Saturday, December 05, 2015

8 great things about Chanukah

Chanukah begins Sunday night.

Those who really know me may be surprised at the title on this post because I have expressioned aversion for numbers in titles as a gimmick to grab attention. However, 8 is not only a number associated with Chanukah but a sign of what the holiday is about. The number 8 represents the level that rises above nature -- represented by the number 7 to correspond to the days of the week. (See http://kallahmagazine.blogspot.com/2014/12/zos-chanukah.html )
It was a miracle that the Jews won over a foe that vastly outnumbered them, and it was a miracle that they found the oil which allowed them to light the menorah in a state of purity -- to set the tone for the start as aiming for the highest possible level rather than settling for the bedieved [expedient, though far from ideal, course of action].

But the title promises a list, and here it is:

1. Like Purim, the holiday of Chanukah owes quite a bit to a female heroine. Yehudith, who was as brave as she was beautiful, slew the (seehttp://kallahmagazine.blogspot.com/2009/12/are-you-chanukah-or-purim-heroine-type.html)
2. Relaxation time for women: es, the opposite of what one normally thinks of for a holiday. To recall the role of women in this holiday, it is a custom brought down for halacha that women are to refrain from work while the Chanukah lights burn. No laundry, sewing, etc. to be done then, rather like on Rosh Chodesh, which always also falls out towards the end of Chanukah. 
3. You have great menu options. Dairy, though not quite as etched in custom as they are for Shavuous (see http://kallahmagazine.weebly.com/whats-cooking.html, dairy dishes are traditional to recall that Yehudith served the enemy's general dairy dishes to make him sleepy before she killed him. Of course, you don't have to serve them for all 8 days, and you don't have to serve meat either, as is traditional on other Jewish holidays.
4. You have your choice of sufganiyot [donuts] or latkes [potato pancakes] for treats in honor of the holiday (see http://kallahmagazine.blogspot.com/2014/12/latke-ditty.html.
5.Gelt -- that's not gifts, but gelt, which is the tradition of the holiday. The chocolate coins to represent gelt are also a nice treat.
6. Chanukah really is the most budget friendly holiday, considering that it lasts 8 days. You only have to buy the olive oil and wicks. Menorahs that hold them can be purchased for as little as $4  and can be used from year to year. No major investment in wine, matzah, or a lulav set is required. Gifts, as hinted above, are not at all mandatory.
7. No need to cook massive meals; family get togethers are completely optional
8. No need to rearrange your work schedule altogether because this is a holiday that extends into the weekday.
And because the shamash adds on a 9th candle, here's one more: Chanukah is proof of the assertion that "a man's reach must exceed his grasp/ or what's a Heaven for?" (Robert Browning). And it was Yehudith who pointed it out when she galvanized her people to fight and not merely to accept the status quo under foreign rule.
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