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Hanukkah World Records

Hanukkah World Records

EEver since the days of the Maccabees, Jews around the globe have been attempting incredible feats in honor of Hanukkah. One of the most popular pursuits is the creation of the world’s tallest menorah, a goal that may have been reached with the construction of a 60-foot-plus, 17-metric-ton behemoth in Latrun, Israel. Other attempts to earn entry in the record books include the building of a 12-foot high pyramid of fried jelly doughnuts near the Israeli town of Afula, and the coordination of several dozen simultaneously spinning dreidels by the Mayer Kaplan Jewish Community Center in Skokie, Ill.

The Tallest Menorah

According to the Code of Jewish Law, menorahs can be a maximum of 20 cubits high (each cubit equals 18 inches), yet several organizations claim to have lit “The World’s Largest Menorah.” Who is the true winner? While no one has created an official, rabinically approved standard for measuring menorah height, the ultimate goal of these record attempts may not be competition, but rather encouraging people to light their own menorahs. “The real point is to create a highly visible symbol of the message of Hanukkah,” says Rabbi Shemtov of the American Friends of Lubavitch.

In 1997 a menorah was built in Latrun, near the main Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway. It was more than 60-feet tall, weighed 17 metric tons, and took up an area of 600-square meters. A rabbi was lifted in a crane each night of the holiday to light the candles. The menorah, which was made of metal pipes, was erected by the Chabad movement.

The 19th annual lighting of the National Hanukkah Menorah took place on December 13, 1998. The American Friends of Lubavitch claim that their 30-foot aluminum menorah is the largest in the world. Prominent dignitaries, including the president, members of Congress, ambassadors, and Jewish communal leaders have attended and participated in the lighting of the National Menorah.

The Lubavitch Youth Organization claimed to have lit the world’s largest Hanukkah menorah in New York City’s Central Park in 1998. The 32-foot high gold-colored steel structure, designed by artist Yaakov Agam, was inspired by a drawing of the original menorah in the Holy Temple of Jerusalem. Specially designed glass chimneys protect the lights from the Central Park winds. Due to the height of the menorah, it was lit nightly with the help of a Con Edison “cherry picker” crane.

The Biggest Pile of Jelly Doughnuts

On the first night of Hanukkah of 1997, a 12-foot high pyramid made of 6,400 sufganiyot (fried jelly donughts) was erected near the Israeli town of Afula. The blob was dismantled later, and the sufganiyot were distributed to Israeli soldiers serving along the border with Lebanon. The attempt to get into The Guinness Book of World Records was sponsored by a food store chain.

The Greatest Number of Simultaneously Spinning Dreidels

On December 15, 1998, the Mayer Kaplan Jewish Community Center in Skokie, Illinois attempted to set the inaugural world’s record for largest number of dreidels to be spun at one time. At least 200 people were needed to set the record.

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The history of Hannukah predates Christmas. Antiochus, the Greek King of Syria, outlawed Jewish rituals and ordered the Jews to worship Greek gods. Most Jews were angry and decided to fight back. In 165 B.C.E, the Jewish Maccabees managed to drive the Syrian army out of Jerusalem and reclaim their temple. Hanukkah is the celebration of this victory. In history, Hanukkah has been a minor holiday, only gaining in popularity since the late 1800's. In Hebrew, the word "Hanukkah" means "dedication."

The Macabees wanted to rededicate their temple by lighting the "eternal flame," but they only had enough consecrated oil to burn for one day. Miraculously, that little bit of oil lasted for eight days until more purified oil could be found. Today, Jewish families light candles or burn oil in a candelabra called a "menorah" for the eight days of Hanukkah, adding one candle each day. The special "helper candle" used to light the rest of the candles each night is called the Shamash. On the first night, the Shamash plus one other candle are lit. On the second night, the Shamash plus two candles are lit. This process is continued on through the eight nights. The eight-day lighting of the candles commemorates the eight-day miracle of the oil.

1. Gelt as we know it is a relatively new tradition &mdash and no one knows who invented it.

While coins &ndash &ldquogelt&rdquo is Yiddish for coins, or money &ndash have been part of Hanukkah observance for centuries, chocolate gelt is considerably younger. In her book On the Chocolate Trail, Rabbi Deborah Prinz writes that &ldquoopinions differ&rdquo concerning the origins of chocolate gelt: Some credit America&rsquos Loft candy company with creating it in the 1920s, while others suggest there were European versions earlier that inspired Israel&rsquos Elite candy company. Prinz notes, as well, that chocolate gelt resembles a European Christmas tradition of exchanging gold-covered chocolate coins &ldquocommemorating the miracles of St. Nicholas.&rdquo

The Talmud and the Miracle of Oil

By the early rabbinic period about a century later &mdash at the time that the Mishnah (the first compilation of oral rabbinic law included in the Talmud) was redacted &mdash the holiday had become known by the name of Hanukkah (&ldquoDedication&rdquo). However, the Mishnah does not give us any details concerning the rules and customs associated with the holiday.

It is in the Gemara (a commentary on the Mishnah) of the Babylonian Talmud that we are given more details and can clearly see the development of both the holiday and the stories associated with it. The discussion of Hanukkah is mentioned in Tractate Shabbat. Only three lines are devoted to the events of Hanukkah while three pages detail when, where and how the Hanukkah lights should be lit.

Completed approximately 600 years after the events of the Maccabees, the Talmud contains the extant version of the famous story of the miraculous jar of oil that burned for eight days. The Talmud relates this stories in the context of a discussion about the fact that fasting and grieving are not allowed on Hanukkah. In order to understand why the observance of Hanukkah is so important, the Rabbis recount the story of the miraculous jar of oil.

Perhaps the Amoraim &mdash the sages of the Talmud &mdash were retelling an old oral legend in order to associate the holiday with what they believed to be a blatant, supernatural miracle. Although the seemingly miraculous victory of the Maccabees over the Syrian Greeks was certainly part of the holiday narrative, this event still lies within the natural human realm. The Rabbis may have felt this to be insufficient justification for the holiday&rsquos gaining legal stature that would prohibit fasting and include the saying of certain festival prayers. Therefore the story of a supernatural event centering on the oil &mdash a miracle &mdash would unquestionably answer any concerns about the legitimacy of celebrating the holiday.

Remaking Hanukkah in the image of Christmas

Diane Ashton, an American religious historian, has traced the history of Hanukkah in the US and described how Jews have transformed Hanukkah in the past two centuries to reflect the evolving traditions of Christmas.

Inspired by children’s Christmas events in churches, American rabbis began introducing special Hanukkah celebrations for children at synagogues in the 19th century. They would tell the story of Hanukkah, light candles, sing hymns and hand out sweets. This was a way to entice children to attend synagogues, which otherwise offered little of interest to them.

Over time, Hanukkah became one of the only times of the year that many Jewish families engaged with Jewish tradition.

