Test Your Yiddishkeit* (*Jewishness)
- What does the word Hanukkah” mean?
- Why are there so many ways to spell it? (Hannukah, Hanukkah, Chanuka, Chanukah, etc.)
- What are Maccabees? (rhymes with whack-the-knees)
- What are dreydels? (rhymes with grey-gulls)
- What are latkes? (rhymes with not-guss or got-keys, depending on how you were raised)
- Why does Hanukkah last for eight days?
- Where in the Bible is Hanukkah mentioned?
- When is Hanukkah this year?
Answers to Test Your Yiddishkeit
Hanukkah means “dedication.” There are many ways to spell it because it’s a transliteration of a Hebrew word and there is more than one way to use the English alphabet to try to make the Hebrew sounds.
The Maccabees were the band of Jewish guerrilla fighters whom God used to preserve and protect His people from the army of Antiochus Epiphane.
Dreydels are four-sided tops used for a traditional game at Hanukkah. Each side has a Hebrew letter that stands for a word: nun for “nes,” gimmel for “gadol,” hay for “haya,” and shin for “sham.” Nes gadol haya sham means “a great miracle happened there.”
Latkes are delicious potato pancakes, fried in oil. They can be served with sour cream, applesauce or both. Fried foods at Hanukkah commemorate the legend of the consecrated oil (see next answer).
Hanukkah lasts for eight days because it was originally held as a “late” observance of the Feast of Tabernacles, also an eight-day festival. According to legend, at the first celebration when the idolaters were driven out and the Temple was ready to be rededicated, there was only enough consecrated oil to burn for one day. Yet miraculously, it continued to burn for seven more days, until more oil could be procured.
As for where Hanukkah is mentioned in the Bible, it’s a bit of a trick question. The events that Hanukkah commemorates occurred during the period between the Old and New Testaments, so the story of Hanukkah is not recorded in Scripture at all. Some of the events surrounding it, such as the rise of Antiochus Epiphanes, were predicted by the prophet Daniel (Daniel 11). There is one specific mention of the festival, and that is in the Gospel of John: “Now it was the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem, and it was winter. And Jesus walked in the temple, in Solomon’s porch” (John 10:22-23). The passage goes on to tell how Jesus was surrounded and asked to state plainly whether or not He was the Messiah. While many rejected the deliverance Jesus offered, there were also many who believed.
Hanukkah begins this year at sundown on December 4. Sending Hanukkah cards to your Jewish friends is a great way to show you care.
For more information and free Hanukkah e-cards, go to: http://jewsforjesus.org/judaica/hanukkah