Purim

PURIM

When we tour Israel, people always ask about the different holidays in the Jewish calendar, I always say to people that most Jewish holidays falls under the same 3 definitions:

They were trying to kill us,
We won,
Let’s eat!

Purim, this year, in 2021 it begins on Thursday night, February 25 and continues through Friday, February 26, (extending through Sunday in Jerusalem), indeed falls under this explanation. Below is a short explanation about this holiday and its meaning.

Happy Purim

Go to our website www.israelwithmoshe.com and visit the “Jewish Holidays” video series

What is Purim?

The jolly Jewish holiday of Purim is celebrated every year on the 14th of the Hebrew month of Adar (late winter/early spring). It commemorates the (Divinely orchestrated) salvation of the Jewish people in the ancient Persian empire from Haman’s plot “to destroy, kill and annihilate all the Jews, young and old, infants and women, in a single day.” Literally “lots” in ancient Persian, Purim was thus named since Haman had thrown lots to determine when he would carry out his diabolical scheme, as recorded in the Megillah (book of Esther).
“There is a certain people dispersed among the peoples in all the provinces of your kingdom who keep themselves separate. Their customs are different from those of all other people, and they do not obey the king’s laws; it is not in the king’s best interest to tolerate them. If it pleases the king, let a decree be issued to destroy them.” (Book of Esther 3: 8-9)

The Story in a Nutshell

The Persian Empire of the 4th century BC extended over 127 lands, and all the Jews were its subjects. When King Ahasuerus had his wife, Queen Vashti, executed for failing to follow his orders, he arranged a beauty pageant to find a new queen. A Jewish girl, Esther, found favor in his eyes and became the new queen, though she refused to divulge her nationality. Meanwhile, the Jew-hating Haman was appointed prime minister of the empire. Mordechai, the leader of the Jews (and Esther’s cousin), defied the king’s orders and refused to bow to Haman. Haman was incensed, and he convinced the king to issue a decree ordering the extermination of all the Jews on the 13th of Adar, a date chosen by a lottery Haman made.Mordechai galvanized all the Jews, convincing them to repent, fast and pray to G‑d. “Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” (Book of Esther 4: 12-14) Meanwhile, Esther asked the king and Haman to join her for a feast. At a subsequent feast, Esther revealed to the king her Jewish identity. Haman was hanged, Mordechai was appointed prime minister in his stead, and a new decree was issued, granting the Jews the right to defend themselves against their enemies. On the 13th of Adar, the Jews mobilized and killed many of their enemies. On the 14th of Adar, they rested and celebrated. In the capital city of Shushan, they took one more day to finish the job.
“For the Jews it was a time of happiness and joy, gladness and honor. In every province and in every city to which the edict of the king came, there was joy and gladness among the Jews, with feasting and celebrating. And many people of other nationalities became Jews because fear of the Jews had seized them.” (Book of Esther 8: 16-17)

Why is it called Purim?

Purim means “lots” in ancient Persian. The holiday was thus named since Haman had thrown lots to determine when he would carry out his diabolical scheme. It is pronounced poo-REEM.

Purim observances

  • Reading of the Megillah (book of Esther), which recounts the story of the Purim miracle. This is done once on the eve of Purim and then again on the following day.
  • Giving money gifts to at least two poor people.
  • Sending gifts of two kinds of food to at least one person.
  • A festive Purim feast, which often includes wine or other intoxicating beverages.

When to Celebrate?

One of the unique aspects of Purim is the diverse timing for its celebration.● Common Custom: Jews all over the world celebrate Purim on Adar 14, the day when our ancestors rested from the war against their enemies.● Walled Cities: Since the Jews of Shushan rested one day later, their Purim was deferred to the 15th. This was extended to include any city that was surrounded by walls in the days of Joshua, notably Jerusalem.● Small Towns: In ancient times, villagers only banded together with fellow Jews in the larger towns on Mondays and Thursdays, which were market days. Thus, the sages decreed that they should read the Megillah on the market day preceding 14 Adar. This custom is no longer practiced. Note that on Jewish leap years, there are actually two months called Adar, Adar I and Adar II. Purim is celebrated in the second Adar, but 14 Adar I is still a happy day, referred to as Purim Katan (Small Purim).

