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November 29, 2015 / 17 Kislev, 5776
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Posts Tagged ‘Chanukah’

Chanukah Lighting on the Mount of Olives

Sunday, December 1st, 2013

Living on the Mount of Olives has its perks. Sure, we have crazy traffic every Monday and Thursday mornings because of Kotel Bar Mitzvas, and no, we don’t have any nearby grocery stores so we have to stock up on big weekly shopping trips.

But there is nothing like lighting the Chanukia right across from the Temple Mount.

When I prepare my oil candles, I look over to the place that the first and second Temples stood, and I remember the fight which the Maccabees fought against the Syrian Greeks, and the Hebrew military/cultural victory which was broadcast when the Menorah was lit in purity once again. I also remember how almost three-hundred years later the Romans would sack the Temple overcoming the Great Revolt. And I remember how Bar Kochba and Rabbi Akiva fomented yet another revolution against mighty Rome only 60 years later, and took back Jerusalem for three more years before the final destruction of the Second Commonwealth.

From my window, the jewel Temple Mount is adorned by a golden crown. To the west, I see the Beit Knesset HaChurva, twice destroyed by Arabs – the second time being blown up with dynamite by the Jordanians in 1948. Now, once again, the great dome of the Churva stands tall and glorious atop the Old City. Even more to the west, I see the walls of ancient Jerusalem as rebuilt by Suleiman the Magnificent about 500 years ago. I even see the Leonardo Plaza hotel reminding me that there is a modern western Jerusalem as well.

To the east of the Temple Mount I see the continuation of my mountain – the Mount of Olives – the mountain of Jewish History. The voices of the massive cemetery answer ‘Amen’ as I light the Chanukia. Voices like the Prophet Zecharia who foresaw the rebuilding of the Third Temple, voices like Israel’s youngest fallen soldier: ten year old, private Nissim Gini, who is buried in a mass grave along with 47 other defenders of the Old City as it fell to the Jordanian legion in 1948. Voices like Rav Kook, Rav Goren, and even Eliezer Ben Yehuda who dedicated their lives to the birth of the Third Jewish commonwealth in the Land of Israel. They all answer ‘Amen’ as I light the Chanukia with my wife and children in the construction site know as Jerusalem.

Yet there are other voices, loud voices, that I hear, or am forced to hear, as I light the oil candles. These are the voices of the Fatah club right underneath my balcony. “Allah HuAkbar” is not a friendly invitation to serve God in the Holy City. No, the meaning behind that call is that in the name of God, Jewish sovereignty is to be snuffed out, and if I and my children are in the way, then we are to be snuffed out as well. The chant is meant to energize the adherents and strike fear into victims. But as I look unto the Fatah club through the light of Chankiah, I am filled with the determination of the Maccabees that we shall prevail over these forces of darkness.

And then there is the Temple Mount itself. In the misty night, the well placed lights illuminate the Golden Dome. On the one hand I am happy that at least the Temple Mount is respected with a memorable edifice. On the other hand, that very structure appears in every anti-Israel Jihadist propaganda. Indeed, as my friend Alex pointed out to me, our holiest place is the seed of greatest hate against us. Ironic.

Tears come down as I ponder the history of the self-sacrifice that this place engenders in our people. But I am heartened that we are part of a long chain of history, and that long chain will eventually lead, as promised, to victory. That victory will not mean subjugation of people, or the abrogation of freedom. It will mean the subjugation of evil men, and the abrogation of tyranny. Isn’t that what Chanukah is all about?

Lone Soldiers and Olim Celebrate “Thanksgivukkah” in Tel Aviv

Thursday, November 28th, 2013

Fifty lone soldiers and over 200 young professional Olim celebrated “Thanksgivukkah” at a festive event organized by Nefesh B’Nefesh and White City Shabbat.

Revelers celebrated the once-in-a-lifetime double holiday of Chanukkah and Thanksgiving at the landmark Goren Synagogue in Tel Aviv with a three-course meal replete with traditional holiday foods including latkes and turkey.

After the meal, Tel Aviv’s deputy mayor Asaf Zamir led the Chanukkah candle-lighting ceremony. This event was also sponsored by the Ministry of Aliyah and Immigrant Absorption, The Jewish Agency for Israel, Keren Kayemeth L’Israel, JNF and the FIDF as a part of Nefesh B’Nefesh’s ongoing social events for its Olim and Lone Soldiers.

