Tag Archives: Maccabees

Hanukkah, oh Hanukkah!

Shabbat Hanukkah   by  Laya Crust

This painting is from my newly published book “ILLUMINATIONS, An Exploration of Haftarah through Art and History.” The book was released last month- in November 2022. This painting is based on an exquisite manuscript illumination painted in northern France, around 1278. It shows the High Priest pouring consecrated olive oil into the Temple Menorah.

This year the 25th of Kislev (the first night of Hanukkah) fell on December 18. Read on for some interesting Hanukkah information.

The story of Hanukkah began in 168 BCE when the Syrian-Greeks, under Antiochus Epiphanes, desecrated the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. The Jews of Modi’in rebelled. Under the leadership of Matityahu the High Priest and his five sons, a group of Jewish rebels, called the Maccabees, hid in the mountains and fought the Greeks. The Maccabees retook the Temple in Jerusalem, purified it and made new holy objects such as the menorah, a new altar, and other holy vessels.  Matityahu proclaimed the 25th of Kislev (the third anniversary of Antiochus’s anti-Jewish proclamations) as the first day of Hanukkah.

The word Hanukkah means “Dedication,” and this is the holiday of the rededication of the  Temple. Josephus actually called the holiday “Urim” (which means”Lights”) so that may be why it is also called “The Holiday of Lights.”

Why do we light 8 candles- plus an extra, the “shamash”?  There have been various opinions on how many candles to light. The early writings didn’t even mention the kindling of lights on Hanukkah. It is first mentioned around 200 CE in a “baraita” (oral opinion from the Mishnaic period). One opinion was that only one flame should be lit each night. Another opinion was that one light for each person should be lit each night. The more zealous, it said, could light an additional candle for each of the eight days.

Hanukkah

Hanukkah (Photo credit: Cayusa)

We base our tradition on the “Beit Hillel” school of thought. Whereas “Beit Shammai” suggested starting Hanukkah with 8 candles and reducing that by one each night, Hillel preferred the idea of adding a candle each night.

Why the shamash? We aren’t supposed to use our Hanukkah candles and their flames for practical purposes. We are only to gaze at their light and enjoy them. So, we use a “worker candle” (shamash) to light the others. The “worker” candle is set at a different height so it won’t be confused with the actual Hanukkah lights.

The popular reason given for the 8-day length of Hanukkah is the story of the miracle of the oil.  This is a story found in another “baraita.” According to this story, the Maccabbees went into the Temple and found only one cruse of purified oil acceptable for use in the menorah. The cruse was lit and miraculously burned for 8 days until more pure oil could be obtained. That miraculous little cruse of oil inspired the wonderful fried Hanukkah- potato latkes, sufganiot (jelly donuts) and bimuelos or loukoumades which are Sepharadi delicacies- deep fried puffs in honey.      

The halachah tells us to light our hanukkiot in the street. Most of us in North America light our candles in a window facing the street. In Israel there are special glass boxes – almost like a closed aquarium – so people can light their candles in the street and they won’t be extinguished by the wind.

“Dreidel” is the traditional Hanukkah game.  A dreidel is a four-sided “top.” Dreidel is its Yiddish name, and Sivivon is its Hebrew name. There are different stories about the history of the game. A popular story is that the game dates back to the time of the Maccabees. While they were hiding from the Greeks in caves the children would play with the dreidels to alleviate their boredom. Another theory was that since the study of Torah was forbidden, the Jews would take out their dreidels if they heard the soldiers coming to hide the fact they were learning Torah.

Another idea is that Hanukkah was a holiday of joy. Parents relaxed the rules and let their children play dreidel although it had a gambling component.  But where is the dreidel itself from? A game called “teetotum” was played in England and Ireland in the early 1500’s. The “teetotum” had letters or numbers on the sides representing what was being gambled. Some of the teetotums had letters written on them with  H for take half, T for take all,  P for put in and N for nothing. It sounds quite familiar. For more thoughts on the symbolism and possible history of the dreidel you can go to http://ohr.edu/1309

 

We haven’t explored the story of Judith, but that will be for another time. Whichever way you decide to celebrate, and whatever history story you decide to tell, enjoy your Hanukkah and don’t eat too many bimuelos!

Have a wonderful Hanukkah and a joyful Shabbat Shalom, Laya

About the Book!!

I’m excited to introduce you to the newest member of my family. ILLUMINATIONS, An Exploration of Haftarah through Art and History is a book of all the haftarah pictures you have seen in my blog. It was published in October and released on November 24, 2022. It boasts 82 full-colour pictures and a rich commentary that accompanies each painting. For more information or to order a book go to https://www.haftarah-illuminations.com/ or to haftarah-illuminations.com

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

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.

P1120444

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.

P1120447

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

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The Latke Edition

P1120442                                                      Laya at the latke post

 

Well, Hanukkah is almost over. For many of us, other than lighting the Hanukkah candles, oil is the theme. And Hanukkah begins and ends with potato latkes.

