The History of Hanukkah



The Hanukkah message is very timely. It speaks about the downfall of Greece, Syria, the Arab Spring, and even the United Nations.

What does this have to do with Hanukkah. 

Listen to the Hanukkah Message


Color Presentation: PDF/Hanukkah_001.pdf

Print the Handout: PDF/Hanukkah_001_Handout.pdf


The traditional greeting Jews extend to one another during this holiday is hag orim same'ach. Happy Feast of Lights! Happy Hanukkah!

This is the Jewish year 5775, which is the year 2015 to most of the world. Hanukkah begins on the 25 of Kislev, which begins Tuesday Evening, December 16th, 2014.  We will have a special service at the synagogue on the Fifth Night of Hanukkah,  Saturday, December 20th, 2014 at 6:00 pm. Everyone is welcome to attend.  

Our service will be held at the Baymont Inn in Maryland Farms, Brentwood. It is behind the Publix on Old Hickory Boulevard. 

We will have some refreshments afterwards. 

Hanukkah is a Jewish festival that occurs in December (on the 25th day of the Hebrew month Kislev), Hanukkah, also spelled Chanukah, marks the rededication of the Temple of Jerusalem after its recapture from the Syrian Greeks c.165 BC. A legend of a miracle is recorded in the Talmud--the burning of a day's supply of pure olive oil for eight days, until fresh jars of clean oil could be brought into the temple--accounts for the eight days during which candles are kindled during Chanukah. The eight-branched menorah, candelabrum has become a symbol of the holiday. The Book of Second Maccabees, one of the earliest sources on the origins of Hanukkah, connects the eight days of the festival with the eight-day observance of Sukkot, the feast of Tabernacles. According to the text, the first Hanukkah in 164 B.C.E. was celebrated as a delayed Sukkot, since the Maccabees had been unable to observe the holiday properly while they were fighting in the hills. That first Hanukkah observance featured wands wreathed with leaves branches and palm leaves also known as the lulav.

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Hanukkah commemorates the restoration of the Holy Temple.


The Maccabees were a family of village priests from Moidin near Jerusalem who, in 168 BC, instigated an uprising to defend Judaism against both the SELEUCIDS, the Hellenistic rulers of Syria-Palestine, and Jews who had become Greek assimilationists or Hellenists.


Maccabee - MA-KAH-BEE - it means MALLET or HAMMER and refers to the hammer-like blows that Judah levied against the Syrian forces in his march to victory. When read: MAC-BEE - it means EXTINGUISHED or VANQUISHED. It was also an acrostic for the first letters of the verse in Exodus 15:11, which read: MI CHAMOCHA BAELIM ADONAI - WHO IS LIKE UNTO THEE, O LORD, AMONG THE GODS.  Thus, the name is derived from the epithet Maccabeus ("hammer" or "extinguisher") bestowed on the most famous member of the family, Judas (d. 161 BC).

The uprising began when the aged Mattathias--father of Judas and great-great-grandson of Hasmon (hence the name Hasmoneans also applied to the family)--killed an apostate Jew who was about to offer sacrifice to Zeus on an altar set up by the Seleucid King ANTIOCHUS IV EPIPHANES in the Temple precincts at Jerusalem. Mattathias's five sons carried on the uprising, three of them successively in leadership roles: Judas, Jonathan (d. 143), and Simon (d. 135). I could not locate the information about the two other sons, so we will call them Levi and Larry for now.

The MACCABEES, leaders of the Jews who fought against the Syrian Greeks, instituted Chanukah. The Maccabees took over as the priests of the Temple and as the rulers of the Jewish State that they founded. Songs and stories associated with the holiday therefore refer to the Maccabees, particularly to Judas Maccabee, and to their victory: "the weak over the strong, the few over the many, and those who fear Thy Name over those who desecrate it." Chanukah is also called the Festival of Lights, the Feast of Dedication, or the Feast of Maccabees. The New Testament speaks of Hanukkah. It says in the book of John, Chapter 10 verse 22-28; "At that time the Feast of Hanukkah (Dedication) took place at Jerusalem; it was winter, and Yeshua (the Hebrew name of Jesus) was walking in the temple in the portico of Solomon. The Jews (Jewish Leaders) therefore gathered around Him, and were saying to Him, "How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly."


The procedure of illuminating Hanukkah lights: The Shamash (Servant Messiah) candle has its own special place. Start placing the others at the far right. Add one candle for each of the eight nights and place right to left for adding candles, left to right for lighting candles.

The center, highest light (which is sometimes found on the side of the menorah) is the "shamash." This candle represents the Messiah the Light of the World.  Since one is not supposed to use the lights of the menorah for personal benefit, the shamash (lit. "helpers or servant") is used every day to light the other candles.

Throughout the 8 days of Chanukah, the candles are placed in the Menorah from right to left, but are lit from left to right.

On the first night, place to the far right, and then place the servant candle in its special place (usually stands higher than the others).  Light the Servant candle then light and use the flame of the servant candle to light the first candle.

