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Making Chanukah Meaningful for the Entire Family

Beneath the surface, Chanukah is about the supreme importance of family.

Grownup Chanukah Stories

Photo Credit: Nati Shohat/Flash90

Parenting and Education

The Hebrew word Chanukah means both “education” and “dedication.” To be a parent is to be an educator, and the essence of Jewish parenting is to teach your children what to be dedicated to. The secret of parenting is to appreciate the nuances of your child’s nature and to educate him or her accordingly. No two children are alike, yet every child needs to learn that it’s wrong to steal. Personalities vary, but the need to be kind and compassionate is universal.

A central theme of Chanukah is the responsibility of every parent to teach their children about what is important in life and what’s not so important; what has genuine and enduring value and what has only limited value; what principles demand devotion and dedication; what is morally and Jewishly negotiable, and what is not.

Underestimate Yourself? Never!

Chanukah challenges us with a stirring spiritual opportunity. Consider the small jar of oil. On the outside, it appeared to be a vessel capable of holding just one day’s worth of oil, while on the inside lay an entirely different reality. This is us too: No matter where we are in life, we still possess the inner ability to recast the form of our vessels. Often in life, we conclude that certain things “are me,” while others are “not me.” Chanukah is a time to reconsider what we have decided is “just not me” and to open ourselves to another dimension of potential—a dimension we may have needlessly defined as being beyond our reach.

Chanukah is a whisper in our souls that says: In our hands we hold the moist clay of our own lives. Potters of the spirit, we possess a far-reaching ability to shape from everything we are, the vessel we long to be.

Family Lights: How to Make Chanukah More Fun

On the surface, Chanukah appears to be about a revolt and a victory; a jar of oil and a miracle; and presents and potato latkes. Beneath the surface, it’s about the supreme importance of family. After all, the Chanukah revolt was spearheaded by a family, the Hasmoneans, and the story of Chana and her sons embodies the meaning of Chanukah. Similarly, the Greeks enacted specific decrees aimed at the heart of Jewish marriage and family life, and it was the devotion of Jewish women and mothers that was instrumental in thwarting those efforts.

The fact that family is so central to Chanukah teaches us that the Jewish family is absolutely central to the enduring vibrancy of the Jewish people. The following is a list of ideas that you can incorporate into your family’s celebration that will make the holiday more meaningful and fun than ever.

Latke Time : Peeling and grating potatoes, preparing the batter, and then the frying; potato latkes lend themselves to a fun family cooking experience, followed, of course, by a yummy family Chanukah dinner.

The Eight Nights of Chanukah Family Journal: A binder with sections for each person in the family. Each night, after candle lighting, everyone writes two items on their page

i) Something they respect, admire, or love about each member of the family.

ii) Something that makes them thankful or proud to be a Jew.

On the eighth night, each person can read what they wrote to the entire family. The binder is saved and grows year after year.

Story time: Each night, as a family, either read a story about Chanukah, or a brief selection from a book about Chanukah.

Dreidel: Put the Play Station and all the other high tech games away, and play a family game of dreidel. All it takes is a dreidel, a big pile of beans, pennies, lego pieces or whatever, and you will see how simple and wonderful, family bonding can be.

Share the Light: Contact a local Jewish convalescent or nursing home, find out when they have a candle lighting ceremony, and join in. The residents will absolutely love having your family there.

Shimon Apisdorf has authored ten books that have sold over a quarter million copies and have won two Benjamin Franklin awards. His family moved to Israel in the summer of 2012. You can learn more about him at www.shimonapisdorf.com

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Grownup Chanukah Stories

Beneath the surface, Chanukah is about the supreme importance of family.

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