As promised, here is the recipe I use for a whole mess of those yummy fried spuds:

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.

P1120444

 

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.

P1120447

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).

This just in from Yehudit Permut of Israel- “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

 

 

 

5 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Hanukkah, oh Hanukkah!

Shabbat Hanukkah   by  Laya Crust

This painting is from my newly published book “ILLUMINATIONS, An Exploration of Haftarah through Art and History.” The book was released last month- in November 2022. This painting is based on an exquisite manuscript illumination painted in northern France, around 1278. It shows the High Priest pouring consecrated olive oil into the Temple Menorah.

This year the 25th of Kislev (the first night of Hanukkah) fell on December 18. Read on for some interesting Hanukkah information.

The story of Hanukkah began in 168 BCE when the Syrian-Greeks, under Antiochus Epiphanes, desecrated the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. The Jews of Modi’in rebelled. Under the leadership of Matityahu the High Priest and his five sons, a group of Jewish rebels, called the Maccabees, hid in the mountains and fought the Greeks. The Maccabees retook the Temple in Jerusalem, purified it and made new holy objects such as the menorah, a new altar, and other holy vessels.  Matityahu proclaimed the 25th of Kislev (the third anniversary of Antiochus’s anti-Jewish proclamations) as the first day of Hanukkah.

The word Hanukkah means “Dedication,” and this is the holiday of the rededication of the  Temple. Josephus actually called the holiday “Urim” (which means”Lights”) so that may be why it is also called “The Holiday of Lights.”

Why do we light 8 candles- plus an extra, the “shamash”?  There have been various opinions on how many candles to light. The early writings didn’t even mention the kindling of lights on Hanukkah. It is first mentioned around 200 CE in a “baraita” (oral opinion from the Mishnaic period). One opinion was that only one flame should be lit each night. Another opinion was that one light for each person should be lit each night. The more zealous, it said, could light an additional candle for each of the eight days.

Hanukkah

Hanukkah (Photo credit: Cayusa)

We base our tradition on the “Beit Hillel” school of thought. Whereas “Beit Shammai” suggested starting Hanukkah with 8 candles and reducing that by one each night, Hillel preferred the idea of adding a candle each night.

Why the shamash? We aren’t supposed to use our Hanukkah candles and their flames for practical purposes. We are only to gaze at their light and enjoy them. So, we use a “worker candle” (shamash) to light the others. The “worker” candle is set at a different height so it won’t be confused with the actual Hanukkah lights.

The popular reason given for the 8-day length of Hanukkah is the story of the miracle of the oil.  This is a story found in another “baraita.” According to this story, the Maccabbees went into the Temple and found only one cruse of purified oil acceptable for use in the menorah. The cruse was lit and miraculously burned for 8 days until more pure oil could be obtained. That miraculous little cruse of oil inspired the wonderful fried Hanukkah- potato latkes, sufganiot (jelly donuts) and bimuelos or loukoumades which are Sepharadi delicacies- deep fried puffs in honey.      

The halachah tells us to light our hanukkiot in the street. Most of us in North America light our candles in a window facing the street. In Israel there are special glass boxes – almost like a closed aquarium – so people can light their candles in the street and they won’t be extinguished by the wind.

“Dreidel” is the traditional Hanukkah game.  A dreidel is a four-sided “top.” Dreidel is its Yiddish name, and Sivivon is its Hebrew name. There are different stories about the history of the game. A popular story is that the game dates back to the time of the Maccabees. While they were hiding from the Greeks in caves the children would play with the dreidels to alleviate their boredom. Another theory was that since the study of Torah was forbidden, the Jews would take out their dreidels if they heard the soldiers coming to hide the fact they were learning Torah.

Another idea is that Hanukkah was a holiday of joy. Parents relaxed the rules and let their children play dreidel although it had a gambling component.  But where is the dreidel itself from? A game called “teetotum” was played in England and Ireland in the early 1500’s. The “teetotum” had letters or numbers on the sides representing what was being gambled. Some of the teetotums had letters written on them with  H for take half, T for take all,  P for put in and N for nothing. It sounds quite familiar. For more thoughts on the symbolism and possible history of the dreidel you can go to http://ohr.edu/1309

 

We haven’t explored the story of Judith, but that will be for another time. Whichever way you decide to celebrate, and whatever history story you decide to tell, enjoy your Hanukkah and don’t eat too many bimuelos!

Have a wonderful Hanukkah and a joyful Shabbat Shalom, Laya

About the Book!!

 

I’m excited to introduce you to the newest member of my family. ILLUMINATIONS, An Exploration of Haftarah through Art and History is a book of all the haftarah pictures you have seen in my blog. It was published in October and released on November 24, 2022. It boasts 82 full-colour pictures and a rich commentary that accompanies each painting. For more information or to order a book go to https://www.haftarah-illuminations.com/ or to haftarah-illuminations.com

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized