Hanukkah 5778

Anticipate and celebrate Hanukkah with learning, music, activities for children, and the company of friends. Click here to see a video of how to light the Hanukkah candles and to download a sheet with the blessings. 

Each night of Hanukkah we will post a reflection either via email or social media (Facebook and Twitter). When each reflection is posted, it will also be added to this page.

Wednesday | December 6
12:30 pm | Midtown Lunch & Learn | Hanukkah: Who Really Was Victorious?

Tuesday | December 12
Light first Hanukkah candle  ı ı ı ı Í ı ı ı í
Scroll down and click on the PDF for a ready-to-print page with words to the blessings and songs, with transliteration.
7:30 pm | 20s and 30s Hanukkah Happy Hour

Wednesday | December 13
Light second Hanukkah candle  ı ı ı ı Í ı ı í í
6:00 pm | Teen Hanukkah Party

Thursday | December 14
Light third Hanukkah candle  ı ı ı ı Í ı í í í

Friday | December 15
Light fourth Hanukkah candle  ı ı ı ı Í í í í í
Light Hanukkah candles before Shabbat candles (4:11 pm)
5:00 pm | Hanukkah Shabbat Services and Dinner for Families with Young Children
6:15 pm | Kabbalat Shabbat

Saturday | December 16
9:45 am | Shabbat Morning Service with Hallel
Light fifth Hanukkah candle  ı ı ı í Í í í í í
Light Hanukkah Candles after Shabbat has ended (5:11 pm)

Sunday | December 17
11:00 am | Young Family Hanukkah Event
5:00 pm | Youth Hanukkah Party
Light sixth Hanukkah candle  ı ı í í Í í í í í

Monday | December 18
Light seventh Hanukkah candle  ı í í í Í í í í í

Tuesday | December 19
Light eighth Hanukkah candle  í í í í Í í í í í

From Wednesday, December 13 through Tuesday, December 19, weekday shaharit (morning) services will include Hallel and Torah reading for Hanukkah.

On Tuesday through Thursday, December 12-14, and again on Monday and Tuesday, December 18-19, there will be candle lighting in the lobby immediately after evening minyan.

Hanukkah Kavvanot

We will be posting reflections each night of Hanukkah via email and social media (Facebook and Twitter). When each reflection is posted, it will also be added to the full collection on this page.

First Night of Hanukkah
Receiving Blessings, Returning Light

December 12, 2017

Rabbi Neil Zuckerman

On every day of Hanukkah, in addition to lighting the candles at home, we add two rituals to our services in the synagogue:

  • We add a paragraph to the Amidah (part of every service) every time we say it, morning and evening.
    • We read the Torah every morning.

The paragraph added to the Amidah is called Al ha-nissim, “for the miracles.” It summarizes the Hanukkah story like this:

You gave the mighty into the hands of the weak, and the many into the hands of the few, and the defiled into the hands of the pure, and the wicked into the hands of the righteous, and the malicious into the hands of those who engage in Your Torah. And You made a great and holy name for Yourself in Your universe; and to Your nation, Israel, You granted a great salvation and liberation.

In this prayer, we acknowledge the miracles God performed for us in the form of the military victory. There is no mention of the oil that miraculously lasted eight days. God acted on our behalf, and we respond with praise and gratitude.

The Torah reading for Hanukkah comes from the book of Numbers, chapter 7. It recounts the dedication of the Tabernacle in the wilderness, and it lists in detail the gifts brought by the prince of each tribe. It is a repetitive reading, because every tribe brought exactly the same gifts!

Together these rituals suggest a way to approach Hanukkah as it begins tonight and to keep in mind throughout the week. The Al ha-nissim prayer is all about the miracles God performed for us. The Torah reading is all about what we bring to God. As we gather to light the Hanukkah candles, let us reflect on the blessings in our lives and appreciate the sense of wonder and gratitude we feel in response. While we savor that moment, let us also think about the ways we can activate and bring those blessings into the wider world. What are the gifts you can bring the world? When you look into the darkness, how can you be a lamplighter, illuminating the world with blessing and light?

On each of the days of Hanukkah, we will be posting on Facebook, Twitter, and our website a kavvanah from a member of the PAS staff. We hope you enjoy these reflections on the holiday.

Wishing you a Hag Urim Sameah!

Second Night of Hanukkah
December 13, 2017

Jennifer Stern Granowitz, Director
Rachel Singer, Assistant Director
Congregational School

Hanukkah coincides with the coming of winter, when there are fewer hours of daylight. Hanukkah is a festival of light in the darkness, a time of less sunlight enhanced by eight days of candle light.

In this poem, the Jerusalemite poetess Zelda talks about feeling part of celestial rhythms. Her thought seems fitting as we celebrate Hanukkah.

Read the poem as the Hanukkah lights are burning. How will you bring light into the darkness at this time of year?

