Enduring Understandings:

You will understand that...

  • Jews build community through holiday observance and ritual celebrations.

  • Jewish life is best lived in community.

  • The Jewish holidays teach us to appreciate the many cycles of renewal and rebirth.

Essential Questions:

What do you think?

  • What are some of the important lessons from these Jewish holidays?

  • How does the idea that Jews everywhere celebrate these same holidays connect me to the Jewish community?

I can explain the meaning and significance of the Chanukah symbols and ritual items

Let's dig even deeper. By now you know all of these holiday symbols and how to use them. You also know the blessings that go along with them. But why are they important? What is their significance to us today? 

We're going to focus on the חֲנֻכִּיָּה.


There's a cool debate in the Talmud between Rabbi Hillel and Rabbi Shamai about how to light the  חֲנֻכִּיָּה. Here's their disagreement right out from Shabbat 21b:

The Sages taught: The basic mitzvah of Hanukkah is each day to have a light kindled by a person, the head of the household, for themselves and their household.


Beit Shammai says: On the first day one kindles eight lights and, from there on, gradually decreases the number of lights until, on the last day of Hanukkah, they kindle one light.

And Beit Hillel says: On the first day one kindles one light, and from there on, gradually increases the number of lights until, on the last day, they kindle eight lights.

Can you describe what they disagree about? What does Shammai teach? What about Hillel? 

Later on that page of the Talmud we learn why Hillel said we should add a candle each night:

The reason for Beit Hillel’s opinion is that the number of lights is based on the principle:

One elevates to a higher level in matters of sanctity and one does not downgrade. Therefore, if the objective is to have the number of lights correspond to the number of days, there is no alternative to increasing their number with the passing of each day.

What do you make of this reasoning? Do you agree that we should never decrease light and holiness? 

Create an infomercial about one of the symbols of Chanukah. Imagine you are trying to sell this symbol. You'll need to talk all about its function, when it is used, how it is used and why it is valuable.

I can describe the big ideas of Chanukah and can draw connections to my life

There's a famous story about a great rabbi who lived about 2000 years ago named Hillel. He is challenged to teach the entire תּוֹרָה while standing on one foot. Since it's hard to balance on one foot for a long time Hillel had to sum up the most important lessons of the תּוֹרָה really quickly. In other words, he had to figure out what the BIG Ideas of the תּוֹרָה were. 


We're giving you the same challenge - but not for the whole תּוֹרָה, just for חֲנֻכָּה. Using all you've learned about this holiday - what would you say are the BIG ideas of חֲנֻכָּה?

Once you've got some BIG ideas think about what they have to do with your life. 

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I can recognize patterns amongst the holidays of the Jewish calendar and express the holidays' relationships to one another

Jewish חַגִּים are important and meaningful on their own but they are even more special when we see each Jewish חַג as part of a larger whole. Use the interactive Jewish calendar below to figure out what some of the connections are between different Jewish חַגִּים.

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Click above to visit our interactive Jewish Holiday calendar

I can use appropriate Chanukah vocabulary in proper context and demonstrate comprehension of their meanings

You've learned a whole bunch of Hebrew words for חֲנֻכָּה. You know the names of this חַג in Hebrew, the names of the symbols and the holiday greetings. When you speak about this חַג with your family and friends, can you use all of these Hebrew words? Here are some of the Hebrew words you know related to the חֲנֻכָּה:

Holiday Names

חֲנֻכָּה - Chanukah

חַג אוּרִים - The Festival of Lights

Holiday Greetings

חַג שָׂמֵחַ - Happy Holiday
חַג אוּרִים שָׂמֵחַ  Happy Festival of Lights

Holiday Symbols

חֲנֻכִּיָּה - Chanukiyah 
סְבִיבוֹן - Dreidel
לְבִיבוֹת - Latkes
סֻפְגָּנִיּוֹת - Jelly Donuts

Write a children's book complete with illustrations using the holiday vocabulary above. If you do your best work - we might just read your book in our Pre-School program!