The Meaning of Purim

In addition to the miracle of Jewish survival despite the efforts of our enemies, Purim celebrates G‑d’s intimate involvement in every aspect of this world. Even though there were no overt miracles recorded in the Megillah—indeed, His name is not even mentioned once—G‑d was actively “pulling the strings” to care for His nation. Additionally, Haman’s edict catalyzed a spiritual revival among the Jews. In a sense, this was even more significant than the Covenant at Sinai—an overwhelming spiritual experience that compelled the Jews to accept the Torah—since it occurred of their own volition, even as they were scattered among the Persian people and immersed in their culture. It was in the merit of this spiritual reawakening that G‑d orchestrated their salvation.

Other Cool Purim Facts

All too often, Jewish communities have narrowly escaped catastrophe. More often than not, the plot involves an evil tyrant who follows the ways of Haman. And just like the Purim story, G‑d is there to save His people from certain doom. Some communities make their own “Purim” holiday on the anniversary of the date of their respective salvation. Some even read the chain of events from specially-made “megillah” scrolls. In modern times, the plans of some of our nation’s worst enemies have have been thwarted on this day. In the early 1950s, Joseph Stalin, the ruthless butcher of millions of innocent people, had bloody plans for dealing with the “Jewish problem” in the U.S.S.R. Just as things were reaching a crisis point in 1953, he died . . . on Purim! In 1990, Saddam Hussein of Iraq defiantly invaded nearby Kuwait. As pressure ramped up from the international community, his army began firing SCUD missiles into Israel. The Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, repeatedly assured the people of Israel that they would be protected. After the U.S.-led forces attacked Iraq, they were quickly victorious and the hostilities ended . . . on Purim!

Purim Traditions and Customs

There is a spirit of liveliness and fun on Purim that is unparalleled on the Jewish calendar. If there were ever a day to “let loose” and just be Jewish, this is it!It is also customary for children (and adults, if they desire) to dress up in costumes.

Why Do We Dress Up on Purim?

There are several reasons given for the age-old custom to dress up in costumes and wear masks on Purim. Here are some of them:

– In contrast to the overt miracles of the holidays of Passover, Chanukah and other Jewish holidays, the miracle of the holiday of Purim was disguised in natural events. Here is a sampling of the story: The King wanted his wife to come to the party, she did not want to, and she was killed. Then an evil man wanted the Jews dead and plotted to accomplish this with the approval of the king. The king remarried, and his new queen happened to be Jewish, and arranged for the decree to be countered. Only after the fact, when one looks at the entire story, does one realize the great miracle that transpired.

– The custom of wearing costumes on Purim is an allusion to the nature of the Purim miracle, where the details of the story are really miracles hidden within natural events.

– The Talmud writes that just as the Jews at the time pretended to be serving other gods, G‑d pretended that He was going to destroy the Jewish nation, and in the end He did not. In other words, you pretend to be someone else on Purim, since both the Jews’ and G‑d’s actions were masked by other intentions.

– We dress differently on Purim to minimize the embarrassment of the poor who go around collecting charity on this day—a day when we give charity to everyone who outstretches their hand.

– To commemorate the dressing up of Mordechai in King Ahasuerus’s royal garments in the story of Purim.

A traditional Purim food is hamantaschen (or oznay Haman), three-cornered pastries bursting with poppy seeds or another sweet filling.

The History and Meaning of Hamantaschen

What comes to mind when you think of Purim? Costumes, the megillah, gift baskets, and of course, those delectable three-cornered pastries, hamantaschen. Called oznei Haman in Hebrew, these treats filled with poppy seeds (or other fillings) have been a part of Purim celebrations for centuries. Where did they originate? What do their names mean? And why are they eaten on Purim?

History

One of the oldest mentions of a Purim treat referred to as oznei Haman is in a Purim comedy skit written by Yehudah Sommo (1527- 1592) of Italy. Literally translated as “Haman’s ears,” this name led to the myth that the pastries celebrate the cutting off of the wicked man’s ears before he was hanged. Lastly, there is no documentation of any such barbaric mutilation having been carried out.

Daniel, Esther and the Real Hamantash

Although nowadays you can find hamantaschen filled with practically any type of filling (sweet or savory), the classic hamantash was always filled with poppy seeds. Indeed, the very word “haman” can either refer to the wicked Haman or poppy seeds (mohn), and the Yiddish word“tash” means pocket. Thus, “hamantaschen” means “poppy-seed-filled pockets.”This is in line with the classic explanation given in the Code of Jewish Law for eating hamantaschen on Purim: Some say that one should eat a food made out of seeds on Purim in memory of the seeds that Daniel and his friends ate in the house of the king of Babylon, as the verse states, “And he gave them seeds.” But what in the world does Daniel eating seeds have to do with Purim?

