HOW TO SPELL (in Hebrew Letters) Chanukah
Why is it that everyone seems to spell the name of the holiday differently? And which way is correct? Does it begin with a “c” or an “h”? Does it end with an “a” or an “h”? Should there be one “n” or two in the middle? Is there one “k” or two?
The answer is: all of the above. Since the word is transliterated from Hebrew, and there are Hebrew grammar rules that don’t necessarily apply to English, we could answer “yes” or “no” to any of the above questions.
I think a better question would be “How do we celebrate the holiday?” Unlike Rosh HaShanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Passover & Shavuot, this is not a major festival we are required to observe in the synagogue (however, I would love for you and your family to join us in our sanctuary on Friday, December 23 for our Family Shabbat & Chanukah—yep, that’s how I spell it— observance).
The Hebrew word “Chanukah” means “dedication”, and refers to the liberation and rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem following the Maccabees’ victory over the Syrian armies in 165 BCE. In modern Israel, Jews have a tradition of eating jelly doughnuts. In Israel, and around the world, Jews celebrate by lighting a chanukiah (9-branch menorah), playing dreydel, singing special songs, eating latkes, and joining with family and friends.
Want to do more? The Union for Reform Judaism suggests the following Social Action projects for this season:
Ner Shel Tzedakah (Candle of Righteousness) - A Project for the Sixth Night of Chanukah; a project in which families and individuals devote the 6th night of Chanukah to learning about the problem of poverty. They donate the value of the gifts (or the gifts themselves) that they would otherwise exchange on that night to organizations that assist the poor.
A Light Among the Nations; commemorate Chanukah by taking action to address the climate change crisis. This nation-wide campaign is engaging the Jewish community in education, advocacy, and concrete action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Support Our Troops; Are you looking for a way to support Jewish military personnel serving in Iraq and elsewhere, particularly during the Jewish holidays? You still have some time to send them cards and care packages for Chanukah. For information on a number of opportunities for individuals and congregations to offer support to Jewish troops, visit Support Our Soldiers.
Sustaining the Light: A Social Justice Program Guide for Chanukah—a new program guide from the Commission on Social Action that highlights social justice themes of Chanukah -- the environment, economic justice, children’s issues, religious liberty -- and describes the activities that flow from them. In the guide you will find social action program ideas for families, social action committees, youth groups and other synagogue groups. We hope this material will assist you in making your Chanukah observance one that inspires acts of tzedek (justice) and tzedakah (righteousness).
For more ideas, go to: http://urj.org/holidays/chanukah.
However you plan to celebrate your festive observance, my family and I wish each of you a happy Chanukah, Chanuka, Chanukkah, Hanukka, Hanukkah, Hanukah, Hanukka, (or however you care to spell it)!
Barbara G. Margulis