I can express the meaning of each b'racha associated with the Chanukah symbols and of selected t'fillot

Let's take a closer look at some of the בְּרָכוֹת and תְּפִלּוֹת we say on חֲנֻכָּה. 

For lighting the חֲנֻכָּה candles:

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם אֲשֶׁר קִדְּשָׁנוּ בְּמִצְוֹתָיו וְצִוָּנוּ לְהַדְלִיק נֵר שֶׁל חֲנֻכָּה

Just like on שַׁבָּת, on חֲנֻכָּה we thank God for commanding us to light the holiday lights. What's different about the lights we light on חֲנֻכָּה compared to the lights we light on שַׁבָּת?

Thanking God for miracles:

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם שֶׁעָשָׂה נִסִּים לַאֲבוֹתֵינוּ בַּיָּמִים הָהֵם בַּזְּמַן הַזֶּה

According to this בְּרָכָה, miracles happened way back in the time of the Maccabees, but also happen today in our world. What miracles have you witnessed? What makes something miraculous? 


On the first night of חֲנֻכָּה each year:

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְהֹוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, שֶׁהֶחֱיָנוּ וְקִיְּמָנוּ וְהִגִּיעָנוּ לַזְמַן הַזֶּה:

Doing something new or for the first time is always exciting. In this בְּרָכָה we thank God for "keeping us alive and helping us reach this moment"? What does God have to do with us reaching a new moment or doing something for the first time?

Pair up with another student who is still learning these b'rachot and t'fillot and teach them how they are said and what they mean.

I can draw connections between the mitzvot and minhagim of Chanukah and the Chanukah narrative and big ideas

Think about all of the מִצְווֹת and מִנְהָגִים that we do on חֲנֻכָּה. How do these rituals tell the story of these holidays? Here's an example:


When we bring together the four parts of the לוּלָב וְאֶתְרוֹג on סֻכּוֹת it's like we're bringing together all the Jews from all over the world to Jerusalem to celebrate. The textures, smells and tastes of the לוּלָב וְאֶתְרוֹג connect us to nature and remind us of all the fruits and vegetables that we harvest each year. Sitting in the סֻכָּה listening to the wind blow and feeling rain drops on my head reminds me how fragile life is. Having to build a סֻכָּה teaches me how important it is to always be building safe spaces for me and my family especially when we are journeying outside of the comfort and safety of our own home.

Think of some of the other symbols and rituals of חֲנֻכָּה. Can you make connections between these symbols and rituals and the big ideas of the holidays?

I can express how the holiday values are lived through the ritual practices of Chanukah

There are some specific Jewish values that we learn from חֲנֻכָּה. Here is one of them: 

פִּרְסוּמֵי נִסָּה


פִּרְסוּמֵי נִסָּה means "publicizing the miracle." The rabbis explain that we light them in order to publicize the miracle of the holiday (פִּרְסוּמֵי נִסָּה in Aramaic, the language of the Talmud). Not unlike the idea behind TV networks’ “prime time,” the rabbis were careful to determine the proper time for lighting the חֲנֻכִּיָּה as the one during which the largest amount of traffic would be able to view the Chanukah miracle being remembered in every house. During the 30 minutes or so that followed sunset, people made their way back home from the market or workplace, and this would be the optimum time to have passersby walk through what must have seemed like an endless number of kindled lights. The lights were to be lit outside in the courtyard, or if one lived on another floor, in a window so that people could see it.

Today, it has become common for people to place their חֲנֻכָּה lights in the window for the neighbors to see; and one can even find some houses in Israel that have a special niche facing the front, in order to allow people to place their lit חֲנֻכִּיּוֹת (the plural of חֲנֻכִּיָּה) in a glass-enclosed display cases of their very own.

© 2019 by Rabbi David Paskin

JPaL is a program of Temple Sinai of North Dade
Call Us: 305-932-9012   /   rabbi.david@tsnd.org   /  18801 NE 22nd Ave, Miami, FL 33180