The Talmud explains that Hatach, Queen Esther’s faithful messenger and one of the lesser-known heroes of the Purim story, is a pseudonym for none other than Daniel.

Furthermore, as we read in the Purim story, when Esther was in the king’s palace, she kept her identity secret. The Talmud explains that since the food was unkosher, she survived on various beans and seeds. It is in commemoration of both Daniel and Esther that there is a custom to eat beans and seeds on Purim. The way this custom is traditionally observed is by eating pastry pockets, a.k.a. taschen filled with mohn, poppy seeds. Based on this reason for eating hamantaschen, whenever the classic halachic sources discuss this custom, specific mention is made of the hamantash being filled with poppy seeds. In addition to the classic reason for hamantaschen, many other explanations have been offered to explain this custom. Indeed, just about every aspect of this treat is laden with symbolism. Here are some explanations given.

The Weakening of Haman
“Tash” in Hebrew means “weaken.” Thus, the hamantash celebrates the weakening of Haman and our wish that G‑d always save us by weakening our enemies.

Hidden Messages
During the Purim story, many Jews did not believe they were going to be completely wiped out. Mordechai convinced them of the seriousness of the threat by sending them numerous letters warning them of the impending doom. Afraid to send the letters by conventional routes lest their enemies intercept them, he sent the letters hidden inside pastries. In commemoration of this, we eat pastries with a filling.

Hidden Sweetness
A well-known insight into the hamantash points to the fact that the filling is hidden inside the dough. In earlier times, our ancestors were accustomed to experiencing open miracles. In a time of exile, we don’t necessarily experience openly revealed miracles anymore. Nevertheless, the Purim story shows that this does not mean that we’ve been abandoned (G‑d forbid). On the contrary, G‑d is ever present. He’s just operating in a behind-the-scenes fashion, just as the filling of the hamantash is hidden within the dough.

Three Corners
While there is an old legend that Haman wore a three-cornered hat, and to commemorate his downfall, we eat a three-cornered pastry, there is a deeper significance as well.

The Midrash says that when Haman recognized (the merit of) our three forefathers, his strength immediately weakened. Because of this, we eat three-cornered pastries and call them “Haman weakeners (tashen).” Another reason for corners: The Hebrew word for “corner” in Hebrew is “keren,” which literally means “horn,” and can also denote “ray,” “fortune,” or “pride.” Thus, the sages understand the verse, “And all the kerens of the wicked I shall cut down” as referring to Haman, and “Exalted will be the keren of the righteous” as referring to Mordechai.

We have below a recipe for hamantaschen, hope you’ll make it and enjoy them

Below, is a short video showing the different stages in putting together the hamantaschen

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Tu Bishvat – New year for the trees

Promo to Tu Bishvat

Tu BiShvat is the Jewish new year for trees. It occurs on the 15th day of the month of Shvat in the Jewish calendar. Since the Jewish calendar is a lunisolar calendar, the months are based on the lunar cycle, this holiday will always be around the same time of year, beginning of Spring time. This holiday is a minor Jewish holiday, and it is not mentioned in the Torah. Scholar believe that this holiday started originally as an agricultural festival celebrating spring in Israel. However, after the destruction of the Second Temple in the year 70 A.D., many Jews were exiled and the agricultural celebration stopped. Over time, some Jews felt a need to symbolically bind themselves to their homeland, and Tu BiShvat was a way to fill that need. They introduced a new ritual, the Tu BiShvat Seder. This Seder (a ceremonial dinner) is similar to the Seder at Passover. The Seder involves eating biblical foods native to the holy land. As a part of this, people eat fruit and the seven spices of Israel. The fruit is typically grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives, or dates, as they are mentioned in the Torah as food from the Holy Land. Some families would have a 15-course meal, and each course would be one of the foods associated with the land. Nowadays, Tu BiShvat is an environmental holiday. Jews consider this day as a way to remind themselves of their duty to care for the natural world. Many Jews take part in a tree-planting ceremony, or collect and send money to Israel for them to plant a tree there.

Tu Bishvat during the days of the Temple
According to Biblical law, there is a seven-year agricultural cycle, concluding with the Sabbatical year.

