All the time, Channuka is portrayed as a fun holiday with candles and everyone knows the story of the Syrian Greeks and how the Maccabim defeated them, how they lit the candles that were meant to last for one day, but lasted 8, and how we celebrate with food made with oil and milk. It seems simple but, here are a few things that you probably didn’t know, and some of them are important.
The Eight days of Channuka are not in parallel to Eight Days of the candles of the Menorah being lit.
The candles were meant to last for one day. Therefore, the first day of the Menorah was not a miracle.
Only the 7 days afterwards were part of the actual miracle. So why 8 days? The most accepted opinion is that the first day was a general day of celebration of the victory over the Greeks, but there are also those who say that the fact that the oil was found in the first place was kind of a reason for celebration.
Route 443, the north western road entrance to Jerusalem via Modiin and Givat Zeev is the same route used by the Syrian Greeks when they went to fight in Jerusalem.
The Syrian Greeks used to walk in groups with their spears held out. However, the path was narrow, so the Israelis used this advantage to attack them from the back. The battle took place at Bet Horon Hights, the same location of the modern town of Bet Horon. This battle was a critical battle, and forced the Greek survivors to escape back to the beach.
Source of the Sevivonim/Dreidels custom: During the Seleucus kingdom rule of Israel, Jewish people were not allowed to practice Judaism.
Many Jewish students hid in caves and studied Torah.
Whenever the Greek Soldiers came, they took out spinning tops and pretended that they were just playing games. (Obviously, these weren’t the same spinning tops as the sevivonim, since nothing happened yet).
In Israel, the Letters on the sevivon are Nun, Gimmel, Heh, Peh, which is short for “Nes Gadol Hayah Po” which means “A great miracle happened here. Overseas, the Peh is replaced with Shin for the word “There” instead of “Here”.
Yehuda Hamacabi Was Killed in the battles with the Greeks.
Many people forget to acknowledge this.
The worlds oldest known Synagogue is in Modiin. A dug up villiage, named “Umm El Umdan” which is probably the Old Modiin located between the Hashmonaim road and Shivtei Yisrael street of Modiin has visitors each year on Channuka for prayers in the old shul.
The 7 stick Menorah and Chanukia/ 8+1 stick Menorah are not the same. The 7 stick Menorah is the menorah used in the temple. The Channukia was made specially for the holiday.
The original candle lighting traddition was to light only one candle for the whole family.
Lighting a single candle for each person was considered mehudar, and lighting 8 candles throughout the holiday was even more mehudar.
(Mehudar = A term for properly kosher items or Mitzvah efforts).
Probably throughout the time, the 8 candlestick lamp was being used more and more and it was made part of the basic tradition. Sepharadi/Mizrachi families usually light one Channukia for the whole family, but Ashkenazim light a Channukia for every member.
Theoretically, there is an odd connection of Channuka to Christmas. Since Adam was the first person (homo sapiens or whatever), he wasn’t taught about how the daylight is shorter in winter, and when he saw that the days were shortening, he became really scared that he might have done something that destroyed the world.
However, when the days stopped becoming shorter, he had an 8 day celebration.
Those 8 days were probably the same 8 days of Channuka and the gap of 8 days between Christmas and the Common era New Year, but since the Jewish and Common Calendars are different, so are the days.
(This doesn’t mean I believe in Christianity. It means that it’s a nice coincidence).
Despite Channuka not being a holy holiday, due to it not being in the Torah, it should still be respected, since the miracle is a lot more significant than the holy holidays. When a group of Jewish people defeat an empire which was known to be unbeatable, that’s something you should acknowledge.
The same should be said about Yom Haatzmaut and Yom Yerushalaim. (Zionism is basic factor in Judaism. Remember that about Channuka).
The scroll of Channuka might have made it into the bible similarly to the scroll of Esther. Eventually, it didn’t due to too many oppositions. There were many arguments between Rabbis at the time of Esther about whether the scroll of Esther should be added, and it passed the resolution. The scroll of Channuka didn’t, however.
Lighting the Channukia has some strict rules. Some of them are as following:
In order for the Channukia to be kosher, the candles must be in a straight line and the same level of height, except for the Shamash. (Unlike those strange Channukiot you might see around).
The Shamash is the only candle allowed to be used as a lighter for the candle you light with, since the exploitation of the other candles is not allowed. (That includes the restriction of using the candles as a source of lighting. Keep the electric lights on if you’re trying to read).
The Channukia must NOT be moved after lighting. It must be placed in a location where people can see it. (Your window, a plastic box outside. The Halacha mentions that if you’re threatened by antisemitism, you can place it by your main door opposite to the mezuza). It must be Pre placed in a place where the wind won’t blow it out.
You’re not allowed to blow out the candles (Unless there’s an emergency, obviously). If the wind blows it out, you have to relight it.
Lighting must be done between the time of sunset and until the streets are empty. (Or midnight in modern days probably). The candles must last for 30 minutes after the stars come out. If lit at night, the candles must last for 30 minutes.
On Friday afternoon, light the Channukia before the Shabbat candles, so you won’t be bringing in Shabbat first.
The lighting must be done from left to right starting with the newly added candle.
(Don’t use this as your source for Halacha. I didn’t write down everything and you should look at the real halacha to know how to light properly).
(All the photos are from Wikipedia).