Hanukkah or Chanukah

Learn All About Festival of Lights-Hanukkah-Feast of Dedication

In, 2023, Hanukkah will be celebrated on the Gregorian Calendar dates of Thursday, December 7-Friday December 15, 2023. Welcome to The Rock of Israel Congregation! We are a mixed multitude of Messianic Jewish & Non-Jewish believers in Yeshua Messiah studying the Word of G-d and putting it into practice to the best of our ability to fulfill the prophecy of the “One New Man.” We immerse ourselves in studying the Hebrew Bible, in its original language, history, and context. Below you will find a Chanukah video explanation, Hanukkah fun facts, instructions to play Dreidel, delicious latke recipe, and specific resources for studying the Feast of Dedication. We welcome your questions, so don’t hesitate to reach out to Rabbi Jeff or join us for weekly Shabbat Service, Saturdays 9:30 am-11:00 am in Hickory, NC or join us online for Messianic Focus Bible Study on Tuesdays at 7pm on Zoom.

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In this video, Rabbi Jeff Grillo gives an overview about Hanukkah, also spelled Chanukah, also known as the Festival of Lights or the Feast of Dedication.  


Kinds of Menorahs

A significant aspect between a regular menorah and the Hanukkah menorah is that the regular menorah has seven branches, and the Hanukkah menorah has nine branches. The regular menorah is a symbol of the seven days of creation and the light of God, while the Hanukkah menorah is a commemoration of the 8-day miracle of the oil in the Temple after the Maccabean revolt. The regular menorah was used in the Tabernacle and the Temple as part of the daily service, while the Hanukkah menorah is lit only during the eight nights of Hanukkah in homes and public places. The regular menorah is also called the Temple menorah, while the Hanukkah menorah is also called the Hanukkiah or the Chanukiah. Both the regular menorah and the Hanukkah menorah are important symbols of the Jewish faith and culture, and they represent the connection between God and his people.


Is Hannukkah in the Bible?

Hanukkah is not mentioned in the Hebrew Bible, but it is recorded in the books of 1st and 2nd Maccabees.  Both books are included in the Apocrypha, a subset of writings that are not considered canonical by most Jews and Christians. However, Hanukkah is alluded to in the New Testament, when Jesus was visiting Jerusalem during the Feast of Dedication, as recorded in the Book of John 10:22-23. Some scholars believe that Jesus celebrated Hanukkah, or at least observed it, as a Jewish custom.


Messianic Significance of Hanukkah

Hanukkah has a messianic significance, as it foreshadows the triumph of God’s people over the forces of evil and the restoration of true worship. The Maccabees were a type of Christ, who fought against the oppression of the world and reclaimed the Temple for God. The miracle of the oil was a sign of God’s presence and power, and a symbol of the Holy Spirit, who fills and empowers the believers. The menorah was a representation of the Messiah, who is the light of the world (John 8:12). The eight days of Hanukkah also correspond to the eight days of the Feast of Tabernacles, which celebrates the ingathering of the harvest and the dwelling of God with his people. The Feast of Tabernacles is a prophetic picture of the millennial reign of Christ when he will rule over the earth and restore all things (Revelation 21:1-4).

Hebrew-Hanukkah- Chanukah-Blessing-Menorah-Traditions-Israel-Dreidel-Torah-Scroll-latkes-presents

Hannukah Hebrew Blessings

There are three blessings (prayers) that are traditionally recited by Jewish families while holding the shamash, the helper (middle) candle, before lighting the nine-branched candelabrum menorah on each night of Hanukkah. The first blessing recitation is the blessing over the candles, which thanks God for “commanding” them to light the Hanukkah candles. As Messianic believers in Yeshuah Messiah, we see this first blessing as tradition not a command as this instruction is not found in the Torah, but rather only in Jewish oral traditions. The second blessing is the blessing about miracles, which praises God for performing wonders for our ancestors in those days at this time. The third blessing is known as the shehecheyanu, which expresses gratitude to God for granting us life, sustaining us, and enabling us to reach this occasion. The third blessing is only recited on the premiere night or the inital lighting of the menorah in that year.