In the early 20th century, with the commercialisation of Christmas well under way, more changes occurred. Gift-giving was never a feature of Hanukkah historically, but new Jewish immigrants from Europe began buying presents for their children as a way of signifying their economic success in the new world.

In more recent years, the public display of menorahs has also been promoted by Chabad, the Orthodox Jewish Hasidic movement that aims to bring Jews closer to their own religion.

President Barack Obama, during a Hanukkah reception at the White House in 2015. Michael Reynolds/EPA

These displays, often alongside Christmas trees, have elevated the significance of Hanukkah in the minds of both Jews and non-Jews. They were even the subject of a US Supreme Court ruling in 1989, when the court rejected a request by the city of Pittsburgh to bar a large menorah from a public building, ruling it did not amount to a government endorsement of Judaism.

Over time, American Jews have thus remade Hanukkah in the image of Christmas. In doing so, they have been able to participate in the festive season in a way that is distinctly Jewish, balancing their desires to both assimilate and retain their unique cultural identity.

Elsewhere in the world, while large-scale public menorah lightings have become more widespread, Hanukkah is mostly a time for families to come together. Fried food, to commemorate the miracle of the oil, features heavily in family celebrations, including the popular potato fritters called latkes and deep-fried, jam-filled doughnuts known as sufganiyot.

Giving small gifts to children has become common, though nowhere has Hanukkah reached the level of commercialisation and kitsch that it has in the US.

For any other Jewish festival, this might be seen as a corrupting influence. But given that Hanukkah remains, for most Jews, a relatively minor holiday, it is viewed with some bemusement as just another example of American meshugas (craziness).

Hanukkah World Records - HISTORY

Lucas van Leyden, Joshua, David, Judas Maccabees, 1515/1517, woodcut, Rosenwald Collection, 1943.3.5706

On Thursday night December 10, Jewish families the world over will begin to celebrate the festival of Hanukkah. And how dramatic it is: Just as the nights are starting earlier and earlier, and just as it is getting colder and colder, Jewish families gather in their own homes, light candles, and watch them burn in commemoration of extraordinary events that occurred long ago. No wonder the ritual is so popular. Fortunately, the most central, beloved ritual of this holiday—lighting that special lamp with nine candles—is rather amenable to the COVID-19 era.

Yet there’s also something peculiar about Hanukkah, at least in comparison to other Jewish festivals. When Jews celebrate Passover, in commemoration of the Exodus from Egypt, the home ritual is based on the Passover Haggadah, which retells the story of the Israelites’ liberation from slavery. When Jews celebrate the festival of Purim, commemorating Queen Esther’s thwarting of an evil plot against the Jews of Persia, Jews gather in synagogues and joyfully read the biblical Book of Esther, which details the events being celebrated. When traditional Jews commemorate the destruction of the Jerusalem temple, the biblical Book of Lamentations is sorrowfully intoned. Yet when the Hanukkah lights are lit, there is no formal telling of the story. A few prayers that are traditionally recited relay the story only in simple, abstract generalizations: “The few defeated the many….” Judah Maccabee’s specific acts of gallantry go unmentioned in these brief traditional prayers.

Why is it that a Jewish tradition that thrives on reciting stories stops short of retelling this one?

Well, for one thing, the fullest accounts of Hanukkah are not found in the Hebrew Bible at all. The Talmud has a bit more to say—including the famous story of the small, miraculous cruse of oil that lasted a full eight days. But even the Talmud stops short of telling the full story: Who was Syrian Greek Antiochus? Why did he crack down on Jerusalem’s Temple? Who were the Maccabees, and how were they successful in their rebellion against their enemies? For answers to these questions, we must look beyond traditional Jewish sources, to the books 1 and 2 Maccabees, most conveniently found in editions of the Apocrypha.

The Apocrypha consists of books composed by ancient Jews but preserved in early Christian Bibles. Catholic Bibles and Greek Orthodox Bibles include these books down to this day, interfiled among other biblical books. Bibles produced by Protestants do one of two things. In some instances, the books are separated out from both the Old Testament and the New Testament into an appendix—the Apocrypha. Or, just as often as not, the books are left out entirely, just as they are from Jewish Bibles. So don’t look for these books in the Bible in your next hotel room. (In my experience, you are more likely to find a copy of the Book of Mormon than a Gideon Bible with an Apocrypha.)

These days it’s not that hard to come by stand-alone editions of the Apocrypha. But this year it’s easier to come by an edition of these books with an eye toward highlighting their Jewishness: The Jewish Annotated Apocrypha (Oxford University Press), (edited by yours truly, working closely with my co-editor, Lawrence H. Wills),

And what is to be learned by looking at the Apocrypha in general—and the books of Maccabees in particular?

First, we find a good reason why Hanukkah lasts eight days. Even more, we learn a great deal about the events leading to the establishment of the new festival. And perhaps most interesting of all, we learn why Jews may have shied away from telling this story when celebrating Hanukkah. Let me explain.

Traditional Jews may know that Hanukkah lasts eight days because that miraculous cruse of oil lasted that long. But the story begs the question: why eight days?

A brief passage in 2 Maccabees provides a meaningful explanation for why the festival lasts eight days per se:

They celebrated it for eight days with rejoicing, in the manner of the festival of booths, remembering how not long before, during the festival of booths, they had been wandering in the mountains and caves like wild animals. Therefore, carrying ivy-wreathed wands and beautiful branches and also fronds of palm, they offered hymns of thanksgiving to him who had given success to the purifying of his own holy place. They decreed by public edict, ratified by vote, that the whole nation of the Jews should observe these days every year (2 Maccabess 10:6-8).

So according to this source, Hanukkah began as a belated celebration of the fall festival of booths (Sukkot). Henceforth, once Sukkot will be celebrated properly again in its own right, then Hanukkah takes on a life of its own as a new eight-day festival, also celebrated annually.

This makes a great deal of sense, especially when we recall that Solomon’s temple was dedicated on Sukkot (1 Kings 8:1–2). Traditionally-informed Jewish readers may know of other ways that Hanukkah recalls Sukkot, including the daily recitation of the unabbreviated Hallel (Psalms 113–118), read in entirety on Sukkot and Hanukkah only (the recitation is abbreviated for the other holiday of that rough length, Passover). These hints may be telling, but we must turn to 2 Maccabees 10 for the surest confirmation of this sound explanation for the eight-day length of the Festival of Lights.

As for the larger story… Well, here, I need to explain that 1 and 2 Maccabees are distinct books. Unlike 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, and 1 and 2 Chronicles, 1 and 2 Maccabees are not a single book cut in half, but two independent books that tell overlapping but nevertheless distinct and differing accounts of the same overall story (somewhat like establishing the story of Jesus using the Gospels of Mark and John). And more than that, while 1 Maccabees seems to have been composed in the land of Israel and in Hebrew, 2 Maccabees appears to be a Greek-language composition of the Jewish diaspora. So we don’t have a single story of Hanukkah to explore, but two stories. Readers who are curious are invited once again to explore these books directly.