When the Temple stood in Jerusalem, on years one, two, four and five of this cycle, farmers were required to separate a tenth of their produce and eat it in Jerusalem. This tithe is called Maaser Sheni, the Second Tithe, because it is in addition to the (two percent which must be given to the Kohain-Priest, and the) ten percent which is given to the Levite. On the third and sixth years of the cycle, instead of the owners eating the Maaser Sheni in Jerusalem, they gave this second tithe to the poor, who were permitted to consume it wherever they wished.

It takes approximately four months for the rains of the new year to saturate the soil and trees, and produce fruit (On the Sabbatical year, no tithes are separated. All produce which grows during this year is ownerless and free for anyone to take.) It was therefore of vital importance to ascertain when the new year started for produce. Our Rabbis established that a fruit which blossomed before the 15th of Shevat is produce of the previous year. If it blossomed afterwards, it is produce of the “new year.” (By comparison, grains, vegetables, and legumes have the same New Year as humans, the 1st of Tishrei.)
Why is this so?

In the Mediterranean region, the rainy season begins with the festival of Sukkot (around September-October). It takes approximately four months (from Sukkot, the 15th of Tishrei, until the 15th of Shevat) for the rains of the new year to saturate the soil and trees, and produce fruit. All fruit which blossoms beforehand are a product of the rains of the previous year, and are tithed together with the crops of the previous year.

Although this day is Rosh Hashanah for trees, we attach special significance to this holiday because “Man is [compared to] the tree of the field” (Deuteronomy 20: 19). Through cultivating strong roots – faith and commitment to G‑d – we produce many fruits—Torah and Mitzvot.

Observances and Customs
On this day it is customary to partake of the fruit with which the Holy Land is praised (Deuteronomy 8: 8): olives, dates, grapes, figs and pomegranates. If tasting any of these fruit for the first time this season, remember to recite the Shehecheyanu blessing. (A blessing recited on joyous occasions, thanking G‑d for “sustaining us and enabling us to reach this occasion.”

Watch this short video about Tu Bishvat

Introducing Tu Bishvat

Inspired by nature and by trees and the holiday of Tu Bishvat, we also added to our store at beautifulisraelstore a new collection of Jewelry of the Tree of Life series

Visit our store here


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Chanukah

CHANUKAH
THE FESTIVAL OF LIGHTS

Below is a short description of this holiday (also called the Festival of Lights) and its meaning, together with some of the special traditions and foods related to this holiday.

Go to our website www.israelwithmoshe.com and visit the “Jewish Holidays” video series

What Is Hanukkah?
Info you need about Chanukah

Chanukah is the Jewish eight-day, wintertime “festival of lights,” celebrated with a nightly menorah lighting, special prayers and fried foods.

The Hebrew word Chanukah means “dedication,” and is thus named because it celebrates the rededication of the Holy Temple (as you’ll read below).

What Chanukah Commemorates

In the second century BC, the Holy Land was ruled by the Seleucids (Syrian-Greeks), who tried to force the people of Israel to accept Greek culture and beliefs instead of mitzvah observance and belief in God. Against all odds, a small band of faithful but poorly armed Jews, led by Judah the Maccabee, defeated one of the mightiest armies on earth, drove the Greeks from the land, reclaimed the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and rededicated it to the service of God.

When they sought to light the Temple’s Menorah (the seven-branched candelabrum), they found only a single cruse of olive oil that had escaped contamination by the Greeks. Miraculously, they lit the menorah and the one-day supply of oil lasted for eight days, until new oil could be prepared under conditions of ritual purity.

To commemorate and publicize these miracles, the sages instituted the festival of Chanukah.

When is Chanukah?

Chanukah begins on the eve of Kislev 25 and continues for eight days. On the civil calendar, it generally coincides with the month of December. Chanukah 2020 runs from Dec. 10-18.

About Chanukah, the festival of lights

The Story of Chanukah

More than 2000 years ago there was a time when the land of Israel was part of the Syrian-Greek Empire, dominated by Syrian rulers of the dynasty of the Seleucids.