Delicious Potato Latkes Recipe for Hanukkah


6 Medium Potatoes-peeled & cubed

2 eggs-beaten

½ Medium Onion-chopped

3 Tablespoons Flour

1 Teaspoon Salt

¼ Teaspoon Pepper

¼ Teaspoon Baking Powder

1/8 cup Olive Oil

Optional: Sour Cream & chives or Applesauce


In a Food Processor or Blender, Add eggs, onion and potatoes.  Blend until lightly chopped. Stir in flour, salt, pepper, and baking powder to the blended mix.  Add olive oil to frying pan.  When well mixed, drop by large spoonfuls into warm skillet and cook on both sides until golden brown.  Drain latkes on paper towels.  Serve with sour cream or applesauce. Yields about 3 dozen.

John 10:22-23; John 8:12; 1 Maccabees; 2 Maccabees; Revelation 21:1-4


Hanukkah, also spelled Chanukah, is a Jewish festival that honors the victory of the Maccabees over the Syrian-Greek militants as well as the oil miracle that burned for eight days in the Temple. Hanukkah means “dedication” in Hebrew, referring to the act of rededication of the Temple after the invaders defiled it. Hanukkah is also recognized by the term Festival of Lights because of the traditional lighting of candles on a menorah, a nine-branched candelabrum, for each night of the holiday.

The story of the miracle of oil that I mentioned above is based on a tradition that is recorded in the Talmud, a collection of Jewish oral teachings and interpretations. According to this tradition, after the Maccabees, who were a group of Jewish zealots overcame the myriad Greek/Syrian military group that had occupied Jerusalem and desecrated the Temple, they wanted to restore the Temple service and light the menorah. This seven-branched candelabrum symbolized God’s presence. However, they could only find one small jar of pure olive oil, bearing the seal of the Levitical High Priest, indicating that the invaders had not contaminated it. This jar contained only enough oil to last for only a single day, yet by a God-given miracle, the oil burned for eight full days until new oil could be prepared. This miracle showed that God was with the Maccabees and approved of their efforts to reclaim the Temple and their religious freedom. Hanukkah, which means “dedication” in Hebrew, commemorates this miracle as well as the rededication of the Jewish Temple.

The giving of gifts on Hanukkah is a relatively new tradition that has different origins and explanations. According to some sources, the practice of gift-giving began in the 18th century, coming from the Greeks entirely. Other sources suggest that it started in the 19th century when stores realized they could advertise to Jewish immigrant communities in America who wanted to assimilate and participate in gift-giving alongside their Christian neighbors. Another possible origin is that it stems from the custom of giving money or coins, known as gelt, to children and teachers as a reward for studying the Torah during Hanukkah. By the beginning of the 19th century, Eastern European Jews began gifting coins to the familial offspring as presents for Hanukkah. In the 20th century, the giving of gifts on Hanukkah became more widespread and influenced by the commercialization of Christmas. Today, many Jewish families exchange gifts on each night of Hanukkah. Some also give charitable donations or volunteer as a way of expressing the values of Hanukkah.



Hanukkah Fun Facts

Some interesting and unusual facts surrounding Hanukkah include:

1.  Hanukkah moves around on the calendar. It begins on the 25th day of Kislev on the Jewish calendar, which can fall anywhere from late November to late December on the Gregorian calendar. The Jewish calendar is based on the lunar cycle, while the Gregorian calendar is based on the solar cycle.

2.  Hanukkah is not the most important Jewish holiday. It is a minor festival that is not commanded in the Torah, unlike the major holidays such as Passover, Shavuot, and Sukkot. However, Hanukkah has become more popular and prominent in modern times because of its proximity to Christmas and its message of religious freedom.

3.  Hanukkah is not just about candles. There are other traditions and customs that are associated with the holiday, such as eating fried foods like latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganiyot (jelly doughnuts), playing a game with the dreidel (a spinning top with Hebrew letters), and giving money or chocolate coins (called gelt) to children.

4.  Hanukkah has been celebrated in space. In 1993, astronaut Jeffrey Hoffman brought a menorah and a dreidel to the space shuttle Endeavor and played with them on a televised broadcast.

5.  Hanukkah has a connection to Thanksgiving. In 2013, Hanukkah coincided with Thanksgiving for the first time since 1888. This rare occurrence was dubbed “Thanksgivukkah” by some. The next time this will happen is in the year 20704.