Still there are a few generalities we can offer that are, more or less, true of both accounts. First, both 1 and 2 Maccabees remind us that the emergence of the Maccabees—and their eventual success—is played out on a world stage marked by internecine warfare among eastern Mediterranean Greek powers and the lurking rise of Roman power beyond. Second, both 1 and 2 Maccabees highlight something that traditional Jewish retellings (informal and formal) leave out: The rise of the Maccabees was also in response to Jewish efforts to accommodate to Greek rule by challenging traditional Jewish practices.

Here’s what 1 Maccabees has to say about events in Judea, early in Antiochus’s reign, and before Antiochus trained his eye on what was happening in Jerusalem:

In those days certain renegades came out from Israel and misled many, saying, “Let us go and make a covenant with the Gentiles around us, for since we separated from them many disasters have come upon us.” This proposal pleased them, and some of the people eagerly went to the king, who authorized them to observe the ordinances of the Gentiles. So they built a gymnasium in Jerusalem, according to Gentile custom, and removed the marks of circumcision, and abandoned the holy covenant. They joined with the Gentiles and sold themselves to do evil (1 Maccabees 1:11–15).

It is only after this that Antiochus enters the scene, taking the side of the Jews who have, according to 1 Maccabees, abandoned the covenant. Now you may be asking, “Remove the marks of circumcision?” That may be possible—look up “epispasm” and try not to wince. Here’s another possibility: In the Jewish Annotated Apocrypha, Daniel Schwartz suggests that 1 Maccabees 1:15 may mean that Jews then abstained from circumcising their sons (cf. 1:48), following the orders of these radical Jews who opposed Jewish traditional practices (cf. 1:61). 1 Maccabees later narrates that the situation was rectified by the rising Maccabees, who ensure that all such boys were duly circumcised (2:46).

The account in 2 Maccabees is much more detailed—we are given names of sinful High Priests, including Jason and Menelaus, and we are told tragic stories of Jews, including a mother and her seven sons, who would sooner die than consume prohibited foods. According to 1 Maccabees, there were some early groups of Jewish rebels who refused to fight on the Sabbath, and perished accordingly (1 Maccabees 2:29–38) until the Maccabean patriarch Mattathias decided to change the law and permit defensive warfare on the Sabbath (2:39–41). 2 Maccabees, curiously, says nothing about this—despite its narrative of these years being longer and more detailed on the whole.

Despite their differences, 1 and 2 Maccabees agree on one fundamental point that is usually glossed over or not mentioned at all in traditional Jewish retellings of the Hanukkah story: The Maccabees fought not only against foreign oppressors—especially the Seleucid king Antiochus IV—but also against Jewish assimilationists who were aligned with Antiochus. In other words, the Maccabean revolt was also, as is often the case with rebellions, a civil war.

Maybe with this information we can come to understand two things at once. First, once we get the fuller story, we can appreciate why ancient Jews shied away from reciting these books or even otherwise elaborating on the details of the revolt when celebrating Hanukkah. How can one celebrate a one-sided victory in a civil conflict? Would the defeated or their descendants want to celebrate their loss? In the effort of encouraging all Jews (even those who had taken the losing side) to celebrate the new festival, lapses in historical memory may have served a use. So the civil war goes unmentioned the holiday celebrates only the defeat of the foreign enemies.

This approach may help us understand the related fact that the books of the Maccabees are not in the canon. Had ancient Jews wanted to recite a story of Hanukkah during the festival, perhaps one or another of these books—or some other—might have made it into the canon. If the thinking had been otherwise—for the reason suggested above or for some other reason—then all the more there’s every reason to exclude these books. There are, of course, other reasons too why ancient Jews may have rejected these books: Perhaps the books (and the holiday) were perceived to be too recent. And at least 2 Maccabees, which was composed in Greek, would never have been a good candidate for inclusion in a Hebrew edition of the Bible to begin with.

While excluded and forgotten by Jews, these books—along with many others—were preserved, thankfully, by Christians. This is how we have the Apocrypha. For early Christians, Greek was no object: The Gospels were in Greek, too. For early Christians, recent writings were no object: All the writings of the New Testament were relatively recent. And for early Christians centuries ago as well as today, the stories of the Maccabean martyrs are seen as important precedents for Jesus and other early Christian heroes who chose premature violent death over military resistance. Each of these books holds interest for Christians, but each holds interest for Jewish readers as well.

And there’s much more beyond the books of the Maccabees. The ancient Jewish Book of Judith tells the story of an ancient Jewish widow who heroically led her Israelite town to victory over an enemy (imagine the Book of Esther meets the Book of Maccabees in a setting out of the Book of Judges). The Book of Tobit tells a charming tale of a long-suffering righteous man securing, at long last, a happy marriage for his son to a woman too-often promised to the wrong man. The Apocrypha includes an expanded form of the Book of Esther—with artful prayers and disturbing dreams highlighting the drama. Also included is the Wisdom of Sirach, an extended collection of wise sayings (longer than Proverbs and Ecclesiastes combined), which concludes with a particularly rich poetic praise of biblical heroes: a readable, teachable 12-chapter tour of Israelite valor. And the Jewish Annotated Apocrypha has also included the Book of Jubilees. This book retells the first portion of the Torah (from Genesis 1 to Exodus 12), interspersing the narratives with laws. So Jubilees disagrees with the Torah in two ways: First, the earliest biblical figures are presented as receiving legal revelation second, the laws of Jubilees often disagree with the Torah. For instance, in Jubilees, Noah is told how the calendar is supposed to work, and the described calendar includes a year of 364 days (52 weeks see Jubilees 6). Jacob’s sons were warned against intermarriage (e.g., chapter 29), and Levi is told explicitly that he will be the ancestor of Israel’s future priests (chapter 30). The Book of Jubilees was composed by ancient Jews—quite possibly around the time of the Maccabean era. But the book was preserved in Ethiopic—by Ethiopian Christians, and it is that circumstance that justifies its inclusion in the Apocrypha.

The Apocrypha is available, for the first time, in an English language edition with an emphasis on Jewish tradition. Perfect for Jewish readers, and also appropriate for all readers interested in reading these works in the context of the people who wrote them. Edited by Lawrence M. Wills, and by Jonathan Klawans, the author of this post.

While we will never know for sure why Jews excluded these books and why Christians preserved them, the good news is that we have these books today. Whether you are Jewish or not, whether you celebrate Hanukkah or not, if you choose to explore the Apocrypha around Hanukkah time, 1 and 2 Maccabees is a perfect place to start.

Jonathan Klawans is Professor of Religion at Boston University. He specializes in the religion and religious texts of ancient Judaism.

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Guinness World Records - originally the Guinness Book of Records - the ultimate authority on record-breaking achievements, started out as an idea for a book of facts to solve arguments in pubs.

The idea came about in the early 1950’s when Sir Hugh Beaver (1890—1967), Managing Director of the Guinness Brewery, attended a shooting party in County Wexford.

