What's This All About??
Version 1: It's All About the Temple
So what happened?
- 4th Century BCE- Alexander (the Great, not Hamilton) conquers Near East, including Israel. He dies, and the Greek empire splits. Israel comes under Seleucid control.
- 167 BCE- King Antiochus forces the people to Hellenize. Jewish rituals are outlawed. No Sabbath observance. No circumcision. Instead, worship Greek gods and sacrifice pigs. Some Jew say cool and assimilate, others refuse and are martyred.
- Greeks show up in the village of Modi'in and demand a pig be sacrificed in the Temple. The priest Mattathias is furious and begins a guerrilla war with his 5 sons. After Mattathias dies, his son Judah the Maccabee leads the group to victory (for now). They go to Jerusalem and rededicate the Temple.
"The most frequent translation of Hanukkah is 'dedication'-- that is, we remember the rededication of the temple. According to some traditions, the Maccabees built a new altar and/or menorah since the old ones were profaned by the Syrians and thus Hanukkah marks the dedication specifically of these objects in the temple. Some commentators play on the Hebrew word by dividing it in half: hanu/kkah -- that is, the rested (hanu) on the 25th day (the numerical values of k and h equal 25). The Maccabees ceased fighting on the 25th of Kislev, and thus Hanukkah marks their victory over the Syrians."
-- Rabbi Michael Strassfeld
Version 2: It's All About the Oil
What do we do with it now?
Light Candles! / Make the Miracle Known/ Pirsum HaNes/ פרסום הנס
Some nitty gritty:
- Your Menorah -- technically a Hanukkiah -- can use candles or oil. You're meant to enjoy the light, not use it to see by, so you can certainly have other lights on.
- Fill the Hanukkiah from right to left, and light from left to right using the shamash or helper candle.
- It's best to light shortly after sunset and have the Hanukkiah where other people in your house-- or passerby-- can see it.
- We mostly follow the practices of Beit Hillel-- the house of Hillel-- that says you start with 1 candle and add 1 each night until the 8th night. There's also Beit Shamai-- the house of Shamai-- that says you start with 8 candles and go down to 1!
- On Shabbat light Shabbat candles after Hanukkah candles
Change up Your Daily Prayers
For all 8 days of Hanukkah, the words below are added into the gratitude section of the Amidah-- the 3 times a day recited standing prayer. The translation below is from Kol Haneshamah, the Reconstructionist Siddur