By Guest Blogger Joel Zendel
Hanukkah lasts eight nights and this year begins on the sundown of December 2nd. Hanukkah provides an opportunity for Jews across the World to celebrate the re-dedication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem thanks to the Maccabean Revolt. The Temple Mount, in Jerusalem is the most revered piece of land in all of Judaism. Judah Maccabeah and his followers took back the Temple from the Seleucid Empire. When they walked into the Temple, they found the place desecrated. A flask of oil was found to light the Menorah in the Temple. There was only enough oil for one day, however, the oil lasted for eight days, allowing the Jewish priests to create new oil. As a result of this miracle, Hanukkah is celebrated, which includes the eating of fried foods, playing Dreidel and spending time with family.
Every night as a child, my family would get together each night of Hanukkah, light the Menorah, say the prayers, and eat latkes. I distinctively remember sharing the duties of lighting the candles with my brother and sister, each night hoping to be the one selected for the honor.
As we started to light the candles, we would sing our two blessings that thank God for the Chanukah light and for performing miracles. The first night, we also say a prayer thanking God for getting us to the new season and holiday. Following our prayers, it is latke time. Latkes involve grating potatoes and onions and frying in oil. Once fried, they can be topped with apple sauce, sour cream, or for the really daring, both. I have always topped them with apple sauce.
After latkes, we would play dreidel. Dreidel is a game that serves a reminder of the central meaning of Hanukah, the miracle that happened. On the dreidel piece exist the letters ״נ״ ״ג״ ״ה״ ש״. These letters, while providing directions of the game, serves as acronym for נס גדול היה שם”which means: Nes Gadol Hiyah Sham, A Great Miracle Happened There. In Israel, they change There to Here as the miracle happened in Jerusalem. In the game, everyone puts a piece in the pot, then you spin the dreidel and the letter it lands on tells you what to do
״נ״– Player Does Nothing
״ג״- Player Gets Everything in the Pot
״ה״- Player Gets Half the Pot
ש״- Player Adds One to the Pot
The game can go on for hours and I remember spending time at my Grandmas, eating her latkes and playing dreidel with cousins. As an adult, I will get together with friends to eat latkes and play dreidel remembering the tradition of Hanukkah bringing back memories of my childhood.
The larger significance of Hanukkah and a consistent reminder to me is its underlying meeting of standing up for your beliefs and how light conquers darkness. Rabbi Nachum Braverman said, “We light candles in testament that faith makes miracles possible.” If you believe in light, miracles will occur and darkness will be conquered.
Now as an adult, I look forward to the holiday of Hanukkah for the traditions that I enjoyed as a child and for the central meaning of standing up for your beliefs. I’ve have included as part of this post the prayers said during Hanukah and a recipe for latkes. Enjoy a little look into this important holiday for Jews in America and across the World.
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה אֲדֹנָי אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם אֲשֶׁר קִדְּשָׁנוּ בְּמִצְוֹתָיו וְצִוָּנוּ לְהַדְלִיק נֵר חֲנֻכָּה
Ba-ruch A-tah Ado-nai E-lo-he-nu Me-lech ha-olam a-sher ki-de-sha-nu be-mitz-vo-tav ve-tzi-va-nu le-had-lik ner Cha-nu-kah.
Blessed are You, Lord our G‑d, King of the universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments, and commanded us to kindle the Chanukah light.
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה אֲדֹנָי אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם שֶׁעָשָׂה נִסִּים לַאֲבוֹתֵינוּ בַּיָּמִים הָהֵם בִּזְּמַן הַזֶּה
Ba-ruch A-tah Ado-nai E-lo-he-nu Me-lech Ha-olam she-a-sa ni-sim la-avo-te-nu ba-ya-mim ha-hem bi-zman ha-zeh.
Blessed are You, Lord our G‑d, King of the universe, who performed miracles for our forefathers in those days, at this time.
Third blessing, recited only on the first night (or the first time lighting the Chanukah):
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה אֲדֹנָי אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם שֶׁהֶחֱיָנוּ וְקִיְּמָנוּ וְהִגִּיעָנוּ לִזְּמַן הַזֶּה
Ba-ruch A-tah Ado-nai E-lo-he-nu Me-lech Ha-olam she-heche-ya-nu ve-ki-yi-ma-nu ve-higi-a-nu liz-man ha-zeh.
Blessed are You, Lord our G‑d, King of the universe, who has granted us life, sustained us, and enabled us to reach this occasion.
Recipe for Latkes
2 1/2 to 3 pounds potatoes
2 onions (peeled)
3 large eggs (lightly beaten)
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 to 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup canola oil (for frying)
Garnish: applesauce or sour cream for serving
- Line a platter or plate with paper towels and set aside.
- Peel the potatoes. Place them in a bowl and add enough cold water to cover them, so they won’t turn brown. When ready to prepare the latkes, drain the potatoes.
- Place potatoes and onions in a food processor fitted with a knife blade (also known as the s-blade). Pulse until smooth. Drain the mixture well.
- Pour the potato mixture into a large bowl. Add the beaten eggs, salt, and pepper, and mix well. Add enough flour so that the mixture holds together.
- Pour 1 inch of oil into a large, deep frying pan. Heat the oil over medium-high heat.
- Carefully drop 1/4 cup of the potato mixture into the hot oil. Flatten the pancake slightly so the center will cook. Repeat with additional batter, taking care not to crowd the pan.
- Fry for several minutes on each side until golden brown and cooked through. Transfer to the paper towel-lined platter to drain, and continue frying the the remaining latke batter in batches.
- Serve immediately with applesauce or sour cream if desired.