There, he and his hosts argued about the fastest game bird in Europe, and failed to find an answer in any reference book.*

In 1954, recalling his shooting party argument, Sir Hugh had the idea for a Guinness promotion based on the idea of settling pub arguments and invited the twins Norris (1925—2004) and Ross McWhirter (1925—75) who were fact-finding researchers from Fleet Street to compile a book of facts and figures.

Guinness Superlatives was incorporated on 30 November and the office opened in two rooms in a converted gymnasium on the top floor of Ludgate House, 107 Fleet Street.

After an initial research phase, work began on writing the book, which took 13 and a half 90-hour weeks, including weekends and bank holidays. Little did the McWhirters know that taking shape was a book that would go on to become an all-time best seller and one of the most recognized and trusted brands in the world…

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The name "Hanukkah" derives from the Hebrew verb " חנך ‎", meaning "to dedicate". On Hanukkah, the Maccabean Jews regained control of Jerusalem and rededicated the Temple. [7] [8]

Many homiletical explanations have been given for the name: [9]

  • The name can be broken down into חנו כ"ה , "[they] rested [on the] twenty-fifth", referring to the fact that the Jews ceased fighting on the 25th day of Kislev, the day on which the holiday begins. [10]
  • חינוך Chinuch, from the same root, is the name for Jewish education, emphasizing ethical training and discipline.
  • חנוכה ‎ (Hanukkah) is also the Hebrew acronym for חנרות והלכה כבית הלל – "Eight candles, and the halakha is like the House of Hillel". This is a reference to the disagreement between two rabbinical schools of thought – the House of Hillel and the House of Shammai – on the proper order in which to light the Hanukkah flames. Shammai opined that eight candles should be lit on the first night, seven on the second night, and so on down to one on the last night (because the miracle was greatest on the first day). Hillel argued in favor of starting with one candle and lighting an additional one every night, up to eight on the eighth night (because the miracle grew in greatness each day). Jewish law adopted the position of Hillel. [11] is called
  • שיר חנכת הבית ‎, the "Song of Ḥănukkāt HaBayit", The Song of the "Dedication" of the House", and is traditionally recited on Hanukkah. 25 (of Kislev) + 5 (Books of Torah) = 30, which is the number of the song.

Alternative spellings Edit

Books of Maccabees Edit

The story of Hanukkah is preserved in the books of the First and Second Maccabees, which describe in detail the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem and the lighting of the menorah. These books are not part of the canonized Tanakh (Hebrew Bible) used by modern Jews, though they were included in the Greek Septuagint. The Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches consider them deuterocanonical books of the Old Testament. [17]

The eight-day rededication of the temple is described in 1 Maccabees, [18] though the miracle of the oil does not appear here. A story similar in character, and older in date, is the one alluded to in 2 Maccabees [19] according to which the relighting of the altar fire by Nehemiah was due to a miracle which occurred on the 25th of Kislev, and which appears to be given as the reason for the selection of the same date for the rededication of the altar by Judah Maccabee. [20] The above account in 1 Maccabees, as well as 2 Maccabees [21] portrays the feast as a delayed observation of the eight-day Feast of Booths (Sukkot) similarly 2 Maccabees explains the length of the feast as "in the manner of the Feast of Booths". [22]

Early rabbinic sources Edit

Megillat Taanit (1st century) contains a list of festive days on which fasting or eulogizing is forbidden. It specifies, "On the 25th of [Kislev] is Hanukkah of eight days, and one is not to eulogize" but gives no further details. [ citation needed ]

The Mishna (late 2nd century) mentions Hanukkah in several places, [23] but never describes its laws in detail and never mentions any aspect of the history behind it. To explain the Mishna's lack of a systematic discussion of Hanukkah, Rav Nissim Gaon postulated that information on the holiday was so commonplace that the Mishna felt no need to explain it. [24] Modern scholar Reuvein Margolies suggests that as the Mishnah was redacted after the Bar Kochba revolt, its editors were reluctant to include explicit discussion of a holiday celebrating another relatively recent revolt against a foreign ruler, for fear of antagonizing the Romans. [25]

The miracle of the one-day supply of oil miraculously lasting eight days is first described in the Talmud, committed to writing about 600 years after the events described in the books of Maccabees. [26] The Talmud says that after the forces of Antiochus IV had been driven from the Temple, the Maccabees discovered that almost all of the ritual olive oil had been profaned. They found only a single container that was still sealed by the High Priest, with enough oil to keep the menorah in the Temple lit for a single day. They used this, yet it burned for eight days (the time it took to have new oil pressed and made ready). [27]

The Talmud presents three options: [28]

  1. The law requires only one light each night per household,
  2. A better practice is to light one light each night for each member of the household
  3. The most preferred practice is to vary the number of lights each night.

Except in times of danger, the lights were to be placed outside one's door, on the opposite side of the mezuza, or in the window closest to the street. Rashi, in a note to Shabbat 21b, says their purpose is to publicize the miracle. The blessings for Hanukkah lights are discussed in tractate Succah, p. 46a. [29]

Megillat Antiochus (probably composed in the 2nd century [30] ) concludes with the following words:

. After this, the sons of Israel went up to the Temple and rebuilt its gates and purified the Temple from the dead bodies and from the defilement. And they sought after pure olive oil to light the lamps therewith, but could not find any, except one bowl that was sealed with the signet ring of the High Priest from the days of Samuel the prophet and they knew that it was pure. There was in it [enough oil] to light [the lamps therewith] for one day, but the God of heaven whose name dwells there put therein his blessing and they were able to light from it eight days. Therefore, the sons of Ḥashmonai made this covenant and took upon themselves a solemn vow, they and the sons of Israel, all of them, to publish amongst the sons of Israel, [to the end] that they might observe these eight days of joy and honour, as the days of the feasts written in [the book of] the Law [even] to light in them so as to make known to those who come after them that their God wrought for them salvation from heaven. In them, it is not permitted to mourn, neither to decree a fast [on those days], and anyone who has a vow to perform, let him perform it. [31]

The Al HaNissim prayer is recited on Hanukkah as an addition to the Amidah prayer, which was formalized in the late 1st century. [32] Al HaNissim describes the history of the holiday as follows:

In the days of Mattiyahu ben Yohanan, high priest, the Hasmonean and his sons, when the evil Greek kingdom stood up against Your people Israel, to cause them to forget Your Torah and abandon the ways You desire – You, in Your great mercy, stood up for them in their time of trouble You fought their fight, You judged their judgment, You took their revenge You delivered the mighty into the hands of the weak, the many into the hands of the few, the impure into the hands of the pure, the evil into the hands of the righteous, the sinners into the hands of those who engaged in Your Torah You made yourself a great and holy name in Your world, and for Your people Israel You made great redemption and salvation as this very day. And then Your sons came to the inner chamber of Your house, and cleared Your Temple, and purified Your sanctuary, and lit candles in Your holy courtyards, and established eight days of Hanukkah for thanksgiving and praise to Your holy name.

