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A Partisan's Guide To Hanukkah



A Guide To The Celebration of Hanukkah 5779/2018


         Hanukkah is an eight-day festival beginning on the 25th of Kislev (Sunday evening, December 2nd) and lasting through the 2nd of Tevet (Monday, December 10th).


Lighting Times For The Menorah 

At Kol Ami

(in the south parking lot)

 Sunday, December 2 (1st night)   6:30 pm


Monday, December 3 (2nd night)   7:30 pm

Tuesday, December 4 (3rd night)  7:30 pm

Wednesday, December 5 (4th night)  7:30 pm

Thursday, December 6 (5th night) 7:30 pm


Friday, December 7 (6th night) 5:15 pm (Shabbat service at 

6:30 pm)


Saturday, December 8 (7th night)   6:30 pm (Havdalah & Candlelighting)


Sunday, December 9 (8th night)   6:30 pm



The Hanukkah Story You

Probably Didn't Know!


         As with other festivals in the Jewish year, there seems to be a dual origin to Hanukkah-seasonal and historical.  The historical story is quite well known.  The Maccabee family, led by brother Judah, started a revolt/civil war against the occupying Syrian forces and the assimilated Temple leadership in Jerusalem around the year 165 BCE.  They succeeded in forcing the Syrians to make peace and give them control of Jerusalem and its surrounding environs.  The Maccabees celebrated the victory with the inauguration of Hanukkah.  Each subsequent year, the holiday was celebrated as a tribute to the Maccabean ruler in power.  By the 1st century of the Common Era, the rabbis of the Talmud had grown weary of this celebration that honored descendants of the original Maccabees, many of whom were no longer worthy of the tribute.  Nonetheless, the holiday had found appeal among the people.  It was at this time that the rabbis introduced the "miracle of the oil" attempting to turn attention away from the Maccabees. 


         Not only were the rabbis concerned about paying tribute to less-than-worthy descendants, they were also opposed to the miracle of  "a few prevailing against the many".  "Miracles", such as this, encouraged zealotry in the place of reason and sensible decision.  It is worth noting that every Jewish holiday has its own tractate (book) in the Talmud, with the exception of Hanukkah.  The only Talmudic references to Hanukkah appear in Tractate Shabbat.  We learn about the history of Hanukkah from the Books of the Maccabees; books which the ancient rabbis decided not to include in the canon of the Hebrew Bible.  The only regular mention of the role of the Maccabees in Hanukkah from ancient Jewish texts is the prayer "Al Ha'nisim" which appears in the daily service during Hanukkah.  This prayer preceded the Talmud and rabbinic history.


         In modern times, we've come to understand the two stories of Hanukkah as one: The Maccabees gloriously re-conquered the Temple and discovered the single vile of oil that burned for eight days.


         There is also a seasonal dimension to the holiday.  Long before the Maccabees, there was an established pagan winter festival celebrating the winter solstice (the darkest time of year).  The festival had to do with the gradual increase in daylight after the ominous, steadily darkening days of late autumn.  A number of legends connect Hanukkah with this winter solstice celebration.  Another motif had to do with the kindling of fire, reported as an ancient Jewish custom at the dedication of the Temple altar.  A third motif related to the festival of Sukkot.  Some historians believe the Maccabees were fighting during Sukkot, and thus unable to celebrate it at its proper time.  Therefore, when they concluded their victory on the 25th of Kislev in 164 BCE, the first thing they did was celebrate Sukkot for eight days.  In subsequent years, this winter celebration became Hanukkah-and, of course, lasted 8 days.


Rules For Playing Dreidl


         In addition to the lighting of an eight-branched menorah, a game of chance developed in Eastern Europe known as dreidl-a derivative of a German gambling game.  It is played with a four-sided top.  Each side has a letter inscribed on it: nun, gimel, hay, and shin.  These are the first letters in the Hebrew phrase meaning, "a great miracle happened there (in Jerusalem)."  In gematria (Hebrew numerology), the numerical value of nun (50), gimel (3), hay (5), and shin (300) is 358, which is the same numerical value of the Hebrew word  ("Mashiah", or Messiah).  May this celebration of Hanukkah bring us closer to the Messianic era!


How To Light A Hanukiyah (Hanukkah Menorah)


         The first candle of Hanukkah is lit on Sunday evening, December 12nd.  The menorah should be put in a place where it is visible to a passersby (like near a window).  The mitzvah of Hanukkah is to "publicize" the miracle!  When lighting the menorah, the 1st candle is placed in the right side  of the menorah.  On each subsequent evening, the candles are placed in the menorah from right to left, but are lit from left to right.



         The following blessings are recited when lighting the Hanukkah menorah.


Baruch ata adonai eloheinu melech ha'olam, asher kidshanu b'mitzvotov v'tzivanu l'hadleek ner shel Hanukkah

(Blessed are you Lord our God, King of the World who has sanctified us by the mitzvot and commanded us to kindle the lights of Hanukkah)


Baruch ata adonai eloheinu melech ha'olam, sh'asa nee'seem la'avoteinu ba'yameem ha'hem baz'man ha'zeh

(Blessed are you O Lord our God, King of the World who created miracles for our ancestors in their day at this time of year)


On the 1st night only the following blessing is added:

Baruch ata adonai eloheinu melech ha'olam, she'he'heyanu v'kee'yemanu v'hee'geyanu la'zman ha'zeh

(Blessed are you O Lord our God, King of the World who has kept us in life, sustained us, and allowed us to celebrate this wonderful moment)


We, at Kol Ami, wish all of you a Chag Hanukkah Sa'may'ach

Happy Hanukkah!!


















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3919 Moran Rd. Tampa, FL 33618

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