Tag Archives: hanukkiah

Hanukkah 5776

                                                      Hanukkah shabbat 1 sigart by Laya Crust

This week we’ve been celebrating Hanukkah, the holiday of light. Each night we light candles or  small cruzes of olive oil to celebrate the success of the Maccabean Revolt in the 2nd C.  BCE.  Antiochus IV was in control of the region, forbidding the observance of Judaism and ultimately desecrating the Second Temple in Jerusalem.

Hannukahh is a visually beautiful observance. We light candles in our doorways, windows, and even outside, sharing the holiday with every person who knowingly or unknowingly walks by a  hanukiah .  It’s somehow compelling to realize that the Festival of Lights occurs during the coldest, darkest time of the year. The days are shorter, the winter is coming or has already arrived – whether it’s rainy and cold in Israel or snowy and cold in the northern hemisphere. So in this cold dark part of the year we have the glow of light around us.

It’s a wonderful time to get together with friends and family to share a cup of tea and watch the candles burn low.

It’s an even better time to get together with someone you know who might be alone without friends or family to celebrate with. If you know someone who is alone for the evening give them a call. Share a candle, tea, and cookies. And if you know someone who is isolated, depressed, not well- give them a call to share the warmth and joy.  And if you feel really energetic you can make yummy potato latkes and share them!

Here is the latke recipe I like to use.P1120454

8 medium potatoes. ( if you scrub them well you don’t have to peel them)

1 largish onion

2 eggs

1/2 cup flour or matzah meal (you can even leave this out if there is a gluten allergy or sensitivity in your circle)

1 – 2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon pepper

oil for frying.


Grate the potatoes.

Cut the onion in half then slice it nice and thin.

Mix all the ingredients together- EXCEPT FOR THE OIL.

Heat a couple of tablespoons of oil in a frying pan. When it’s nice and hot put in a 1/4 cup of potato mixture for each latke.

Let them cook for about 6-8 minutes, until golden on the bottom. Then flip gently and let it cook another 5 – 7 minutes- until golden on the other side. I like to make the latkes on the thin side so they cook all the way through. Add a small amount of oil as necessary, gently and carefully tipping the frying pan so the oil finds its way throughout those sizzling critters.


Place the fried latkes on an opened (clean) paper bag or on a paper towel to absorb the extra oil.

If you want to “change them up” you can add grated zucchini, sweet potato, parsnip, beets or carrots- you get the idea.

Warning- it doesn’t matter how many you make- there will rarely be enough.

It’s popular to eat latkes with sour cream and apple sauce, but I grew up eating them with chrein (horseradish).

Yehudit Permut of Israel  told me, “A family tradition started in my maternal grandmother’s family in Russia was latkes from a different vegetable each candle – using the root vegetables that were stored in the root cellar and had been grown in their garden in the summer. We continued this and I have already passed it on to my children. It can be potato mixed with other veg or things like beets and parsnip, parsnip and carrot, potato and either veg, even potato mixed with some shredded cabbage and onions… anything goes. They used what they had.”

Enjoy the latkes and enjoy the last of Hanukkah.

Chag Sameach, Laya



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Hanukkah shabbat 1 sigart by Laya Crust

Hanukkah    25 Kislev – 2 Tevet

illustration , inspired by the North French Miscellany, 1280

Today I’m going to write the history of Hanukkah, but stay tuned for a latke recipe that I will post in the next couple of days.

Hanukkah is a holiday commemorating the uprising of the Jews against the Greeks in 168 B.C.E. The story begins  when the Seleucids conquered Phoenicia and Palestine (Israel). They  allowed the  Jews to carry on their religion and practices with complete freedom. The Jewish Kohen Gadol, Simon, had supported the King Antiochus III in the war so Antiochus III was very generous to the Jews, even making a large contribution to the temple in Jerusalem and allowing them to govern themselves.

By the time Antiochus IV came to power in 175 BCE the Jewish religious leadership had changed. Jason, brother of the high priest of Jerusalem wanted his brother’s position. He bribed Antiochus IV for the position of high priest. As well as giving the king money, Jason promised to build a gymnasium in Jerusalem and establish a Greek constitution in the city. Obviously Jason wanted to hellenize the Jewish city. Judaism was still observed and the Temple used as it always had been, so it seemed that Jason’s hellenizing innovations didn’t change how the Jews observed their religion and new Greek additions didn’t bother many  Jewish citizens.

In 170 a Jew named Menelaus bribed Antiochus IV for Jason’s position as High Priest and indeed Menelaus was appointed as High Priest. What goes around comes around.  In the same year Antiochus IV plundered the Temple and two years later rededicated the Temple of Jerusalem to Zeus. The practice of Judaism was outlawed on pain of death and officials were sent into the countryside to oversee the introduction of Greek religious practice.

The persecution of the Jews was recorded in the Books of Maccabees 1 and 2. Interesting fact- the word “macabre” has its root in “Maccabee” because of the tales of torture and hardship.

There were rumblings of resistance among the Jews. Under the leadership of Mattathius, a priest from Modi’in, the resistors started to use guerilla tactics against the large, well organized Greek armies. When Mattathius died in 165 BCE his son Judah the Maccabee took over. His small band of fighters consistently defeated the royal troops.

In late 164 BCE Judah and his men managed to seize the Temple Mount in Jerusalem and purified the Temple. It was rededicated to Gd on the third anniversary of its dedication to the Greek god Zeus,on  the 25th of Kislev.

The holiday lasts eight days. Some say it is an echo of the length of Sukkot. The popular reason is given for the eight day length is that only one cruse of pure oil was found for lighting the rebuilt Temple menorah. The oil should only have lasted one day  but it lasted for eight days- the length of time it took to create new, ritually pure olive oil.

So- that is the history of Hanukkah. The illustration at the top of the page was inspired by The North French Miscellany, from France, 1290. The miscellany is a collection of texts including the “chumash” (5 books of Moses), prophets, writings, 5 megillot, Pesach Haggadah, prayers, legal texts and poetry by Moses ibn Ezra. There are 49 illustrations, most of them to do with Biblical stories, set in rondels or a circular form. The miscellany is found in the British library- one of the fantastic pieces in its collection of Jewish manuscripts.

For a nice Hanukkah treat watch this:


Happy Hanukkah,


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