"Don't tell God how big your storm is; tell your storm how big your God is."

I believe in God.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Hannukkah!

Happy Hannukkah everyone! Hannukkah commenced last night.  As a gift this year, I asked my parents for a Jewish book, but surprise me.  They gave me Doing Jewish Theology  by Neil Gilman.  I think it will be a great read--Gilman is great; I've read some of his other stuff--but first I have to finish my current book, Seek My Face, Speak My Name by Arthur Green, which is also excellent.

But back to Hannukkah...one of my readers asked to hear more about Hannukkah traditions, so here goes: On Hannukkah we light candles or oil lamps (usually candles these days) in a nine branch (eight for the eight days of Hannukkah, and one for the "helper candle" that lights all the others, or shamash) candelabra known colloquially as a menorah, or by its proper name, hannukiah (except no one actually calls it that). 

The candles go in right to left but we light them left to right, newest candle first.  As we light we sing two blessings, one thanking God for the commandment to light the candles, and one thanking God for working miracles "in those days and in this time."  On the first night we also add a third blessing.  It's the blessing we always make when we try something new, and it talks about God keeping us alive to arrive to this day. 

After all the blessings, we sing a hymn (to my knowledge it has seven verses, but most people, including me, are only familiar with the first) and distribute presents.  The present giving customs vary widely.  Some people give on the first night, some on the eighth.  Some people give every night.  And...get this...some people just don't do Hannukah presents at all!

On Hannukkah we make two major additions to our daily prayers.  The first is a set of praises called Hallel that we add on every holiday.  The second is catered specifically to Hannukkah.  It is an insert in the amidah, or literally "standing prayer," the core of our service, and it talks about the miraculous military victory over Antiochus IV and the Seleucids. 

Because Hannukkah is really celebrating a military victory.  Hate to break it to you, but the miracle of the oil story is a myth.  The real reason Hannukkah is eight days long is that it began as a second Sukkot, because the Jews could not celebrate Sukkot the year the Temple was in Seleucid hands, and after they rededicated it they decided to celebrate Sukkot two months late.  (The things you learn in Jewish Society and Culture class...)

If you're still reading this far down, I'm very flattered and I hope you learned something! Thank you for reading and Happy Hannukkah!

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I am a bipolar, Jewish young adult (had my Hebrew birthday, the one I count, and turned 23 this past January) who also suffers from Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy. I love life and I live for my best friends: they are my purpose and my reason for trying so hard. I remain passionately devoted to those I love; I will not let my disorders make me totally self-centered. I like to read, write, and sew. My Rabbinical school plans did not work out, and I am now hoping to go into the field of Early Childhood Education. Please note: I am currently maintaining only Carried in His Hands. Enjoy!