WHAT IS HANUKKAH?
Hanukkah is commonly thought to be the commemoration of a military victory by the Maccabees over the Greco-Syrian armies in 164 bce, after which we rededicated (a Hanukkah, in Hebrew) the Jerusalem Temple, only to discover there wasn’t enough oil to keep the ner tamid (Eternal Light) burning for the eight days it would take to bring new oil from the Negev Desert in the south.
WHY TO WE LIGHT THE HANUKIYAH (MENORAH)
Placing the Hanukkah menorah in our window each year makes a powerful statement that we too would stake our lives on the right of every human being to live a life of religious freedom. Those tiny lights reflect the brightness of our own spirits, of our pride in being just a bit different, but also of our being willing to take a stand for every people’s God-given right to be different.
ARE THERE ANY ENGLISH READINGS FOR US TO ENHANCE OUR CANDLE LIGHTINGS?
Sure! You can purchase Haneirot Halalu – These Lights are Holy (edited by Rabbi Elyse Fishman) from CCAR Press online. Or download The Story of Hanukkah – Eight Nights of Readings (written by Rabbi Billy) from wct.org/The-Story-of-Hanukkah.
WHAT ABOUT WHEN HANUKKAH FALLS ON SHABBAT?
Light your hanukiyah first, followed by Shabbat candles.
HELP! I DON'T KNOW HOW TO READ OR SING THE BLESSINGS!
Visit the Union for Reform Judaism's website (reformjudaism.org/jewish-holidays/hanukkah). They'll teach you the blessings and lots, lots more.
WHAT ABOUT CHRISTMAS?
Christmas has undergone quite a transformation here in America. Not only do many Jews consider it a secular holiday, but so too many Christians, particularly those who question the divine birth of Jesus. And thanks to a highly successful promotional campaign by the Coca-Cola Company in the early 1900's, Santa Claus exited church-lore and became an immensely popular figure in American secular folklore.