Narrative of Josephus Edit

The Jewish historian Titus Flavius Josephus narrates in his book, Jewish Antiquities XII, how the victorious Judas Maccabeus ordered lavish yearly eight-day festivities after rededicating the Temple in Jerusalem that had been profaned by Antiochus IV Epiphanes. [33] Josephus does not say the festival was called Hanukkah but rather the "Festival of Lights":

Now Judas celebrated the festival of the restoration of the sacrifices of the temple for eight days, and omitted no sort of pleasures thereon but he feasted them upon very rich and splendid sacrifices and he honored God, and delighted them by hymns and psalms. Nay, they were so very glad at the revival of their customs, when, after a long time of intermission, they unexpectedly had regained the freedom of their worship, that they made it a law for their posterity, that they should keep a festival, on account of the restoration of their temple worship, for eight days. And from that time to this we celebrate this festival, and call it Lights. I suppose the reason was because this liberty beyond our hopes appeared to us and that thence was the name given to that festival. Judas also rebuilt the walls round about the city, and reared towers of great height against the incursions of enemies, and set guards therein. He also fortified the city Bethsura, that it might serve as a citadel against any distresses that might come from our enemies. [34]

Other ancient sources Edit

In the New Testament, John 10:22–23 says, "Then came the Festival of Dedication at Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was in the temple courts walking in Solomon’s Colonnade" (NIV). The Greek noun used appears in the neuter plural as "the renewals" or "the consecrations" (Greek: τὰ ἐγκαίνια ta enkaínia). [35] The same root appears in 2 Esdras 6:16 in the Septuagint to refer specifically to Hanukkah. This Greek word was chosen because the Hebrew word for "consecration" or "dedication" is "Hanukkah" (חנכה). The Aramaic New Testament uses the Aramaic word "Khawdata" (a close synonym), which literally means "renewal" or "to make new." [36]

Background Edit

Judea was part of the Ptolemaic Kingdom of Egypt until 200 BCE when King Antiochus III the Great of Syria defeated King Ptolemy V Epiphanes of Egypt at the Battle of Panium. Judea then became part of the Seleucid Empire of Syria. [37] King Antiochus III the Great, wanting to conciliate his new Jewish subjects, guaranteed their right to "live according to their ancestral customs" and to continue to practice their religion in the Temple of Jerusalem. [38] However, in 175 BCE, Antiochus IV Epiphanes, the son of Antiochus III, invaded Judea, at the request of the sons of Tobias. [39] The Tobiads, who led the Hellenizing Jewish faction in Jerusalem, were expelled to Syria around 170 BCE when the high priest Onias and his pro-Egyptian faction wrested control from them. The exiled Tobiads lobbied Antiochus IV Epiphanes to recapture Jerusalem. As Flavius Josephus relates:

The king being thereto disposed beforehand, complied with them, and came upon the Jews with a great army, and took their city by force, and slew a great multitude of those that favored Ptolemy, and sent out his soldiers to plunder them without mercy. He also spoiled the temple, and put a stop to the constant practice of offering a daily sacrifice of expiation for three years and six months.

Traditional view Edit

When the Second Temple in Jerusalem was looted and services stopped, Judaism was outlawed. In 167 BCE, Antiochus ordered an altar to Zeus erected in the Temple. He banned brit milah (circumcision) and ordered pigs to be sacrificed at the altar of the temple. [41]

Antiochus's actions provoked a large-scale revolt. Mattathias (Mattityahu), a Jewish priest, and his five sons Jochanan, Simeon, Eleazar, Jonathan, and Judah led a rebellion against Antiochus. It started with Mattathias killing first a Jew who wanted to comply with Antiochus's order to sacrifice to Zeus, and then a Greek official who was to enforce the government's behest (1 Mac. 2, 24–25 [42] ). Judah became known as Yehuda HaMakabi ("Judah the Hammer"). By 166 BCE, Mattathias had died, and Judah took his place as leader. By 164 BCE, the Jewish revolt against the Seleucid monarchy was successful. The Temple was liberated and rededicated. The festival of Hanukkah was instituted to celebrate this event. [43] Judah ordered the Temple to be cleansed, a new altar to be built in place of the polluted one and new holy vessels to be made. [20] According to the Talmud,

"For when the Greeks entered the Sanctuary, they defiled all the oils therein, and when the Hasmonean dynasty prevailed against and defeated them, they made search and found only one cruse of oil which lay with the seal of the kohen gadol (high priest), but which contained sufficient [oil] for one day's lighting only yet a miracle was wrought therein, and they lit [the lamp] therewith for eight days. The following year these [days] were appointed a Festival with [the recital of] Hallel and thanksgiving."

—Shabbat 21b

Tertiary sources in the Jewish tradition make reference to this account. [44]

The 12th century scholar Maimonides, known for introducing Aristotelianism to both the Jewish world and to the Christian scholastics, described Hanukkah thus in the Mishneh Torah, his authoritative 14 volume compendium on Jewish law:

When, on the twenty-fifth of Kislev, the Jews had emerged victorious over their foes and destroyed them, they re-entered the Temple where they found only one jar of pure oil, enough to be lit for only a single day yet they used it for lighting the required set of lamps for eight days, until they managed to press olives and produce pure oil. Because of this, the sages of that generation ruled that the eight days beginning with the twenty-fifth of Kislev should be observed as days of rejoicing and praising the Lord. Lamps are lit in the evening over the doors of the homes, on each of the eight nights, so as to display the miracle. These days are called Hanukkah, when it is forbidden to lament or to fast, just as it is on the days of Purim. Lighting the lamps during the eight days of Hanukkah is a religious duty imposed by the sages. [45]

Academic sources Edit

Some modern scholars, following the account in 2 Maccabees, observe that the king was intervening in an internal civil war between the Maccabean Jews and the Hellenized Jews in Jerusalem. [46] [47] [48] [49] These competed violently over who would be the High Priest, with traditionalists with Hebrew/Aramaic names like Onias contesting with Hellenizing High Priests with Greek names like Jason and Menelaus. [50] In particular, Jason's Hellenistic reforms would prove to be a decisive factor leading to eventual conflict within the ranks of Judaism. [51] Other authors point to possible socioeconomic reasons in addition to the religious reasons behind the civil war. [52]

What began in many respects as a civil war escalated when the Hellenistic kingdom of Syria sided with the Hellenizing Jews in their conflict with the traditionalists. [53] As the conflict escalated, Antiochus took the side of the Hellenizers by prohibiting the religious practices the traditionalists had rallied around. This may explain why the king, in a total departure from Seleucid practice in all other places and times, banned a traditional religion. [54]

