Why is Hanukkah not mentioned in the Torah?
Candles enchant our apartments on dark, cold December evenings and create a cozy, warm atmosphere. That is what the festival of lights and Advent, Christmas and the Jewish Hanukkah have in common.
How did Hanukkah come about?
Hanukkah celebrates a miracle that dates back to 164 BC. In the province of Judea. At that time the allies of the Greeks occupied the province of Judea, sacked it and, with their gods, desecrated the temple of Jerusalem. But after a bitter struggle, Jewish freedom fighters, the Maccabees, recaptured the temple.
"After they cleaned the temple, they wanted to light the candlestick, but there was only enough olive oil for one day. It took seven days to make new oil, but that little jar of oil burned for eight days," he explains Munich Rabbi Steven Langnas.
What are the customs of Hanukkah?
In memory of this miracle, Jews light a candle for eight days in a row. Because oil plays such an important role in history, people mainly eat fatty foods and things baked or fried in oil. Traditionally, there is sufganiot, a kind of donut, or latkes to eat: potato pancakes with crème fraîche, salmon or applesauce. But also drawn and especially donuts are part of Hanukkah. A recipe for latkes can be found below.
You drink punch or mulled wine and light the candles on Hanukkah, a nine-armed candlestick that is only used for this festival. Eight candle holders represent the eight days of the festival of lights. The ninth candle is the so-called servant with which all other candles are lit. The Hanukkia is not to be confused with the menorah, the seven-armed candlestick.
Schools in Israel are closed during the eight days of Hanukkah, and shops, offices and service areas operate regularly.
What is the Dreidel?
After dinner (not only) children play with the dreidel, a spinning top. It has four sides, each with a Hebrew letter that stands for the Hebrew phrase "nes gadol haja scham" (translated: "A great miracle happened there"). The side of the top that shows up after turning reveals whether you have won, lost or have to skip. The Dreidel game, incidentally one of the oldest games known to man, brings joy to Jewish children. Unlike at Christian Christmas, there is no tree and only small gifts or Hanukkah money.
Rabbi Langnas is looking forward to the Festival of Lights because there are not as many rules as there are for other Jewish festivals. Why is that? "There is a difference between the festivals that are mentioned in the Torah and carry great weight and the holidays that the rabbis instituted - such as Hanukkah and Purim," he explains. The latter are "much more relaxed".
When does Hanukkah end?
When the eighth candle is lit, the festival is over. Jewish Hanukkah is celebrated for a completely different reason than Advent and Christmas. And yet, according to the rabbi, the festivals have one thing in common: "Banish light and joy and darkness."
What do you eat at Hanukkah? A recipe tip
Ingredients for 4 - 6 people
Peel the potatoes and grate them finely. Put the mixture in a clean kitchen towel and gently squeeze out the water over a sieve. Put in a bowl. Peel and finely grate the onion. Add to the potato mixture. Beat the eggs, whisk and add. Add flour, salt and pepper and mix well. If the buffers are served with meat, there is plenty of seasoning. If the potato pancakes are intended as a sweet main course with applesauce, salt and pepper should be used sparingly.
Now heat the olive oil in a large pan. Cut off relatively small heaps from the mixture with a tablespoon, place in the pan, flatten slightly and fry until golden brown on both sides. Be careful not to get too dark.
If the oil is used up, do not pour in fresh one, but remove the remaining oil and wipe the pan. Only then add fresh oil to the pan, heat it up and fry the next layer of potato pancakes. Drain the buffers well on kitchen paper.
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