Hanukah, What’s that?

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Hanukah, What’s that?

Maia

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Hanukah. Some people, when they hear that word, don’t know what it means. Others might know all about it. If you are one of the people that say, “I don’t want to be offensive or anything, but I know nothing about Hanukah.” Then, this article is for you! So, I know a lot about Hanukah and I am here to tell you about it. And trust me it, won’t be boring. Let me start by telling you the story of Hanukah.

A super long time ago in the land of Israel, which was then called Canaan, there lived the Israelites, who are now called the Jews. They lived there very happily until the Greeks, led by Antiochus IV Epiphanes, came and changed everything! The Israelites studied Torah, observed Shabbat, went to temple, and did not eat pork or anything that is not kosher. The Greeks did not respect that. They came to Canaan and said to the Jews, “I don’t like you and we are going to make you just like us!” They destroyed their holy temple,  forbade the Israelites to celebrate Shabbat and read the Torah or practice any of their religion. They made them worship idols, and they slaughtered pigs and put their guts and blood all over the place! It was a horribly dark time. The Israelites had to hide in caves to practice their religion because they didn’t want anyone to forget that they were the Israelites and they simply decided they weren’t going to put up with it anymore. It was payback time! The Israelites formed an army called the Maccabees and they were led by a very special person named Judah.

The Maccabees were a very small army who only carried spears, swords, and shields. The Greeks had a massive army with elephants and much more advanced armor and equipment! The Maccabees didn’t care. They fought the Greeks anyway, persevered and won the war! Most of the Greeks perished in the war and those who didn’t fled back to their homes far away from the Israelites. When the war was over, everyone was rejoicing until they realized they didn’t have oil to light the Menorah. The Menorah is the symbol of Judaism and is a candelabrum with seven branches. The Israelites rummaged through the remains of their town and found a tiny bit of oil that they thought would only be enough to keep the Menorah lit for one night, but then a miracle happened! The Menorah stayed lit, not for one night, but for 8 nights. Now, thousands of years later, we light the Hanukkiah which is a Menorah but with 8 branches and one extra one called the Shamash that is the helper that lights all the other candles. To celebrate this joyous holiday, we eat “Sufganiyot” which are jelly filled donuts and we also eat latkes which are “potato pancakes.” Another tradition, mostly appealing to the children, is the game of dreidel! In the game of dreidel, we spin a top with different Hebrew letters on the side. Each letter means you either earn more or loose chocolate coins! Those are the fun traditions of Hanukah but the most important thing we do for Hanukah is that every night we light one candle on the Hanukkiah and we remember that miracles can happen.

If you are interested in learning more about Hanukah or another Jewish holiday or tradition you can join Cushman’s very own Jewish study group!

 

(From left to right): Sufganiyot, Hanukiah, Latke. The small tops in the bottom are the Dreidels.

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