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December 02, 2016
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Hanukkah decoded

Different families have their favorites, but most folks are familiar with the traditional latkes. This is one of the most famous of Jewish foods, and a specialty of Hanukkah. The latkes (potato pancakes) are served as an appetizer, as a side dish, and even for tea with a sprinkling of confectioners’ sugar. They can be marvelous if properly prepared, just before eating. I’ve never mastered making latkes, but I’m pretty good when it comes to eating them. In my house, I always make sure to have sour cream at the ready.

What is a dreidel?

Another website, www.about.com, helped to decipher what that “funny looking toy” is. “Dreidel” is a Yiddish word that comes from the German word “drehen,” which means “to turn.” A dreidel is a four-sided spinning top with a Hebrew letter on each side. It is used during Hanukkah to play a popular children’s game that involves spinning the dreidel and betting on which Hebrew letter will be showing when the dreidel stops spinning. Children usually play for a pot of gelt, which are chocolate coins covered in gold colored tin foil, but they can also play for candy, nuts, raisins—anything, really.

Many of us have heard the children’s song, which is sung every year while playing the Hanukkah game, and the memorable chorus often sticks in my mind long after the last candle has burned out. For me, it’s the Jewish version of (oy vey!) “It’s a small world after all” and goes something like this:

“Oh dreidel, dreidel, dreidel
I made it out of clay
And when it’s dry and ready
Then dreidel I shall play!”

Religious practices

Although Hanukkah is considered one of the “fun” holidays, its roots are deeply significant and given proper reverence while observing during the eight-day celebration. There are three Brachos (blessings) which are recited when the Hanukkah candles are lit. For example, in both traditional Hebrew and English we recite: “Baruch ata Ado-nai, Elo-heinu Melech ha’olam, Asher kid’shanu b’mitzvosav v’tzivanu l’hadlik ner shel Chanukah.” Translation: “Blessed are You, Hashem our G-d, King of the universe, Who has sanctified us with His commandments, and has commanded us to kindle the Chanukah light.”

On a lighter note

I found this charming poem on www.holiday123.net:

Let’s be Happy

By Malvine P. Hoenig

Let’s be happy, let us cheer,
Hanukkah again is here.
All the lights are shining bright,
Isn’t it a lovely sight?