The miracle of the oil is widely regarded as a legend and its authenticity has been questioned since the Middle Ages. [55] However, given the famous question Rabbi Yosef Karo posed concerning why Hanukkah is celebrated for eight days when the miracle was only for seven days (since there was enough oil for one day), [56] it was clear that he believed it was a historical event. This belief has been adopted by most of Orthodox Judaism, in as much as Rabbi Karo's Shulchan Aruch is a main Code of Jewish Law. The menorah first began to be used as a symbol of Judaism in the Hasmonean period - appearing on coins issued by Hasmonean king Mattathias Antigonus between 40-37 BCE - indicating that the tradition of an oil miracle was known then. [57]

Timeline Edit

  • 198 BCE: Armies of the Seleucid King Antiochus III (Antiochus the Great) oust Ptolemy V from Judea and Samaria. [37]
  • 175 BCE: Antiochus IV (Epiphanes) ascends the Seleucid throne. [58]
  • 168 BCE: Under the reign of Antiochus IV, the second Temple is looted, Jews are massacred, and Judaism is outlawed. [59]
  • 167 BCE: Antiochus orders an altar to Zeus erected in the Temple. Mattathias and his five sons John, Simon, Eleazar, Jonathan, and Judah lead a rebellion against Antiochus. Judah becomes known as Judah Maccabee ("Judah the Hammer").
  • 166 BCE: Mattathias dies, and Judah takes his place as leader. The Hasmonean Jewish Kingdom begins It lasts until 63 BCE.
  • 164 BCE: The Jewish revolt against the Seleucid monarchy is successful in recapturing the Temple, which is liberated and rededicated (Hanukkah).
  • 142 BCE: Re-establishment of the Second Jewish Commonwealth. The Seleucids recognize Jewish autonomy. The Seleucid kings have a formal overlordship, which the Hasmoneans acknowledge. This inaugurates a period of population growth and religious, cultural and social development. This includes the conquest of the areas now covered by Transjordan, Samaria, Galilee, and Idumea (also known as Edom), and the forced conversion of Idumeans to the Jewish religion, including circumcision. [60]
  • 139 BCE: The Roman Senate recognizes Jewish autonomy. [61]
  • 134 BCE: Antiochus VII Sidetes besieges Jerusalem. The Jews under John Hyrcanus become Seleucid vassals but retain religious autonomy. [62]
  • 129 BCE: Antiochus VII dies. [63] The Hasmonean Jewish Kingdom throws off Syrian rule completely.
  • 96 BCE: Beginning of an eight-year civil war between Sadducee king Alexander Yanai and the Pharisees. [64]
  • 85–82 BCE: Consolidation of the Kingdom in territory east of the Jordan River. [65]
  • 63 BCE: The Hasmonean Jewish Kingdom comes to an end because of a rivalry between the brothers Aristobulus II and Hyrcanus II, both of whom appeal to the Roman Republic to intervene and settle the power struggle on their behalf. The Roman general Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus (Pompey the Great) is dispatched to the area. Twelve thousand Jews are massacred in the Roman Siege of Jerusalem. The Priests of the Temple are struck down at the Altar. Rome annexes Judea. [66]

Battles of the Maccabean Revolt Edit

Selected battles between the Maccabees and the Seleucid Syrian-Greeks:

    (Judas Maccabeus leads the Jews to victory against the forces of Nicanor.) (Judas Maccabeus defeats the forces of Seron.) (Eleazar the Maccabee is killed in battle. Lysias has success in battle against the Maccabees, but allows them temporary freedom of worship.) (Judas Maccabeus defeats the army of Lysias, recapturing Jerusalem.) (A Jewish fortress saved by Judas Maccabeus.) (Judas Maccabeus dies in battle against the army of King Demetrius and Bacchides. He is succeeded by Jonathan Maccabaeus and Simon Maccabaeus, who continue to lead the Jews in battle.) (Judas Maccabeus fights the forces of Lysias and Georgias).

Characters and heroes Edit

    , also referred to as Mattathias and Mattathias ben Johanan. Matityahu was a Jewish High Priest who, together with his five sons, played a central role in the story of Hanukkah. [67] , also referred to as Judas Maccabeus and Y'hudhah HaMakabi. Judah was the eldest son of Matityahu and is acclaimed as one of the greatest warriors in Jewish history alongside Joshua, Gideon, and David. [68] , also referred to as Eleazar Avaran, Eleazar Maccabeus and Eleazar Hachorani/Choran. , also referred to as Simon Maccabeus and Simon Thassi. , also referred to as Johanan Maccabeus and John Gaddi. , also referred to as Jonathan Apphus. . Seleucid king controlling the region during this period. . Acclaimed for her heroism in the assassination of Holofernes. [69][70] . Arrested, tortured and killed one by one, by Antiochus IV Epiphanes for refusing to bow to an idol. [71]

Hanukkah is celebrated with a series of rituals that are performed every day throughout the eight-day holiday, some are family-based and others communal. There are special additions to the daily prayer service, and a section is added to the blessing after meals. [72]

Hanukkah is not a "Sabbath-like" holiday, and there is no obligation to refrain from activities that are forbidden on the Sabbath, as specified in the Shulkhan Arukh. [73] [74] Adherents go to work as usual but may leave early in order to be home to kindle the lights at nightfall. There is no religious reason for schools to be closed, although in Israel schools close from the second day for the whole week of Hanukkah. [75] [76] Many families exchange gifts each night, such as books or games, and "Hanukkah Gelt" is often given to children. Fried foods (such as latkes (potato pancakes), jelly doughnuts (sufganiyot), and Sephardic bimuelos) are eaten to commemorate the importance of oil during the celebration of Hanukkah. Some also have a custom of eating dairy products to remember Judith and how she overcame Holofernes by feeding him cheese, which made him thirsty, and giving him wine to drink. When Holofernes became very drunk, Judith cut off his head. [77]

Kindling the Hanukkah lights Edit

Each night throughout the eight-day holiday, a candle or oil-based light is lit. As a universally practiced "beautification" (hiddur mitzvah) of the mitzvah, the number of lights lit is increased by one each night. [78] An extra light called a shamash, meaning "attendant" or "sexton," [79] is also lit each night, and is given a distinct location, usually higher, lower, or to the side of the others. [74]

Among Ashkenazim the tendency is for every male member of the household (and in many families, girls as well) to light a full set of lights each night, [80] [81] while among Sephardim the prevalent custom is to have one set of lights for the entire household. [82]

The purpose of the shamash is to adhere to the prohibition, specified in the Talmud, [83] against using the Hanukkah lights for anything other than publicizing and meditating on the Hanukkah miracle. This differs from Sabbath candles which are meant to be used for illumination and lighting. Hence, if one were to need extra illumination on Hanukkah, the shamash candle would be available, and one would avoid using the prohibited lights. Some, especially Ashkenazim, light the shamash candle first and then use it to light the others. [84] So altogether, including the shamash, two lights are lit on the first night, three on the second and so on, ending with nine on the last night, for a total of 44 (36, excluding the shamash). It is Sephardic custom not to light the shamash first and use it to light the rest. Instead, the shamash candle is the last to be lit, and a different candle or a match is used to light all the candles. Some Hasidic Jews follow this Sephardic custom as well. [85]