In order to relate the story that led up to Chanukah, we shall start with Antiochus III, the King of Syria, who reigned from 222-186 B.C. He had waged war with King Ptolemy of Egypt over the possession of the Land of Israel. Antiochus III was victorious and the Land of Israel was annexed to his empire. At the beginning of his reign, he was favorably disposed toward the Jews and accorded them some privileges. Later on, however, when he was beaten by the Romans and compelled to pay heavy taxes, the burden fell upon the various peoples of his empire who were forced to furnish the heavy gold that was required of him by the Romans. When Antiochus died, his son Seleucus IV took over, and further oppressed the Jews.

Added to the troubles from the outside were the grave perils that threatened Judaism from within. The influence of the Hellenists (people who accepted idol-worship and the Syrian way of life) was increasing. Yochanan, the High Priest, foresaw the danger to Judaism from the penetration of Syrian-Greek influence into the Holy Land. For, in contrast to the ideal of outward beauty held by the Greeks and Syrians, Judaism emphasizes truth and moral purity, as commanded by God in the holy Torah. The Jewish people could never give up their faith in God and accept the idol-worship of the Syrians.

Yochanan was therefore opposed to any attempt on the part of the Jewish Hellenists to introduce Greek and Syrian customs into the land. The Hellenists hated him. One of them told the King’s commissioner that in the treasury of the Temple there was a great deal of wealth.

The wealth in the treasury consisted of the contributions of “half a shekel” made by all adult Jews annually. That was given for the purpose of the sacrifices on the altar, as well as for fixing and improving the Temple building. Another part of the treasury consisted of orphans’ funds which were deposited for them until they became of age. Seleucus needed money in order to pay the Romans. He sent his minister Helyodros to take the money from the treasury of the Temple. In vain did Yochanan, the High Priest, beg him not to do it. Helyodros did not listen and entered the gate of the Temple. But suddenly, he became pale with fright. The next moment he fainted and fell to the ground. After Helyodros came to, he did not dare enter again.

The Madman: Antiochus

A short time later, Seleucus was killed and his brother Antiochus IV began to reign over Syria (174 B.C). He was a tyrant of a rash and impetuous nature, contemptuous of religion and of the feelings of others. He was called “Epiphanes,” meaning “the gods’ beloved.” Several of the Syrian rulers received similar titles. But a historian of his time, Polebius, gave him the epithet Epimanes (“madman”), a title more suitable to the character of this harsh and cruel king.

Desiring to unify his kingdom through the medium of a common religion and culture, Antiochus tried to root out the individualism of the Jews by suppressing all the Jewish Laws. He removed the righteous High Priest, Yochanan, from the Temple in Jerusalem, and in his place installed Yochanan’s brother Joshua, who loved to call himself by the Greek name of Jason. For he was a member of the Hellenist party, and he used his high office to spread more and more of the Greek customs among the priesthood.

Joshua or Jason was later replaced by another man, Menelaus, who had promised the king that he would bring in more money than Jason did. When Yochanan, the former High Priest, protested against the spread of the Hellenists’ influence in the Holy Temple, the ruling High Priest hired murderers to assassinate him.

Antiochus was at that time engaged in a successful war against Egypt. But messengers from Rome arrived and commanded him to stop the war, and he had to yield. Meanwhile, in Jerusalem, a rumor spread that a serious accident had befallen Antiochus. Thinking that he was dead, the people rebelled against Menelaus. The treacherous High Priest fled together with his friends.

Mattityahu

Antiochus’s men went from town to town and from village to village to force the inhabitants to worship pagan gods. Only one refuge area remained and that was the hills of Judea with their caves. But even there did the Syrians pursue the faithful Jews, and many a Jew died a martyr’s death.

One day the henchmen of Antiochus arrived in the village of Modiin where Mattityahu, the old priest, lived. The Syrian officer built an altar in the marketplace of the village and demanded that Mattityahu offer sacrifices to the Greek gods. Mattityahu replied, “I, my sons and my brothers are determined to remain loyal to the covenant which our God made with our ancestors!”

Thereupon, a Hellenistic Jew approached the altar to offer a sacrifice. Mattityahu grabbed his sword and killed him, and his sons and friends fell upon the Syrian officers and men. They killed many of them and chased the rest away. They then destroyed the altar.

Mattityahu knew that Antiochus would be enraged when he heard what had happened. He would certainly send an expedition to punish him and his followers. Mattityahu, therefore, left the village of Modiin and fled together with his sons and friends to the hills of Judea.

All loyal and courageous Jews joined them. They formed legions and from time to time they left their hiding places to fall upon enemy detachments and outposts, and to destroy the pagan altars that were built by order of Antiochus.