On the second night, place two new candles starting on the right.  Place a new servant candle in its special place.  Light the Servant candle then light the others from the left to the right.  

After eight nights you should have used 44candles. ( 2 + 3 + 4 + 5 + 6 + 7 + 8 + 9 = 44).

Hanukkah Blessings:

Below you will find the traditional blessings to recite when lighting the Chanukah candles. The first two are recited every night during the candle lighting ceremony. The third is a blessing of joy and is traditionally recited at the beginning of all festivals. The third blessing is only recited on the first night.

1. Baruch ata Adonai, Eloheinu melech ha'olam Asher kid'shanu b'mitzvotav, V'tsivanu, L'hadlik ner shel Chanukah.

Praised are you, Lord our God, Ruler of the universe, who has sanctified our lives through His commandments, commanding us to kindle the Chanukah lights.

2. Baruch ata Adonai, Eloheinu melech ha'olam she'asa nisim la'avoteinu b'yamim ha'heym b'zman hazeh.

Praised are you, Lord our God, Ruler of the universe, who performed miracles for our ancestors, in those days, in this season.

3. Baruch ata Adonai, Eloheinu melech ha'olan Shehecheeyanoo, v'keey'manoo V'heegeeyanoo lazman hazeh

Praised are you, Lord our God, Ruler of the universe, for giving us life, for sustaining us, and for helping us to reach this moment.

It is a tradition to eat foods fried in oil. It doesn't sound healthy, but it is a holiday and everybody else is doing it. It's not about the potato anymore; click here for the not so traditional Designer Latkes!

 POTATO LATKES - Serves 6-8

  • 9 medium potatoes
  • 2 medium onions, minced
  • 3 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 3-4 tbsp. matzo meal (ordinary barley cereal tastes best}
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • Salad oil

Wash, peel, and grate potatoes. Place in colander and let stand for 10 minutes, then press out remaining liquid. Mix with onions (the onions may be lightly fried first) and eggs. Add matzo meal, salt, pepper, and baking powder. Mix well. Heat about 1/4 inch of salad oil in a large skillet and add soup-spoonfuls of latke mixture. Fry until golden brown on both sides. Keep in warm oven (180 degrees) until time to serve. Can be made up to a week in advance and frozen. (If not frozen, the potatoes will turn brown.) Reheat in 400-degree oven for 10 minutes. Serve with applesauce, sour cream (or plain yogurt), jam, powdered sugar, or cinnamon. Yummy.


  • 2 1/2 c. flour
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 c. hot milk
  • rind of 1 lemon or orange
  • 2 pkg. dry yeast
  • 1/2 c. butter
  • 1/4 c. lukewarm milk
  • jam for filling
  • 6 egg yolks
  • oil for frying
  • 2/3 c. sugar
  • icing sugar

Sift one cup of flour into the hot milk and beat until smooth, then allow to cool. Dissolve the yeast in the lukewarm milk, add to the flour mixture, and set aside for about half an hour. Mix the egg yolks and sugar with the vanilla and rind, and add to the dough. Add the remaining flour and the butter and knead. Allow to rise until double in bulk (about 45 minutes). Roll out on a floured board to a thickness of 1/2 inch, and cut into rounds. Put a teaspoon of jam in the center of one round, and cover it with another round. Press the edges together and allow to rise again in a warm place. Fry in hot oil, drain, and dust with icing sugar.


There is a long tradition of playing games of chance during the evenings of the holiday. Originally the dreidel was not connected with Chanukah in any way. The German Christians also had the custom of spinning a top on Christmas Eve. The Germans borrowed the game from the Greeks and Romans. The gift giving and a lot of other stuff were borrowed from the Christians.

The Dreidel is a four sided top printed with the Hebrew letters:

These letters represent the words "nes godal hayah sham" and translate into A Great Miracle Happened There.

Also the numbers in add up to

Nun = 50, Gimmel = 3, Hey = 5, Shin = 300   which equals 358.

Remarkably, this is equivalent to the exact numerical value for the word "Moshiach" (Messiah).

Mem = 40,  Shin = 300,  Yud = 10, Chet = 8   which equals 358.

The Rules of the Game:

Everyone in the game starts with 10-15 tokens (gold foil chocolate coins, nuts, raisins, pennies). Each player puts one of these into the middle (called the pot). The dreidel is spun by one player at a time. Whether he wins or loses depends on which face of the dreidel is up when it falls.

Nun means nisht or "nothing." Player does nothing.

Gimmel means gantz or "all." Player takes everything in the pot.

Hey means halb or "half." Player takes half of what is in the pot.

Shin means shtel or "put in." Player adds two objects to the pot.

When only one object or none is left in the pot, every player adds one. When an odd number of objects are in the pot, the player rolling heh, "half" takes half the total plus one. When one person has won everything the game is over.

Shalom Y'all! Come Back now, ya' hear!

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Yeshuat Yisrael - The Salvation of Israel