The lights can be candles or oil lamps. [84] Electric lights are sometimes used and are acceptable in places where open flame is not permitted, such as a hospital room, or for the very elderly and infirm however, those who permit reciting a blessing over electric lamps only allow it if it is incandescent and battery operated (an incandescent flashlight would be acceptable for this purpose), while a blessing may not be recited over a plug-in menorah or lamp. Most Jewish homes have a special candelabrum referred to as either a Chanukiah (the modern Israeli term) or a menorah (the traditional name, simply Hebrew for 'lamp'). Many families use an oil lamp (traditionally filled with olive oil) for Hanukkah. Like the candle Chanukiah, it has eight wicks to light plus the additional shamash light. [86]

In the United States, Hanukkah became a more visible festival in the public sphere from the 1970s when Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson called for public awareness and observance of the festival and encouraged the lighting of public menorahs. [87] [88] [89] [90] Diane Ashton attributed the increased visibility and reinvention of Hanukkah by some of the American Jewish community as a way to adapt to American life, re-inventing the festival in "the language of individualism and personal conscience derived from both Protestantism and the Enlightenment". [91]

The reason for the Hanukkah lights is not for the "lighting of the house within", but rather for the "illumination of the house without," so that passersby should see it and be reminded of the holiday's miracle (i.e. that the sole cruse of pure oil found which held enough oil to burn for one night actually burned for eight nights). Accordingly, lamps are set up at a prominent window or near the door leading to the street. It is customary amongst some Ashkenazi Jews to have a separate menorah for each family member (customs vary), whereas most Sephardi Jews light one for the whole household. Only when there was danger of antisemitic persecution were lamps supposed to be hidden from public view, as was the case in Persia under the rule of the Zoroastrians, [20] or in parts of Europe before and during World War II. However, most Hasidic groups light lamps near an inside doorway, not necessarily in public view. According to this tradition, the lamps are placed on the opposite side from the mezuzah, so that when one passes through the door s/he is surrounded by the holiness of mitzvot (the commandments). [92]

Generally, women are exempt in Jewish law from time-bound positive commandments, although the Talmud requires that women engage in the mitzvah of lighting Hanukkah candles "for they too were involved in the miracle." [93] [94]

Candle-lighting time Edit

Hanukkah lights should usually burn for at least half an hour after it gets dark. [95] The custom of many is to light at sundown, although most Hasidim light later. [95] Many Hasidic Rebbes light much later to fulfill the obligation of publicizing the miracle by the presence of their Hasidim when they kindle the lights. [96]

Inexpensive small wax candles sold for Hanukkah burn for approximately half an hour so should be lit no earlier than nightfall. [95] Friday night presents a problem, however. Since candles may not be lit on Shabbat itself, the candles must be lit before sunset. [95] However, they must remain lit through the lighting of the Shabbat candles. Therefore, the Hanukkah menorah is lit first with larger candles than usual, [95] followed by the Shabbat candles. At the end of the Shabbat, there are those who light the Hanukkah lights before Havdalah and those who make Havdalah before the lighting Hanukkah lights. [97]

If for whatever reason one didn't light at sunset or nightfall, the lights should be kindled later, as long as there are people in the streets. [95] Later than that, the lights should still be kindled, but the blessings should be recited only if there is at least somebody else awake in the house and present at the lighting of the Hannukah lights. [98]

Blessings over the candles Edit

Typically two blessings (brachot singular: brachah) are recited during this eight-day festival when lighting the candles. On the first night, the shehecheyanu blessing is added, making a total of three blessings. [99]

The blessings are said before or after the candles are lit depending on tradition. On the first night of Hanukkah one light (candle or oil) is lit on the right side of the menorah, on the following night a second light is placed to the left of the first but it is lit first, and so on, proceeding from placing candles right to left but lighting them from left to right over the eight nights. [100]

Blessing for lighting the candles Edit

Transliteration: Barukh ata Adonai Eloheinu, melekh ha'olam, asher kid'shanu b'mitzvotav v'tzivanu l'hadlik ner Hanukkah.

Translation: "Blessed are You, L ORD our God, King of the universe, Who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us to kindle the Hanukkah light[s]."

Blessing for the miracles of Hanukkah Edit

Transliteration: Barukh ata Adonai Eloheinu, melekh ha'olam, she'asa nisim la'avoteinu ba'yamim ha'heim ba'z'man ha'ze.

Translation: "Blessed are You, LORD our God, King of the universe, Who performed miracles for our ancestors in those days at this time. "

Hanerot Halalu Edit

After the lights are kindled the hymn Hanerot Halalu is recited. There are several different versions the version presented here is recited in many Ashkenazic communities: [102]

Ashkenazi version:
Hebrew Transliteration English
הנרות הללו אנו מדליקין על הנסים ועל הנפלאות ועל התשועות ועל המלחמות שעשית לאבותינו בימים ההם, בזמן הזה על ידי כהניך הקדושים. וכל שמונת ימי חנוכה הנרות הללו קודש הם, ואין לנו רשות להשתמש בהם אלא להאיר אותם בלבד כדי להודות ולהלל לשמך הגדול על נסיך ועל נפלאותיך ועל ישועותיך. Hanneirot hallalu anu madlikin 'al hannissim ve'al hanniflaot 'al hatteshu'ot ve'al hammilchamot she'asita laavoteinu bayyamim haheim, (u)bazzeman hazeh 'al yedei kohanekha hakkedoshim. Vekhol-shemonat yemei Hanukkah hanneirot hallalu kodesh heim, ve-ein lanu reshut lehishtammesh baheim ella lir'otam bilvad kedei lehodot ul'halleil leshimcha haggadol 'al nissekha ve'al nifleotekha ve'al yeshu'otekha. We kindle these lights for the miracles and the wonders, for the redemption and the battles that you made for our forefathers, in those days at this season, through your holy priests. During all eight days of Hanukkah these lights are sacred, and we are not permitted to make ordinary use of them except for to look at them in order to express thanks and praise to Your great Name for Your miracles, Your wonders and Your salvations.