As a gesture of showing thanks and in order to promote acts of kindness towards those less fortunate, dinner guests were encouraged to donate lightly worn clothes for the event’s clothing drive.

“We are excited to have teamed up with White City Shabbat on this exceptional holiday event. This was a great opportunity for young professionals and lone soldiers to enjoy a traditional festive meal and express their thanks together with fellow Olim from around the country,” said Benji Davis, Events & Programs Coordinator at Nefesh B’Nefesh.

White City Shabbat is a volunteer-run portal for Jewish life in Tel Aviv that hosts a range of intercommunity events, including its hugely successful monthly Shabbat meals.

As a native Brit, Deborah Danan doesn’t feel that Thanksgivukkah is exclusive for Americans. “The theme of Thanksgiving is anyway inherent to the festival of Chanukkah which all Jews celebrate,” said Danan, who co-directs White City Shabbat together with Eytan White, “And of course, as our tagline states, ‘you don’t have to be American to give thanks!’ People from a broad spectrum of nationalities are coming together to show their gratitude for being able to celebrate this unique holiday in Israel.”

Rosh Chodesh Kislev, Getting Ready for Hanukkah

Monday, November 4th, 2013

Today is the first day of Kislev and the second day of this year’s Rosh Chodesh Kislev.  The Holiday of Hanukkah takes place at the end of the month, when the moon is fading from the sky and its light has gotten dimmer.

On the eight days of Chanukah, not only do we light the chanukiyah, Chanukah menorah, but we add a short prayer to all of our prayers which is called “Al Hanissim,” “For the Miracles.”

And [we thank You] for the miracles, for the redemption, for the mighty deeds, for the saving acts, and for the wonders which You have wrought for our ancestors in those days, at this time.

In the days of Matityahu, the son of Yochanan the High Priest, the Hasmonean and his sons, when the wicked Hellenic government rose up against Your people Israel to make them forget Your Torah and violate the decrees of Your will. But You, in Your abounding mercies, stood by them in the time of their distress. You waged their battles, defended their rights, and avenged the wrong done to them. You delivered the mighty into the hands of the weak, the many into the hands of the few, the impure into the hands of the pure, the wicked into the hands of the righteous, and the wanton sinners into the hands of those who occupy themselves with Your Torah. You made a great and holy name for Yourself in Your world, and effected a great deliverance and redemption for Your people Israel to this very day. Then Your children entered the shrine of Your House, cleansed Your Temple, purified Your Sanctuary, kindled lights in Your holy courtyards, and instituted these eight days of Chanukah to give thanks and praise to Your great Name.


I consider this the perfect summary of the Chanukah story and also a lesson for today.  It’s an “against all odds” type of story.  It’s the type of story that repeats itself in Jewish Biblical history and until this very day.

Our redemption, our victory depends on our reliance on and obedience to G-d and not on foreign nations or leaders.  Just like the Chanukiyah won’t light itself, we must take on the responsibility and work hard to live safely and securely.


I’ve written many times that I believe that the key is to extend Israeli sovereignty over the Land of Israel, starting with what Israel holds today, from the Temple Mount, to the Golan, the Jordan Valley, Judea, Samaria until the border with Egypt.

“We have the power to demand peace by refusing to negotiate with our enemies.  There won’t be peace until they come to us begging.  The more we beg the further we are from peace.”

Visit Shiloh Musings.

Is Hanukkah a Minor Holiday?

Wednesday, October 30th, 2013

Originally published at Chabad.org.


My friend told me that Hanukkah is a minor holiday, unlike Rosh Hashanah and Passover, and so we shouldn’t make such a big deal out of it. He said that the only reason it became so big was because of the season.


Unlike Rosh Hashanah, Passover and other “major” holidays, which are prescribed by the Torah as days of rest, we go to work on Hanukkah. Even on Purim, going to work is not recommended. Also, on Jewish holidays we wear special clothes. But the days of Hanukkah are regular workdays in regular clothes.

Yet Hanukkah is a hardly a “minor” holiday. Read what Maimonides writes in his Laws of Hanukkah:

The mitzvah of kindling Hanukkah lamps is a very precious mitzvah. A person should be very careful in its observance, to publicize the miracle and thus increase our praise of God and our expression of thanks for the miracles which He wrought on our behalf. Even if a person has no resources for food except what he receives from charity, he should pawn or sell his garments and purchase oil and lamps to kindle them.