הַבַּיִת הַצָּנוּעַ שֻׁתָּף
לְהִלּוּלוֹת הַשָּׁמַיִם
הַשֶּׁמֶשׁ מַשְׁלִיךְ אֶל תּוֹכוֹ
אֶת זְהָבוֹ הַבּוֹעֵר
מֵצִיף אוֹתוֹ בַּאֲפֵלַת כּוֹכָבִים



The humble home is partner to celestial celebration
The sun casts
Its burning gold
And the night
Floods it with stardust

―Zelda, translated by Rachel Singer

Third Night of Hanukkah
December 14, 2018

Rachel Brook
Cantorial Fellow

How blessed are we to celebrate a story about miracles of our own people in a time when difficult news greets us almost everywhere we turn in our world. At Hanukkah, as part of our celebration of light in the midst of a dark season, we have the comfort of a beautiful, timeless ritual that connects us with each other in the present and over thousands of years.

One of my favorite Hanukkah songs is a setting of a beautiful poem by Avraham Reisin, a famous poet of the Yiddish labor movement, set to music by Solomon Golub. Unlike other Hanukkah songs that recount history (“Maoz Tzur”) or celebrate having fun (“Hanukkah,, Oh Hanukkah,” and “I Have a Little Dreidel”), this musical gem focuses on the holiness of lighting the candles and the legacy of being alive for another year of finding hope in their flames, and of gathering strength from this simple and holy ritual.

Listen to this recording by the Western Wind Ensemble and find the translation of the lyrics below:

Borukh ato, the father sings
As he lights the candles.
And the mild, delicate light falls upon his pale face.
A fire that's precious and holy shines in his eyes;
And this stooped, tired man begins to stand erect.
And it seems to me – and we believe it . . .
There still is something here, there remains much to love.
The hour is a holy one.
Old sounds, long forgotten?
But no, they are still resounding.
Sing father: Borukh ato . . .
I am still your child.

Wishing you and your families many holy hours in the days to come. Hag Hanukkah Sameah!

Fourth Night of Hanukkah – Shabbat Hanukkah
The Wondrous Possibilities of the Number 8

December 15, 2017

Rabbi Charles E. Savenor
Director of Congregational Education

When the Maccabees liberate the Temple, they find a small canister containing only enough oil to burn for one day. Yet they immediately light the menorah, and tradition tells us that this small supply of oil miraculously lasted for eight days until more oil could be procured.

The menorah these brave warriors lit thousands of years ago had seven branches, yet the Hanukkah menorah we light today has eight. The change from seven to eight branches shifts our attention from the restoration of the Temple to the miracle of this festival.

What can we learn from the addition of an eighth branch to the iconic menorah?

In Judaism the number seven signifies completion. The Torah tells us there were seven days of Creation. A bride and groom commence their life together following seven circles made around one another and seven blessings recited under the huppah. There are seven colors of the rainbow.

If seven is about completion, what is eight? Eight is about elevating that which we believe is already perfected. Baby boys are circumcised on the eighth day. The Tabernacle was dedicated over eight days. Judaism’s mystical tradition holds that the number eight invites humanity to aspire beyond our physical reality. In his song “Miracle,” the musical artist Matisyahu sums it up: “Eight is the number of infinity one more than what you know how to be.”

This Hanukkah when we look at the hanukkiyah, the eight-branched menorah, let’s imagine a world better than the one we see, and let us aspire to make the world that we see into the better world that we believe it can be.

Fifth Night of Hanukkah
Hanukkah Fun Facts
December 16, 2017

Compiled by Jamie Diamond
Director of Young Family Education

Happy Hanukkah! Here are 8 fun facts about Hanukkah-one for each night. How many did you already know? Have a fun fact about Hanukkah? Feel free to share it in the comments on our Facebook post. Let’s see how many we can get!

1. Hanukkah begins on the 25th day of Kislev. It is never “early” or “late.”
2. A box of Hanukkah candles contains 44 candles, exactly enough to light your Hanukkiah for 8 days (if you don’t break any of your candles)
3. Hanukkah candles are added to the menorah from right to left (the direction of Hebrew writing) but lit from the left to the right (newest candle first).
4. The first time Hanukkah made an appearance in the White House was in 1951, when David Ben Gurion gave President Truman a Hanukkiah. It wasn’t until 1979, however, that President Carter was the first to have an official Hanukkah candle lighting ceremony
5. How many doughnuts can you eat in one week? In Israel approximately 17.5 million doughnuts are sold during Hanukkah!
6. Speaking of food: why do we eat latkes? Because they are fried in oil. Why potato pancakes? Because potatoes were cheap in eastern Europe and the tradition was passed down from there. So go ahead and eat your favorite fried food in honor of Hanukkah.
7. The game of dreidel may have been a cover for students learning Torah after the Greeks had outlawed Torah study. Children (or grownups) would spin their tops while reciting Torah out loud. When Greek soldiers checked if anyone was breaking the law and learning, they would find people playing a harmless game.
8. The word dreidel comes from the Yiddish word drehen, meaning “to turn.” The Hebrew word s’vivon comes from the Hebrew word for “to turn.”