Maoz Tzur Edit

In the Ashkenazi tradition, each night after the lighting of the candles, the hymn Ma'oz Tzur is sung. The song contains six stanzas. The first and last deal with general themes of divine salvation, and the middle four deal with events of persecution in Jewish history, and praises God for survival despite these tragedies (the exodus from Egypt, the Babylonian captivity, the miracle of the holiday of Purim, the Hasmonean victory), and a longing for the days when Judea will finally triumph over Rome. [103]

The song was composed in the thirteenth century by a poet only known through the acrostic found in the first letters of the original five stanzas of the song: Mordechai. The familiar tune is most probably a derivation of a German Protestant church hymn or a popular folk song. [104]

Other customs Edit

After lighting the candles and Ma'oz Tzur, singing other Hanukkah songs is customary in many Jewish homes. Some Hasidic and Sephardi Jews recite Psalms, such as Psalm 30, Psalm 67, and Psalm 91. In North America and in Israel it is common to exchange presents or give children presents at this time. In addition, many families encourage their children to give tzedakah (charity) in lieu of presents for themselves. [105] [106]

Special additions to daily prayers Edit

Translation of Al ha-Nissim [107]

An addition is made to the "hoda'ah" (thanksgiving) benediction in the Amidah (thrice-daily prayers), called Al HaNissim ("On/about the Miracles"). [108] This addition refers to the victory achieved over the Syrians by the Hasmonean Mattathias and his sons. [109] [110] [20]

The same prayer is added to the grace after meals. In addition, the Hallel (praise) Psalms [111] are sung during each morning service and the Tachanun penitential prayers are omitted. [109] [112]

The Torah is read every day in the shacharit morning services in synagogue, on the first day beginning from Numbers 6:22 (according to some customs, Numbers 7:1), and the last day ending with Numbers 8:4. Since Hanukkah lasts eight days it includes at least one, and sometimes two, Jewish Sabbaths (Saturdays). The weekly Torah portion for the first Sabbath is almost always Miketz, telling of Joseph's dream and his enslavement in Egypt. The Haftarah reading for the first Sabbath Hanukkah is Zechariah 2:14 – Zechariah 4:7. When there is a second Sabbath on Hanukkah, the Haftarah reading is from 1 Kings 7:40 – 1 Kings 7:50.

The Hanukkah menorah is also kindled daily in the synagogue, at night with the blessings and in the morning without the blessings. [113]

The menorah is not lit during Shabbat, but rather prior to the beginning of Shabbat as described above and not at all during the day. During the Middle Ages "Megillat Antiochus" was read in the Italian synagogues on Hanukkah just as the Book of Esther is read on Purim. It still forms part of the liturgy of the Yemenite Jews. [114]

Zot Hanukkah Edit

The last day of Hanukkah is known by some as Zot Hanukkah and by others as Chanukat HaMizbeach, from the verse read on this day in the synagogue Numbers 7:84, Zot Hanukkat Hamizbe'ach: "This was the dedication of the altar". According to the teachings of Kabbalah and Hasidism, this day is the final "seal" of the High Holiday season of Yom Kippur and is considered a time to repent out of love for God. In this spirit, many Hasidic Jews wish each other Gmar chatimah tovah ("may you be sealed totally for good"), a traditional greeting for the Yom Kippur season. It is taught in Hasidic and Kabbalistic literature that this day is particularly auspicious for the fulfillment of prayers. [115]

Other related laws and customs Edit

It is customary for women not to work for at least the first half-hour of the candles' burning, and some have the custom not to work for the entire time of burning. It is also forbidden to fast or to eulogize during Hanukkah. [74]

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Judaism has a set of classical early rabbinic commentaries on the Hebrew Bible these commentary collections are known as the midrash literature. Midrash Mekhilta of Rabbi Ishmael has this teaching on a biblical verse:

"This is my God and I will glorify Him" (Exodus 15:2)
Is it possible for a human being to add glory to his Creator? What this really means is: I shall glorify God in the way that I perform commandments. I shall prepare a beautiful lulav, beautiful sukkah, beautiful fringes (tzitzit), and beautiful tefillin. [ citation needed ]

Other Midrash teachings (e.g. Shir HaShirim Rabbah 1.15) offer the same idea. This idea is expanded upon in the Babylonian Talmud (e.g. Bāḇā Qammā 9b). This teaching was understood by succeeding generations as a duty, when possible, to make beautiful items used in Jewish life and worship, both physical and textual.

The following items are used during Shabbat:

  • Kiddush cup: Kiddush, literally, "sanctification," is a blessing recited over wine or grape juice to sanctify the Shabbat and Jewish holidays. Kiddush cups are highly decorated, and are generally made of china, porcelain, silver, pewter and nickel.
  • Shabbat candlestick holders
  • Hand washing cup ("netilat yediam")
  • Challah cutting board and cover
  • Havdalah candle and candle holder
  • Havdalah spice box

The close of the Jewish Shabbat is marked by the brief prayer ceremony of Havdalah, which usually takes place in the home. Part of the ceremony requires sniffing a sweet-smelling spice or plant. In Jewish communities around the Mediterranean, a sprig of a sweet-smelling shrub was customarily used, in Northern Europe by the twelfth century there are literary references of the use of a specially designed spice box or container. The oldest surviving spice boxes for Havdalah date to the mid-sixteenth century. The Jewish Museum (New York) has a German example c. 1550 thought to originate in Frankfurt am Main. [2]

Hanukkah items Edit

The menorah (or hanukkiah) used on the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah is perhaps the most widely produced article of Jewish ceremonial art. [3] [4] [5] The Lindo lamp is a particularly fine example by an 18th-century silversmith. Contemporary artists often design menorahs, such as the gold-plated brass menorah with 35 moveable branches designed by Yaacov Agam. [6] A silver menorah by Ze'ev Raban from the 1930s is in the Judaica Collection of the North Carolina Museum of Art. [7]

To protect the etrog during the Sukkot holiday, it is traditionally wrapped in silky flax fibers and stored in a special box, often made from silver. [8]

In modern times, the etrog is also commonly wrapped in synthetic netting, and placed in cardboard boxes. Wooden boxes are increasingly popular as well.

There have been a few Judaica items that have achieved Guinness World Records.

  • Large Silver Sculpture Menorah. [9] Designed by Haim Lutin. The Menorah is 2.52 m (8 ft 3.4 in) tall and 1.97 m (6 ft 5.5 in) wide.
  • Most Valuable Dreidel. [10] Achieved by Estate Diamond Jewelry and valued at $70,000. The tip of the dreidel features a 4-carat diamond.
  • Largest Menorah in the World. [11] Designed by Yaacov Agam. The Menorah is 32 ft (9.7 m) tall, 28 ft (8.5 m) wide, and weighs 4,000 lb (1,814 kg).

Passover haggadah Edit

The tradition of artistically embellished haggadahs, the Jewish text that sets forth the order of the Passover Seder, dates back to the Middle Ages. The Sarajevo Haggadah of 1350 is a celebrated example. Major contemporary artists have produced notable haggadahs, such as the Szyk Hagaddah. See also the facsimile edition of the even earlier Barcelona Haggadah [12] of 1340.

Museums with notable collections of Jewish ceremonial art include the British Library, [13] the Israel Museum, the Jewish Museum (London), the Musée d'Art et d'Histoire du Judaïsme in Paris, the Jewish Museum in Prague, the North Carolina Museum of Art, [7] the Jewish Museum (New York), the Musée Lorrain in Nancy, [14] the Musée alsacien in Strasbourg and the Contemporary Jewish Museum of San Francisco. [15] The Museum of Jewish Heritage in Battery City Park, New York City also holds a sizable collection. Another way to see Judaica is through the art marketplace, including auction houses. Sotheby's, Bonhams-New York, Skinner's and Kestenbaums routinely hold regular auctions each year.

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