Maimonides continues by instructing that if one has only enough money to afford either a cup of wine for Shabbat kiddush or oil for his Hanukkah lamp, the mitzvah of Hanukkah takes precedence. Doesn’t sound too minor to me.

Especially when you take into account that this is what Hanukkah is all about: to “light up the darkness” (which is why we light it at night, at the door or window). So, even though it’s a regular workday—well, that’s really the whole idea: to light up the regular workday. And that takes a very special light.

At any rate, since when do we look for excuses not to celebrate? On the contrary, in the words of wise King Solomon, “A good heart always celebrates.”

Rabbi Tzvi Freeman, senior editor at Chabad.org

Pass the Cranberry Latkes for Thanksgivukkah Holiday (Video)

Tuesday, October 29th, 2013

If the Pilgrims are lighting menorahs and the Maccabees are chasing turkeys, it must be Thanksgivukkah, as some have come to call the confluence of Thanksgiving and Chanukah that will happen this year on Nov. 28.

It’s a rare event, one that won’t occur again until 2070 and then in 2165. Beyond that, because the Jewish lunisolar (lunar with solar adjustments) calendar is very slowly getting out of sync with the solar calendar, the Chanukah-Thanksgiving confluence won’t happen again by one calculation until the year 79811 — when turkeys presumably will be smart enough to read calendars and vacation in space that month.

How do we celebrate this rare holiday alignment? Do we stick candles in the turkey and stuff the horns of plenty with gelt? Put payos on the Pilgrims? What about starting by wishing each other “gobble tov” and then changing the words to a favorite Chanukah melody:

“I cooked a little turkey, Just like I’m Bobby Flay, And when it’s sliced and ready, I’ll fress the day away.”

The holiday mash-up has its limits. We know the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade will not end with a float carrying a Maccabee. But it has created opportunities as well: Raise your hand if you plan to wait until the post-Thanksgiving Day sales for your Chanukah shopping.

Ritually, just as we’ve figured out that we add candles to our menorahs from right to left and light them from left to right, a new question looms this year: Should we slice the turkey before or after?

“I think it’s wonderful,” said Dr. Ron Wolfson, whose book “Relational Judaism” (Jewish Lights Publishing) speaks to how our communal relationships — how we listen and welcome — can make our Jewish communities more meaningful. “This year is about bringing friends and family together.”

Wolfson, also the author of “The Chanukah Family Guide to Spiritual Celebration,” said in a recent interview that this year’s calendrical collision was a way to enhance “Thanksgiving beyond football and a big meal.”

In the American land of commercial plenty, the confluence certainly has served up a feast of merchandise. There are T-shirts saying “8 Days of Light, Liberty & Latkes” and a coffee mug picturing a turkey with nine burning tail feathers. And then there’s the ceramic menorah in the shape of a turkey — a Menurkey, created by 9-year-old Asher Weintraub of New York.

But being more of a do-it-yourselfer, this writer recycled an old sukkah decoration to create a Thankgivukkkah centerpiece — the cornukiyah.

For the holiday cook trying to blend the two holidays’ flavors, there’s a recipe that calls for turkeys brined in Manischewitz, and another for cranberry latkes. But what about a replacement for the now infamous Frankenstein of Thanksgiving cuisine, the turducken? How about a “turchitke,” a latke inside of a chicken inside of a turkey?

For Wolfson, who has largely ignored the merch and wordplay, this year simply is an opportunity to change the script. At his Thanksgiving dinner, he is going combine Chanukah ritual with holiday elements found on FreedomsFeast.us, a website that uses American holidays to pass on “stories, values and behaviors.”

Wolfson, a Fingerhut professor of education at American Jewish University, wants us to consider the similarities of the stories at the heart of each holiday.

“The Pilgrims were escaping religious persecution in Europe. They did not want to be assimilated,” Wolfson said, adding that “the Maccabees were fighting against Hellenization,” another form of assimilation.

Counter to the usual “December dilemma” for the intermarried — whose numbers have increased to 58 percent since 2005, according to the recent Pew study — Wolfson noted the “opportunities and challenges” presented this year by Chanukah and Christmas not coinciding.

“We usually feel the tension between the two holidays,” he said. “This year we can feel the compatibility of the two.”

The early Chanukah will help people to appreciate its “cultural integrity,” said Wolfson, adding that he “would not be surprised by a spike in candle lighting this year.”

