(short) - Chanukah
Chan-u-kah n. Hebrew name of the Jewish festival of
Etymology: 1. ‘inauguration’(of the re-purified Temple). 2. ‘rest
on the 25th’ (chanu means ‘they rested’; the last two letters, chof and
hei, numerically equal 25; the 25th of Kislev is the first day of Chanukah).
The Maggid of Kosnitz offers another interpretation. Vowelled
differently, Chanukah can be read: "chinuch - hai"–"educate the...".
The Rebbe explained: From a certain perspective, Chanukah is the first
holiday of the new year. Rosh HaShanah, Yom Kippur, and Sukkot constitute
a consummation of the previous year, even though they are situated at
the beginning of the new one. If we put our full energy into both the
spirit and the mitzvah details of Chanukah, the first holiday of the new
year, G-d gives Chanukah the power to "educate the" year - to ensure that
the succeeding holidays will also be celebrated in the best fashion.
(long) - Chanukah
WHO KNOWS EIGHT?
Avraham Sutton (from Ascent Quarterly #37)
That the overt miracle of Chanukah, the lighting of the Menorah, lasted
for eight days, is not accidental, but intrinsic. The Torah informs us
that G-d created the world in six days and ceased working on the seventh,
the Shabbat. The number six can thus be said to represent the natural
world that was created in six days (time) with its six spatial directions
(east-west, north-south, up-down). The number seven represents
G-d's immanence, the hidden presence of the Divine at the heart and core
of this world. In other words, Seven is the very soul of Six, permeating
it, instilling it with (transcendent) holiness, and elevating it to its
perfection. The next number, eight, represents G-d's transcendence
above and beyond this world. Like all miracles, Chanukah happened from
the level of "eight", that which is beyond natural law. However,
being the last miracle of its kind until the coming of Moshiach, Chanukah
had to embody Eight in a unique, special way. It had to breathe Eight.
In Hebrew, the word shmonah (eight) has the same exact letters
as hashemen (the oil), neshama (soul), and mishnah
(transmitted teaching). As recorded in the Talmud, the Syrian-Greeks had
entered the Temple and sullied all its oil. This oil represents the deepest
level of the Jewish soul. It represents the Jew's potential to awaken
from the deepest slumber of exile, to come to life even (and perhaps especially)
under the most trying circumstances. Only one jar of pure oil was found,
sealed with the seal of the Kohen Gadol (high priest), the holiest
Jew who embodied the level of Eight by virtue of the eight special garments
he wore when serving in the Temple.
The siddur informs us that it was Mattityahu the Chashmonai and his sons
who rallied the Jews to defend the Torah and fight against the Greeks.
The name Chashmonai has two components, the letter chet,
the eight letter of the aleph-bet, followed by the word for oil, shemen.
Thus, the Cha-shemonai family embodied the power of Eight.
Eight days, Oil and a family of Eights.
"Eight" beckons us to transcend the constrictions of time and
space, to see through a world that disguises G-dliness and threatens to
engulf our souls in materiality. Eight calls us to see miracles in the
order of nature, in confusing events of our individual and collective
lives, in the hidden pathways of Divine Providence that guides us.
Eight can rouse us from our collective slumber. By reminding us of the
time when G-d did indeed overtly "interfere" with and "alter"
the "natural" course of history, it quickens our anticipation
of the revelation of G-d's salvation that we await in our time.
Rabbi Avraham Sutton, a popular guest lecturer at Ascent,
is one of the original main researchers for the Discovery seminars, the
editor-compiler of Aryeh Kaplan's Inner Space and the translator-editor
of a new siddur, The Wings of Heaven. This article was adapted
from Niflaot #2.
Some Laws and Customs - Chanukah
BASIC LAWS OF THE CHANUKAH LIGHTS
1. On the first night (Tues., Dec. 4), one light is kindled
at the right end of the menorah.
2. On the next night a light is added to the left of the first one and
both lights are kindled, and similarly each night until eight lights
are kindled on the eighth night.
3. Each night an additional light is kindled--called the shamesh--which
is used to light the other ones and then placed above them.
4. The lights are kindled left to right, starting with the newest light.
5. The lights must burn for at least half an hour after dark.
6. If available, olive-oil lights are preferable to wax candles.
7. Before kindling, make sure there is enough oil (or big enough candles)
to burn for half an hour (or more if lit before nightfall–see 5).
8. In our times, the menorah is placed:
a. On the outside of the front door, opposite the mezuzah (Jerusalem
b. In a door frame inside the house, opposite the mezuzah (Chassidic
c. In a window facing a public thoroughfare (common practice)
note: in an apartment more than ten meters above the street, practice
c. is of questionable validity.
9. The lights should be in an even row –no curves, no height variations.
They should be well-spaced so their flames do not appear merged (and
if candles, that they do not melt each other).
10. On the first night, immediately before kindling, all three blessings
(found in every prayerbook) are said.
11. On the subsequent nights, only the first two blessings are said.
12. No use should be made of the lights shed by the Chanukah candles,
such as reading by their light.
13. For the Friday night of Chanukah, the lights must be kindled before
sunset and before the Shabbat candles are lit. Additional oil (or larger
candles) should be provided to ensure that they can burn until half
an hour after nightfall.
Chag Samayach - Have a joyous holiday!
The ASCENT staff
Last year's Chanukah page
for more Kabbalah insights on