Ask the Rabbi--Chanukah

Discussion in 'Off Topic Chat' started by jocose, Dec 21, 2005.

  1. jocose

    jocose TPF Noob!

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    OK, so someone decided to take me up on my offer and asked about Chanukah.

    Here's my down and dirty on Chanukah.

    First of all, it's NOT a significant holiday on the Jewish calendar. As a matter of fact, it's not even mentioned in the bible (although there are kabbalistic interpretations that show how it's hidden in the torah). Chanukah has only become significant in the past 100 or so years, and most likely it was to compete with Christmas.

    Anyway, the basic story is that the mean ole Syrians came into Jerusalem and sacked the Temple. They destroyed all the bottles of olive oil and generally ruined the Temple. Along came Juda Maccabi, the leader of a rebel gang. His gang swooped down on Jerusalem and drove the Syrians out of the Temple and Jerusalem. When they re-entered the Temple to clean it, they noticed that the oil was gone. One lonely bottle was left intact.

    Now, it took 8 days for someone to go from Jerusalem to the Golan Heights, come back, press the oil and get it to the Temple. You see, the oil was used to light the manorah that burned in the Temple. The word "manorah" simply means candlabrah (SP), and traditionally has 3 arms on each side, and a 7th candle in the middle.

    They took that one lone bottle of olive oil and put it into the manorah, and lo, a miracle happened and it lasted for the entire 8 days until more oil was made.

    Today, we commerate that miracle and the triumph of the Maccabis over the Syrians by celebrating Chanukah for 8 days. We light a specific manorah called a chanukiah, which has 4 arms on each side, and a 9th one in the middle. This middle one is called the "shamos," the worker, and is used to light the other candles, always starting from the newest (the left most one) and ending with the oldest. We also traditionally eat greesy foods on Chanukah--made with, umm, what else but olive oil--like potato latkahs...mmmm potato latkahs. And, yes, some play with the dreidal. No, we don't really make them out of clay.

    The dreidal is just a top that has 4 Hebrew letters, one on each side: a "nun," a "gimmil," a "hay," and a "shin." These stand for the Hebrew phrase, "A great miracle happened there." The dreidals in Israel have a "pay" instead of a "shin," and that turns the phrase into "A great miracle happened here." Clever, eh? It's basically a gambling game, but I don't remember how to play.

    That's pretty much it.

    But since you made it this far, I'll share something I learned when I was in school. Traditionally we say that the 2 big miracles were that 1) they found one jar of olive oil with the seal still intact and 2) that one bottle lasted for 8 days. There are some who say that the fact that the bottle had a seal at all was also a miracle because they didn't usually seal the bottles, so the mere fact that Juda and his gang found one with a seal was a miracle.

    Thanks for reading. For more information on Chanukah, please go to this site: http://www.chabad.org/holidays/chanukah/default.asp
     
  2. terri

    terri Administrator Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Jocose - I believe it's spelled "menorha". What kind of Jew are you, anyway? :roll: Letting a goy point that out.

    Thanks for the story! I knew it in general terms, but it's always nice to read. :D
     
  3. LaFoto

    LaFoto Just Corinna in real life Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Tell you what, Jocose:

    As to all things Judaic, I am pretty ignorant. Very much so --- it's just that there are only so few Jews around me where I am.
    My home town has established a very good, meanwhile also well-known Jewish Museum, but that is about all the chances I have ever had to hear anything about it personally, i.e. not through TV or papers or books or magazines.
    That is why

    a) I appreciate your telling us a bit more about yourself and your religion and

    b) I could very - too easily - be one to unintentionally say something silly or offensive out of mere ignorance.

    Just so that last won't happen, I will avidly read all you tell us about it.
    But don't blame the silly ones like me for being silly too much. I for my part don't really WANT to be this silly....!
     
  4. Alison

    Alison Swiss Army Friend Supporting Member

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    Thank you for your explanation! As you know, my oldest son wanted to know more about it and now I'll have a way to explain it to him :D
     
  5. jocose

    jocose TPF Noob!

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    LaFoto, while I don't agree that there are no stupid questions (I taught college freshmen and worked on a cruise ship, and believe me there ARE stupid questions), I would never make fun of anyone that asked something is a sincere desire to learn, so don't ever worry about asking things...and PM if you are embarrassed to ask on the forum.