But for others in the Jewish community, the pushing together of the Festival of Lights with Turkey Day has forced other changes, some unwanted.

Rabbi Steven Silver of Temple Menorah in Redondo Beach, Calif., is canceling his temple’s traditional Friday night Chanukah dinner. “That holiday weekend will be vacation time, people will be out visiting family and friends,” he said. “The rabbis won’t have anyone in front of them that weekend, and that’s a problem.”

Radio: End of Chanukah, Tension in Hebron, Update on the Petting Zoo, and Turmoil in Syria.

Wednesday, December 19th, 2012


Yishai and Malkah discuss the end of Chanukah and the feelings the holiday’s end leaves behind.  They move on to talk about the ever-tense situation between Arabs and Jews in the city of Hebron along with an update on the herd of goats that Malkah tends to in the Fleisher’s neighborhood petting zoo and they end the segment by discussing the capture of American journalists and Syria.  Don’t miss this segment!

Yishai Fleisher on Twitter: @YishaiFleisher
Yishai on Facebook

Post-Chanukah Musings at the Maccabees’ Hometown

Tuesday, December 18th, 2012

Late last week, as the sun was setting, I stood in the center of an archaeological ruin in the town of Modi’in, Israel, about a five-to-ten minute walk from my home. Israel has thousands of archaeological sites, some of tremendous historical and religious significance and others which will be investigated but likely bulldozed someday, as they are deemed of lesser value and standing in the way of the modern state’s progress.

What made that evening very special was the fact that it was the start of Shabbat, the seventh night of Chanukah and the site was Umm el-Umdan, containing an ancient rural village, mikveh and beit knesset, confirmed as one of the oldest ever unearthed in all of Israel, dating back to the Hasmonean Period. Given its location and dimensions, some archaeologists contend that it was very possibly the home of the Maccabees themselves. The beit knesset was unearthed in 2002 and according to the Israel Antiquities Authority the layout is similar to only a handful dating from the Second Temple period such as those discovered in Gamla and Herodium.

A large gathering of men and women from the surrounding Buchman neighborhood had entered the site. For the past several years the residents have come to this place to welcome Shabbat and pay tribute to the Maccabees. The men stood in the central part of the site, in a rectangular area that was probably the main floor of the beit knesset. In front of me was a small indentation in the stone framework surrounding the floor, perfectly positioned to accommodate an ark to hold Torah scrolls. As I looked past it, I realized that it was perfectly oriented on this hill to face Jerusalem. Our prayers began- we completed mincha and proceeded with a very beautiful kabbalat Shabbat service incorporating the music of Shlomo Carlebach.

However, it was not lost on any of us that this site has remained unmarked, undeveloped and virtually ignored by both municipal officials and our national government. Although Umm el-Umdan holds a prominently high position on the national registry of “Heritage Sites,” the only thing of note that has occurred here is that the weeds engulfing its large stones have periodically been pulled by municipal workers. The average city resident doesn’t even know the location of the site although it lies squarely along the main entry road to Modi’in from the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway. In fact, as we were preparing to pray last night, a jogger came by and shouted a thank you to us, saying “I never knew this was here.”

While standing and praying in the quickly receding daylight and having great difficulty reading from my siddur, just to our right, perhaps 200 yards away, I could see Modi’in’s new pride and joy: our recently opened extreme sports park lit up as brightly as Yankee Stadium at a night game and full of skate boarders. I’ve been told that it’s the biggest and best one in the country. The juxtaposition of the two sites really struck me: all I could think of was Maccabees vs. Hellenists. Please don’t get me wrong. I love skate boards. In fact in high school back in the 1960s I owned a first generation board and used it often. I believe Israel has room for all of us, no matter what path we choose to go down.

But that’s the rub— How could we have been standing those 200 yards away on this incredibly meaningful site, in the town where the Maccabees’ efforts assured Jewish continuity and be in the dark? How could this archaeological site be so ignored and treated almost as a nuisance by the municipal government, without – aside from the weeds being plucked – a shekel having been invested in site preservation? Without a shekel spent to put up a proper historical marker acknowledging the beit knesset’s existence in our town? Without even a string of cheap light bulbs strung to allow people to pray comfortably and in safety at the site? Maybe what we have forgotten is how to be modern day Maccabean activists who need to let our countrymen know how we feel.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/post-chanukah-musings-at-the-maccabees-hometown/2012/12/18/

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