Today's Update: Thursday, December 10

December 10, 2020

Dear Student Life Team, The Jewish Festival of Lights, Hanukkah, begins at sunset tonight.   

Approximately 2,200 years ago, the Holy Land was ruled by Syrian-Greeks who tried to force the Jewish people to accept Greek culture and beliefs. A small group of faithful but poorly armed Jews, led by Judah the Maccabee, defeated their mighty foes, drove the Greeks out and reclaimed the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.  

When they tried to light the Temple’s Menorah, they found only one container of oil uncontaminated by the Greeks. That one-day supply lasted eight days.  

Today, that miracle is celebrated by blessings, the lighting of candles and eating fried foods.  

As part of our Student Life Commitment and Action Planning Team dedication to diversity, equity and inclusion, here are eight facts about Hanukkah, one for each night of the observance. I’ll also be putting this out on Twitter and Instagram.  

  1. A Menorah is a candelabra with nine total candles. Eight commemorate the nights of Hannukah, and one is to help light all of the others. The helper candle, known as the shamash, sits higher than the rest.  

  1. Hanukkah dishes are fried for a reason. People fry their food in oil for Hanukkah as a symbol for the miracle oil that burned for eight nights straight. 

  1. You’ll see the holiday spelled Chanukah or Hanukkah. There is no "wrong" way to spell it. There are actually at least 16 different ways to spell Hanukkah and there is no correct way to directly translate the Hebrew sounds to English.  

  1. The dreidel, the four-sided spinning top, was invented as a distraction. Since studying the Torah was outlawed in ancient Greece, the dreidel was used as a cover up in case Jewish people were ever caught with scripture. 

  1. "Hanukkah" comes from the Hebrew word "Chinuch," or "to teach." Jewish people follow a tradition of incentivizing their children to learn Torah on this holiday by gifting them gelt, or golden-wrapped chocolates, that resemble coins. 

  1. Hanukkah is not the most important Jewish holiday. Jewish holidays like Yom Kippur, Rosh Hashanah and Passover are actually much more significant to the religion. 

  1. The letters on a Hannukah dreidel form an acronym. Each of the four sides of a dreidel has a Hebrew character: Nun, Gimel, Hay or Shin. The four letters are said to stand for the Hebrew phrase "Nes Gadol Hayah Sham" which means "A great miracle happened there" which refers to the miraculous, long-lasting oil. 

  1. The word “Hanukkah” translates to dedication. Each year, Hanukkah marks the rededication of the second temple in Jerusalem, when the Maccabees stood up against Antiochus and reclaimed the temple from the Greeks. 

Happy Hanukkah!