    Also, it take a WHOLE lot to offend me, especially when I know that the person is a nice person generally...I always give the benefit of the doubt.
     
  6. jocose

    jocose TPF Noob!

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    Well if you want to get technical, it's actually spelled (I think--Where's Rory?) mem nun vav resh hey...but I guess I'm being too technical ;)
     
  7. terri

    terri Administrator Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Now, that's a new one! I remember this because my choir once sang a menorah song.....

    In my window, where you can see the glow
    of my menorah, on newly fallen snow

    That's all I remember of it now. There were several verses, and it was a lovely little melody - and I remember the spelling. :mrgreen:
     
  8. jocose

    jocose TPF Noob!

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    Actually, I didn't mention that, but since you brought it up, you are supposed to put the menorah in the window so all can see the light of the candles. As a matter of fact, in the Old City of Jerusalem, there are boxes mounted in the stone walls that have windowed doors, and people put the menorahs out in those so they can be viewed as people walk past. Pretty cool, eh?

    Unlike Chinese, there is no official system for transliterating Hebrew into English, which is why you see a hundred different spellings for the same word: chanuka, chanukah, hannuka, hanukka, etc.
     
  9. terri

    terri Administrator Staff Member Supporting Member

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    I always think of menorahs belonging in windowsills. They do look lovely. :thumbup: I also seem to have a visual preference for "Hannuka", though I can't explain why! Maybe I had a friend who always spelled it that way, so it seems "correct" to me...? :scratch: Dunno. :D
     
  10. jocose

    jocose TPF Noob!

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    No, it's the more American traditional way to spell it, but I prefer chanukah, because I refuse NOT to pronounce it correctly. I have no problem doing the "ch" and that is the right way to pronounce it. You wouldn't want me to call you Barri because I didn't like to pronounce the letter "t", right? Well it's the same here...for me anyway :)
     
  11. terri

    terri Administrator Staff Member Supporting Member

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    I could pronounce it very well if I heard it correctly, I think. I have a pretty good ear for that kind of thing, but the description you gave in the other thread confused me - cause I really did think it was a simple "H" sound. :blushing: You're saying it's got a more pronounced Yiddish sound, I believe.
     
  12. jocose

    jocose TPF Noob!

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    the hebrew letters Chet and Chaf are pronounced with glattul (SP) stops, it's the same sound as one hear's when you clear your throat. it's like the french "r" without the "r" sound...:scratch: ...OK, that probably didn't clear things up.

    Let's try this. Do you know German (Corinna, help me out here). The word ich (I in German) can be pronounced ish in high German, and ich in low German. It's not ik, it's ich.

    The problem is that there is no corrosponding sound in English. The same is true with the Hebrew letters ion (which I can't even pronounce--only the Arab Jews can do that one) and tzadi (although it's pronounced with the same "tz" that we use in zz in pizza). The resh is an r sound, but it's rolled from the back of the throat and not the tip of the tongue.

    Does any of that help?

    As far as sounding yiddish...I'm not sure what that sounds like except old New York women laying on the beach in Miami.

    Yiddish is actually about 13th century German. Basically, when the Jews were living in the Ghettos at that time, everyone in Germany (over simplification here, I know) was speaking the same German. As the language evolved in Germany to modern German, it didn't change much in the Ghetto, so basically, you have an archaic German. Add to that the consolidation of the Ghettos. So, now you have Russian and Polish Jews going into the same Ghettos as the Germans. Some of thier Russian words and some of their Polish words never got translated, but stayed in the lexicon. Then add to that the Hebrew words that were just used because everyone knew them and there was no need to translate them. Let that stew for 600 years and voila, you have Yiddish.

    Just to confuse you a little more...

    While that was going on in Eastern Europe, the Arab Jews along the Mediterranean (Morraco, Egypt, Spain, Italy, Oman) were speaking Ladino. Instead of German being at the root, Spanish was the main language and Arabic, Hebrew, Farsi, and some other languages were mixed together there. It's a weird sounding language...you think it might be Spanish, but it's not...very weird.

    So, there you go. Hopefully someone else can do a better job with explaining the the "ch" thing than I can.
     

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