Elaine Marcus spoke about the traditions. She described how Traditions are celebrated differently depending on whether one was raised in the Orthodox or Reformed Judaic Tradition. Also within each family, they decide on how elaborately or simply they want to celebrate the day.
Elaine related the story of Hannukah:
Long ago in the land of Judea there was a Syrian king, Antiochus. The king ordered the Jewish people to reject their God, their religion, their customs and their beliefs and to worship the Greek gods. There were some who did as they were told, but many refused. One who refused was Judah Maccabee.
Judah and his four brothers formed an army and chose as their name the word “Maccabee”, which means hammer. After three years of fighting, the Maccabees were finally successful in driving the Syrians out of Israel and reclaimed the Temple in Jerusalem. The Maccabees wanted to clean the building and to remove the hated Greek symbols and statues. On the 25th day of the month of Kislev, the job was finished and the temple was rededicated.
When Judah and his followers finished cleaning the temple, they wanted to light the eternal light, known as the N’er Tamid, which is present in every Jewish house of worship. Once lit, the oil lamp should never be extinguished.
Only a tiny jug of oil was found with only enough for a single day. The oil lamp was filled and lit. Then a miracle occurred as the tiny amount of oil stayed lit not for one day, but for eight days.
Jews celebrate Chanukah to mark the victory over the Syrians and the rededication of the Jerusalem Temple. The Festival of the Lights, Chanukah, lasts for eight days to commemorate the miracle of the oil. The word Chanukah means “rededication”.
In America, families celebrate Chanukah at home. They give and receive gifts, decorate the house, entertain friends and family, eat special foods, and light the holiday menorah.
Lighting the Chanukah Menorah:
Each night during Chanukah Jews light candles in a special candelabra called a Menorah. The center candle, called the Shamash, is always the first candle placed in the Menorah and the first candle to be lit each night. The remaining candles are placed and lit in a specific order depending on the night of the celebration.
When placing candles in the Menorah – the Shamash (center) candle is placed first. Then that night’s candles are placed in the Menorah from right to left.
When the candles are lit, the Shamash would be lit first and then is used to light that night’s candles – from left to right. And as the candles are lit each night a special prayer is recited.
The Chanukah Dreidel (Dreidle):
The dreidel is one of the best known symbols of Chanukah. A four-sided top with a Hebrew letter on each side, the dreidel is used to play a fun Chanukah game of chance.
The letters on the dreidel, Nun, Gimmel, Hey and Shin, stand for the Nes Gadol Haya Sham, which means A Great Miracle Happened There.
To play the game of dreidel: Two to four players each get a handful of pennies or chocolate money called gelt. The remainder of the pot is left in the middle. The youngest players spins the dreidel and depending on what letter the top lands on, he or she will:
– SHIN (or PEH) – Lose all of his coins
– HEY – Win half the pot
– NUN – Lose his turn, the top passes to the next player.
– GIMEL – Win the whole pot.
The dreidel — or Sivivon in Hebrew, from the verb to spin — continues to be passed around the circle until one player has won everyone’s coins. The word dreidel comes from a Yiddish word meaning to turn.
According to some historians, Jews first played with a spinning top during the rule of the Greek King Antiochus’. In Judea, Antiochus had outlawed Jewish worship, so the Jews would use a game with the spinning top as a ruse to conceal that they were secretly studying Torah.