Friday, December 3, 2010

Hannukah Customs

My darling ketzelah, 
Soon the glow of the hannukah menorahs will light up the faces of the eager youngsters. I know that it has been close to a year since we were able to enjoy the rituals associated with this joyous holiday, and many of you have questions about the proper ways to observe. So, I thought I’d refresh your memories.
Does it matter which side we place the candles in the menorah first, and which side we light from?
Yes, tradition tells us that we add candles starting from the right, spreading our hannukiah lights to the left. However, we light the newest addition first, so we light left to right. Why? Well would you be surprised to find out that the learned rabbis had this very discussion, and that our tradition stems from the compromise they reached!
What if we need to go out in the evening, are we allowed to blow the menorah out?
Well this situation just requires a little pre-planning. Light the candles at nightfall and let them burn for a least 30 minutes. This usually is just about the natural life of most store bought Hannukah candles.
I can never remember which blessings we do which night.
My sweet darlings, on the first night of Hannukah we say three blessings. On the other seven nights we say two
The blessing over the candles: Baruch ata Adonai Elohanu melech ha’olam asher kidishanu b'mitz'votav v'tzivanu l’chad’lich ner shel Hannukah. (On Friday we will say shel Shabbat v’yom tov or shel Shabbat v’Hannukah.) (Blessed are you, Lord, our God, sovereign of the universe Who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us to light the lights of Chanukkah.)

Second blessing: Baruch ata Adonai Elohanu melech ha’olam she'asah nisim la'avoteinu bayamim haheim baziman hazeh. (….Who performed miracles for our ancestors in those days at this time)
And, on the first joyful night, we add the Shehecheyanu: Baruch ata Adonai Elohanu melech ha’olam shehecheyanu v'kiyimanu v'higi'anu laz'man hazeh. (who has kept us alive, sustained us, and enabled us to reach this season.)
My mom says that gelt alone is all I should get for Hannukah, but all my friends get eight gifts!
Bubbalah, the only requirement on Hannukah is the lighting of the candles, the gift of light during a dark time. At some point it became tradition to give the little ones gelt, not the chocolate kind, but the spending kind. However, this was still just a token gift back in a time when kids didn’t often get spending money from their parents. It is only since your parents were kinder that the custom of giving toys and such, making Hannukah more like Christmas, arose. It should be noted that it is unusual to give Hannukah gifts to non-family members. You should listen to your mother.
Why do we have a ninth candle if Hannukah is celebrated for eight days? Why add a Shamas?
Ah, good question! The Hannukah candles are meant solely for pleasure, we are not allowed to use them for any productive work such as lighting another fire or to read by. For this reason the ninth candle was added. This has spared many matches and fingers.
When I was a kid we ate latkes during Hannukah, recently I’ve noticed that we’ve started eating jelly doughnuts, what’s this about?
As you may already be aware of, traditions vary according to where people come from. Most Ashkenazi Jews grew up eating latkes. However, most Sephardic, Polish and Israeli families came from parts of the world where potatoes weren’t so plentiful and they traditionally eat doughnuts. Both traditions are equally valid. The point is to eat fried foods to remember that valiant vile of oil that lasted for eight days.
Well my neshomeleh, I hope I’ve answered all your holiday questions. If not, let me know and I’ll try to remember to answer them next year!
Happy Hannukah - Love Tanta Golda