Sixth Night of Hanukkah
To Publicize the Miracle

December 17, 2017

Rabbi Gail F. Nalven
Assistant Director, Congregational School

When I was growing up, my family and I would light our Hanukkah menorah in the kitchen. We had one for the family. It would sit on the counter and we would light it together and sing Maoz Tzur. My brothers and I would run our fingers quickly through the flames as our mother would tell us to stop it. I remember wondering why we didn’t have an electric menorah like so many of my friends. My mother would always say, “It’s not a REAL menorah.”

As an adult, I learned the custom of “publicizing the miracle” that a little vial of pure oil found in the Temple lasted eight days instead of one. So, I would light my candles in the window, sing Maoz Tzur, and then turn my hanukkiyah around so the entire world could see the “miracle.” It didn’t matter that for most of my adult life, I’ve lived on a high floor in the city.

One year, a school parent gave me an electric hanukkiyah – beautiful dark metal with delicate lights. My first thought was “It’s not a real menorah!” But in fact, this gift changed my entire Hanukkah life! I still light candles and sing Maoz Tzur every night of the holiday, but now the hanukkiyah with the candles sits on the table while the electric hanukkiyah “burns” brightly from our 4th floor window. And to increase the likelihood that it is visible from the street or to the neighbors across the avenue, I have even exchanged that first electric hanukkiah with the delicate lights for one with larger bulbs. Whether others see the lights or not, it has changed my holiday to publicize the miracle all evening and into the night Instead of for the short half hour or so that the candles burn.

I remember coming home on Hanukkah evenings in Jerusalem and being excited by seeing all the hanukkiyot in windows around the city. We may not be in Jerusalem, but it is still very exciting when I come home and see an electric menorah shining from in a window.

Seventh Night of Hanukkah
Hidden Light Shines on Hanukkah

December 18, 2017

Marga Hirsch
Director, Rothschild Library, and Publications Editor

Our Hanukkah lights are anything but hidden. They are very much meant to be seen. We are instructed not to use them to see by, but to look at them in order to remember the miracles of this season. We even put our hanukkiyot in the window so that people can see the lights from the outside while we are watching them from inside.

According to Jewish mystical tradition, the very visible glow of the Hanukkah lights comes from a hidden light. The Zohar, the fundamental Jewish mystical text, teaches that the light we experience from the sun is not the same as the first light, the light created when God said, “Let there be light.” That first light illuminated the entire earth at once, but only for 36 hours. After that, God hid it away, saving it for when the Messiah will come, the era of ultimate redemption. Until then, it is or ha-ganuz, the hidden light.

In the course of Hanukkah, we light 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 . . . + 8 lights, for a total of 36 (not including each night’s shamash). The early 19th-century Hasidic master Rabbi Tzvi Elimelech Shapiro of Dinov, known as the Bnei Yissachar, reasoned that each of the Hanukkah lights corresponds to one hour of the or ha-ganuz, the first light of Creation. By this interpretation, when we watch the Hanukkah lights, we are tapping into that primordial divine light that once illuminated the entire world and that will some day again illuminate the entire world. From small flames in a dark night, we can imagine a great light. From the small act of lighting candles, we can imagine the redemption of the entire world. The Hasidic interpretation further suggests that the or ha-ganuz is also the hidden light in each human being, the essence of the person. When we look at the Hanukkah lights, really look at them, we can not only imagine a better world but also open the door to becoming our better selves.

May the visible and hidden lights of Hanukkah illumine your homes, your hopes, and your hearts.

Hag Hanukkah sameah!

Eighth Night of Hanukkah
The Day After

December 19, 2017

Rabbi Elliot Cosgrove

Tonight marks the eighth and final night of Hanukkah. With only enough oil for one day, night after night, God performed a miracle, extending the light of that single cruse of oil well beyond what anyone believed possible.

It would be the following day, the ninth day, that the human element of our story really began. No longer would the Maccabees depend on divine intervention to keep their faith kindled, rather it would be their own resources and resourcefulness that would sustain them. From the ninth day onward, it would be their faith in themselves, not God, that would carry the day – renewing, rededicating and rebuilding their community into the foreseeable future.

Our tradition is full of time-bound observances – throughout the year and throughout our lives – each one meant to direct our hearts and minds to certain sentiments. Think of the seven days of shiva, the ten days of repentance, and the festival of Passover, intended to direct our attention, respectively, to the importance of memory, the duty to reconcile, and the obligations that come with freedom. These themes, we know, are not limited to particular days; rather they are meant to be lived year-round and throughout our lives. The success of any shiva, holiday observance, bar mitzvah, sheva brakhot, or other ritual event is determined the day after, when a Jew is called on to rely on him- or herself to embody particular ideals or behavior without the scaffolding of any life-cycle or festival rituals.

So on this final night of Hanukkah, may we appreciate the miracle God wrought for our people so many years ago. But before the candles melt away one last time, be sure to commit to perpetuating the promises of these days into the year ahead. Finding light in the darkness, surviving against the odds, and practicing a tradition in the face of cultural forces that would have it otherwise – these are the messages of Hanukkah worth pursuing year-round and throughout our lives.

Beginning tomorrow, our success will not be founded on miracles from God, but on actions taken by each one of us. May we be up to the challenge and opportunity of the ninth day – the day after.