The Maccabees

Before his death, Mattityahu called his sons together and urged them to continue to fight in defense of God’s Torah. He asked them to follow the counsel of their brother Shimon the Wise. In waging warfare, he said, their leader should be Judah the Strong. Judah was called “Maccabee,” a word composed of the initial letters of the four Hebrew words Mi Kamocha Ba’eilim Hashem, “Who is like You, O’ God.”

Antiochus sent his General Apolonius to wipe out Judah and his followers, the Maccabees. Though greater in number and equipment than their adversaries, the Syrians were defeated by the Maccabees. Antiochus sent out another expedition which also was defeated. He realized that only by sending a powerful army could he hope to defeat Judah and his brave fighting men.

An army consisting of more than 40,000 men swept the land under the leadership of two commanders, Nicanor and Gorgiash. When Judah and his brothers heard of that, they exclaimed: “Let us fight unto death in defense of our souls and our Temple!” The people assembled in Mitzpah, where Samuel, the prophet of old, had offered prayers to God. After a series of battles the war was won.

The Dedication (Chanukah is Hebrew)

Now the Maccabees returned to Jerusalem to liberate it. They entered the Temple and cleared it of the idols placed there by the Syrian vandals. Judah and his followers built a new altar, which he dedicated on the twenty-fifth of the month of Kislev, in the year 139 B.C.

Since the golden Menorah had been stolen by the Syrians, the Maccabees now made one of cheaper metal. When they wanted to light it, they found only a small cruse of pure olive oil bearing the seal of the High Priest Yochanan. It was sufficient to light only for one day. By a miracle of God, it continued to burn for eight days, till new oil was made available. That miracle proved that God had again taken His people under His protection. In memory of this, our sages appointed these eight days for annual thanksgiving and for lighting candles.

How Chanukah Is Observed

At the heart of the festival is the nightly menorah lighting. The menorah holds nine flames, one of which is the shamash (“attendant”), which is used to kindle the other eight lights. On the first night, we light just one flame. On the second night, an additional flame is lit. By the eighth night of Chanukah, all eight lights are kindled.

Special blessings are recited, often to a traditional melody, before the menorah is lit, and traditional songs are sung afterward.

A menorah is lit in every household (or even by each individual within the household) and placed in a doorway or window. The menorah is also lit in synagogues and other public places.

The Menorah

The basic elements of a kosher menorah are eight holders for oil or candles and an additional holder, set apart from the rest, for the shamash (“attendant”) candle.

The Chanukah lights can either be candle flames or oil-fueled. Since the miracle of Chanukah happened with olive oil – the little cruse of oil that lasted for eight days – an oil menorah is preferable to a candle one, and olive oil is the ideal fuel. Cotton wicks are preferred because of the smooth flame they produce.

The eight candles of the menorah must be arranged in a straight, even line, not in a zigzag or with some lights higher than others. If it is an oil menorah, the oil cups must hold enough oil to burn for the required time – at least 30 minutes on weeknights, and up to one-and-a-half hours on Friday evening. If it is a candle menorah, the candles should be large enough to burn for the required time.

Who Lights the Menorah

Men and women alike are obligated to participate in the menorah lighting. In some families, the head of the household lights the family menorah while everyone else listens to the blessings and answers, “Amen.” In many other families, all members of the household, including children, light their own menorahs. Either way, it is important for everyone to be present and involved when the Chanukah miracle is festively commemorated.

Where to Light

Light the menorah in your own home. If you are traveling out of town, set up your menorah wherever you will be staying for the night.

In the home, there are two preferred locations for the menorah.

You can set up the menorah in a central doorway. Place it on a chair or small table near the doorpost that is opposite the mezuzah. Ideally, the menorah lights should be between 12 and 40 inches off the ground.

Or you can set up your menorah on a windowsill facing the street. This option should only be exercised if the window is less than thirty feet above ground-level.

When to Light

The Chanukah lights are kindled every night of Chanukah. The Maccabees chased away the forces of darkness with swords; we do it with light.

The custom of many communities is to light the menorah shortly after sunset. In other communities, the menorah is kindled after nightfall (approximately thirty minutes after sunset). Regardless of the custom you follow on other Chanukah nights, on Friday night the menorah is lit before sunset, and on Saturday night it is lit after nightfall.