6.  Hanukkah has inspired many songs. Some of the most famous ones are “The Dreidel Song”, “I Have a Little Dreidel”, “Hanukkah, Oh Hanukkah”, “Light One Candle”, and “The Hebrew Hammer”.

7.  There are two different spellings for Hanukkah because the word comes from Hebrew, which has a different alphabet and sound system than English. The first letter of the word, ח, is pronounced as a guttural sound that does not have an exact equivalent in English. Some people use “H” to represent this sound, while others use “Ch” to indicate that it is not a regular “H”. The rest of the word can also vary depending on how the vowels and consonants are transliterated. The most common spellings are Hanukkah and Chanukah, but there are more than 20 other known variations. There is no definitive answer to which spelling is correct, as different sources and traditions may prefer one over the other. However, Hanukkah is the most widely used spelling, while Chanukah is more traditional. No matter how you spell it, the meaning and celebration of the holiday are the same.


Hebrew Blessings, Transliteration, Translation

Blessing over the candles

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

Transliteration:  Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu melech ha-olam, asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav v’tsivanu l’hadlik ner shel Hanukkah.

Translation: Blessed are You, Adonai our God, Ruler of the Universe, who makes us holy with your commandments, commanding us to kindle (light) the Hanukkah lights.

Blessing About Miracles

Hebrew: בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, שֶׁעָשָׂה נִסִּים לַאֲבוֹתֵינוּ וְאִמוֹתֵינוּ בַּיָּמִים הָהֵם בַּזְּמַן הַזֶּה

Transliteration: Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu melech ha-olam, she-asah nisim la-avoteinu v’imoteinu bayamim haheim bazman hazeh.

Translation:  Blessed are You, Adonai our God, Ruler of the Universe, who performed wondrous deeds for our ancestors in those ancient days at this season.


Hebrew: בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, שֶׁהֶחֱיָנוּ וְקִיְּמָנוּ וְהִגִּיעָנוּ לִזְּמַן הַזֶּה

Transliteration: Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu melech ha-olam, shehecheyanu, v’kiyimanu, v’higiyanu la’zman hazeh.

Translation: Blessed are You, Adonai our God, Ruler of the universe, who has granted us life, sustained us, and enabled us to reach this occasion.


How to Play the Dreidel Game

This Dreidel game can be played with any number of players.  It is a great way to teach children Hebrew letters, sportsmanship, and Jewish history. Playing with four people is optimal.

There are four dreidel spinner tops, each marked with a different Hebrew letter and Hebrew name.  These are Shin (ש), Hey (ה), Gimel (ג), and Nun (נ). 

1.  At the start of play, Each player is given an equal number of game pieces/items (10-15 pieces) such as M & M’s, raisins, peanuts, chocolate chips, pennies, candy, buttons, etc.

2.  At the beginning of each round of play, every person puts one of their game pieces (candy, nuts, pennies, etc) into the center of the play area- designated as the “pot”.  Additionally, each time the pot is empty or has just one piece remaining, each player should put one piece into the pot.

3.  Every player, at their turn, spins the dreidel once (some games have one dreidel that everyone spins and some games have individual dreidels that are color coded-one dreidel for each player- either way is fine). Depending on the side the dreidel falls on, the player gives or gets game pieces from/to the pot.  For those who don’t read Hebrew, some dreidels also feature a transliteration of each letter.  

4.  If the dreidel falls on the Hebrew letter Nun (נ), then the player does nothing because Nun (נ) means “nisht” or “nothing”.

5.  If the dreidel falls on the Hebrew letter Gimel (ג), then the player gets everything in the pot because Gimel (ג) means “gantz” or “everything”.

6.  If the dreidel falls on the Hebrew Letter Hey (ה), then the player gets half of the pot because Hey (ה) means “halb” or “half”.  If there is an odd number of playing pieces in the pot, then the player must take half of the total plus one more.

7.  If the dreidel falls on the Hebrew Letter Shin (ש), then the player adds a game piece to the pot because Shin (ש) means “shtel” or “peh” or “put in”.

8.  If a player finds that he or she has no game pieces left, then the player is either out of the game or may ask a fellow player for a “loaner” piece.  

9.  The game is over when one player has won all of the pieces. 

10.  Some players play with candy called “gelt” that are gold or silver wrapped chocolate coins which makes for a yummy treat to the winner!  In sportsmanship, it is encouraged that the gelt is shared with all 🙂

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