“Happy Chanukah! ííííÎìììì”

Dear Friend,

Following two years of ups and downs, pandemic and pandemonium, misinformation and marginalization, Chanukah cannot come fast enough!

This year more than ever, as we kindle the first flame (on Sunday night, Nov. 28) let us remember the Chanukah lights’ overarching message: There is always a miracle around the corner and that even the most bleak situations can become increasingly brighter.

And as we add another flame each night (taking care to light on Friday afternoon before the Shabbat candles, and on Saturday night after Shabbat is over), revel in the additional gift of spiritual light that each one brings.

With wishes for a Chanukah filled with light, joy, miracles, and gratitude,

– Your Friends @ Chabad.org

P.S. On the subject of gratitude, we trust you’ll find this video of the Rebbe speaking about the connection between Thanksgiving and Chanukah enlightening and deeply meaningful to our times.

Is Chanukah a Minor Holiday?

Thousands attended the 2014 menorah lighting at Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, despite near-freezing temperatures. (Photo: David Osipov)
Thousands attended the 2014 menorah lighting at Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, despite near-freezing temperatures. (Photo: David Osipov)


My friend told me that Chanukah is a minor holiday, unlike Rosh Hashanah and Passover, and so we shouldn’t make such a big deal out of it. He said that the only reason it became so big was because of the season.


It may seem that way, but only for one reason: Unlike Rosh HashanahPassover and other holidays, which are Biblically prescribed days of rest, we go to work on Chanukah. Even on Purim, going to work is not recommended, yet on Chanukah, no problem.

Alright, then there’s the clothes. On Jewish holidays we wear special clothes. But the days of Chanukah are regular workdays in regular clothes.

But other than that it’s difficult to call Chanukah a minor holiday. For one thing, read what Maimonides writes in his Laws of Chanukah:

The mitzvah of kindling Chanukah lamps is a very precious mitzvah. A person should be very careful in its observance, to publicize the miracle and thus increase our praise of G‑d and our expression of thanks for the miracles which He wrought on our behalf. Even if a person has no resources for food except what he receives from charity, he should pawn or sell his garments and purchase oil and lamps to kindle them.

Maimonides continues by instructing that if one has only enough money to afford either a cup of wine for Shabbat kiddush or oil for his Chanukah lamp, the mitzvah of Chanukah takes precedence. Doesn’t sound too minor to me.

Some have suggested that Chanukah gained popularity in reaction to the sensory bombardment provided by the majority culture’s holiday. If anything, it would be more accurate to say that Chanukah may have retained it’s popularity due to it’s position on the calendar.

Nevertheless, it’s unclear what makes this lamentable. Indeed, it sounds like a very good strategy: If a big fish is swallowing you alive, thrash about and make a lot of noise!

Truth be told, Chanukah did make a small retreat for quite a few centuries. Originally, everyone lit their Chanukah lights at the entrance to their homes. When Jews lived among people hostile to their faith, they had to bring that light indoors, out of fear for their lives.

In the 1970s, however, the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory, began a campaign of lighting prominent, highly visible Chanukah menorahs in public places. Since then, in shopping malls and town squares wherever there are Jews, Chanukah has once again become a very open, public celebration.

This is really what Chanukah is all about: to “light up the darkness” (which is why we light it at night, at the door or window). So, even though it’s a regular workday—well, that’s really the whole idea: to light up the regular workday. And that takes a very special light.

At any rate, since when do we look for excuses not to celebrate? On the contrary, in the words of wise King Solomon, “A good heart always celebrates.”


What Does “Maccabee” Mean?

The word Maccabee has become synonymous with the small band of Jewish freedom fighters who freed Judea from the Syrian-Greek occupiers during the Chanukah saga in the Second Temple period (read about the Maccabees here).

This term originally applied only to Judah, who led the group following the death of his father, Matityahu, and is referred to in early writings as Judah Maccabee (Judas Maccabeus in Greek).1

The name is commonly spelled מכבי, but sometimes מקבי as well. What does it mean?

“Who Is Like G‑d?”

Perhaps the best known explanation is that the word “Maccabee” is composed of the initial letters of a verse the Jewish people sang after G‑d split the sea: “Mkamocha ba’eilim Hashem (מי כמוך באילים י׳), “Who is like You among the mighty, O G‑d.”2

It is said that this phrase was the battle cry of Maccabees, written upon their banners and shields.3

Mighty or Hammer

Some explain that the word “Maccabee” is related to the Greek word meaning “strong” or “fighter.”4

Others explain that it comes from the Hebrew word for “hammer,” makav, either because Judah was the “hammer of G‑d,” his features somewhat resembled that of a hammer, or because his earlier occupation was that of a blacksmith.


Some suggest that it comes from the word Hebrew word mekabeh, which means “to extinguish.” The Maccabees endeavored to snuff outthe fire of the Greeks, which spread death and desolation throughout the land of Israel.

Matityahu the Priest

The father and patriarch of the family was Matityahu the Kohen (“Priest”). Thus, some explain that the word Maccabee was actually an acronym for the the initial letters of his name, Matityahu Kohen Ben (son of) Yochanan.5

“G‑d’s Glory”

Rabbi Yeshaya Halevi Horowitz, known as the Shelah, writes that the word מכבי can be unscrambled to form an acronym for the words in EzekielBaruch Kevod Hashem Mimkomo (ברוך כבוד י׳ ממקומו), “Blessed is the glory of the L‑rd from His place.”6

He explains this in the context of the sages’ statement that “whomever disputes the reign of the House of David, it is as if he has a dispute against the Divine Presence.” The Maccabees had sinned because they took the kingdom for themselves, even though they were not of Davidic stock. Nevertheless, they were called Maccabees, an allusion to the verse “Blessed is the glory of the L‑rd from His place,” implying that they didn’t cause any blemish in the Divine Presence, since the original intention of Judah and his siblings was for the sake of heaven.7

Bringing G‑dliness into the World

The mystics explain that the word Maccabee has the numerical value of 72 (מ=40, כ=20, ב=2, י=10), alluding to the 72-letter Divine Name.8

The Chassidic masters9 further explain that both verses connected with “Maccabee” denote drawing G‑d’s presence into the world. “Who is like You among the mighty, O G‑d” refers to G‑d as both “mighty” and “G‑d.” The first term implies the restraint needed to create a reality devoid of His overt presence. The latter represents the revelation of His presence. Placing the two words together represents a merging of the two dynamics.

“Blessed is the glory of the L‑rd from His place” has a similar theme. The Hebrew word for “blessed” also means to “draw down.” Thus, we are drawing His presence from “His place,” a state of hiddenness, into our reality.

And that’s ultimately what Chanukah is all about—bringing light and holiness into the darkness, a process that will be completed with the coming of Moshiach. May it be speedily in our days!

What IS Hanukkah?

(It’s not what you think it is)

We know the facts on why we celebrate Chanukah, the Festival of Lights. But is that all? Could it be that the inner meaning of the holiday has been hidden from plain sight?

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