling is due to Hebrew grammatical details that the writer may or may not be aware of.

The final “h” reflects the silent letter “hey” in the Hebrew, but a silent letter isn’t required in the English. So Hanukah, Hannukah, Hanukkah, Hanuka, Hanukka, Chanukah, Channukkah, and even Khanukah could all be correct.

2) Hanukah is a Jewish holiday, but doesn’t appear in the Jewish Bible.

The Jewish Bible does not contain the First or Second Book of Maccabees, which tell the Hanukah story, or the Book of Judith, which relates another tale of the fight against the Greek army. Those books are part of the Apocrypha (a number of books included in the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Bibles, but not considered part of the Jewish or Protestant versions of the Bible).

3) There are two main types of food eaten during Hanukah.

Fried foods – latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganiyot (jelly donuts) – recall the miracle of the small amount of sanctified oil lasting eight days during the rededication of the Temple in the days of the Maccabees. Cheese is also associated with Hanukah because of the story of Judith and her assassination of Holofernes around the time of the Maccabees.

In order to kill the Greek general, Judith fed him salty cheese, and when he grew thirsty, she gave him wine to drink until he passed out.

4) Hanukah recalls an insurgency and a civil war.

The Maccabees were a Jewish rebel group who fought against the Seleucid (Greek) Empire and its military and political occupation of Judea. They also battled the Greek cultural influence in Judea and their fellow Jews who had adopted Hellenized thought and behavior.

Ironically, it was Greek practice to mark military victories by creating a holiday.

5) Hanukah also commemorates the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem.

One of the ways the Greek empire dominated conquered peoples was by turning local places of worship into temples for the Greek gods. When the Seleucids took over Jerusalem, they erected a statue of Zeus in the Jews’ Temple.

After defeating the Greeks in battle, the Maccabees had to clean and rededicate the Temple in order to use it for worship. To complete the rededication, they needed to light the menorah, the lamp, but there was only a small amount of oil appropriate to use in the Temple. They needed eight days to make more oil, and miraculously the small amount lasted that long.

6) Every hanukiah is a menorah, but not every menorah is a hanukiah.

A menorah is a candelabra with any number of branches. The sacred space of the Temple was lit with a seven-branched menorah. Because the oil lasted for eight days, though, the holiday of Hanukah is celebrated with a nine-branched candelabra – one branch for each of the eight days and one branch to hold the candle that lights the other ones.

7) It may be that the original Hanukah was a Jewish Thanksgiving.

Many historians believe that the Maccabees were in such a hurry to restore the Temple because they wanted to observe the Jewish holiday of Sukkot.

According to the Bible, Sukkot should be celebrated in the early fall as a way of giving thanks for the harvest and praying for the future planting and growing seasons.

Because they were fighting a war, the Maccabees were unable to observe Sukkot at the appointed time, but needed to do so as soon as the fighting was done.

Sukkot and Hanukah are both eight days long and involve lighting extra lights in order to celebrate.

8) The Schofield Barracks Community Hanukah celebration will be held on Tuesday, Dec. 8.

Everyone is welcome to join with Jewish Soldiers and families to light the hanukiah on the third night of the festival. There will be music, games, family activities, and (of course) delicious food. This joyous event will be held at the Main Post Chapel at 6 p.m.

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Category: Footsteps in Faith, News, Observances

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