Ideally, you should light the menorah at the earliest possible opportunity. Only delay if you are awaiting the arrival of family members who wish to be present when the menorah is lit.

Lighting the Menorah

1. Arrange the lights on the menorah. Ensure that there is enough oil, or that the candles are big enough, for the lights to burn until half an hour after nightfall (or, if lighting after nightfall, for one half hour). On the first night, set one candle to the far right of the menorah. On the following night, add a second light to the left of the first one, and then add one light each night of Chanukah – moving from right to left.

2. Gather everyone in the house around the menorah.

3. Light the shamash candle. Then hold it in your right hand (unless you are left-handed).

4. While standing, recite the appropriate blessings.

5. Light the candles. Each night, light the newest (left-most) candle first and continue lighting from left to right. (We add lights to the menorah from right to left, while we light from left to right.)

The Menorah Blessings

Before lighting the Chanukah candles, we thank God for giving us this special mitzvah, and for the incredible Chanukah miracles:

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה אֲדֹנָי אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם אֲשֶׁר קִדְּשָׁנוּ בְּמִצְוֹתָיו וְצִוָּנוּ לְהַדְלִיק נֵר חֲנֻכָּה
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה אֲדֹנָי אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם שֶׁעָשָׂה נִסִּים לַאֲבוֹתֵינוּ בַּיָּמִים הָהֵם בִּזְּמַן הַזֶּה

Bah-rookh ah-tah ah-doh-noi eh-loh-hay-noo meh-lekh hah-oh-lahm ah-sher ki-deh-shah-noo beh-mitz-voh-tahv veh-tzee-vah-noo leh-hahd-lik nayr kha-noo-kah.
Bah-rookh ah-tah ah-doh-noi eh-loh-hay-noo meh-lekh hah-oh-lahm sheh-ah-sah nee-sim lah-ah-voh-tay-noo bah-yah-mim hah-haym biz-mahn hah-zeh.

Blessed are You, Lord our G‑d, King of the universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments, and commanded us to kindle the Chanukah light.
Blessed are You, Lord our G‑d, King of the universe, who performed miracles for our forefathers in those days, at this time.

On the first night of Chanukah, Thursday, Dec. 10, 2020 (or the first time on Chanukah you perform this mitzvah), add the following blessing:

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה אֲדֹנָי אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם שֶׁהֶחֱיָנוּ וְקִיְּמָנוּ וְהִגִּיעָנוּ לִזְּמַן הַזֶּה

Bah-rookh ah-tah ah-doh-noi eh-loh-hay-noo meh-lekh hah-oh-lahm sheh-heh-kheh-yah-noo veh-kee-mah-noo ve-hig-ee-yah-noo liz-mahn hah-zeh.

Blessed are You, Lord our G‑d, King of the universe, who has granted us life, sustained us, and enabled us to reach this occasion.

Dreidel: the Chanukah Game

On Chanukah, it is customary to play with a “dreidel” (a four-sided spinning top bearing the Hebrew letters, nungimmelhei and shin, an acronym for nes gadol hayah sham, “a great miracle happened there”). The game is usually played for a pot of coins, nuts, or other stuff, which is won or lost based on which letter the dreidel lands when it is spun.

In Israel, the actual setting of the Chanukah miracle, the last letter, shin, is substituted with a pey (פ), which stands for po—”here.”

Getting Your Dreidel Game Started

In addition to dreidels, you’ll need the the currency—nuts, pennies, nickels, chocolate coins, or just about anything else…

All players sit around the playing area.

The currency is equally divided amongst all players.

Everyone takes a turn at spinning the dreidel; the one with the highest spin has first turn. (Nun is highest, then gimmelhey, and shin.) If there is a tie for highest, those who tied spin again.

Everyone puts one unit of the currency (penny, nut, etc.) into the pot.

The one who has first turn is followed in clockwise direction by all the others.

How to Play Dreidel

If the dreidel lands on a…

Hebrew letter Nun

Nun Absolutely nothing happens. Nun stands for the Yiddish word nul, which means zero. It’s time for the player to your left to take a spin.

Hebrew letter Gimel

Gimel You get to take the whole pot! Gimmel stands for gantz, which means whole. Everyone, including you, now puts another unit into the pot, and the person to your left tries his luck at spinning.

Hebrew letter Hey

Hey You get to take half of the pot. Hey stands for halb, half. If the pot has an odd amount of units, don’t try to split that penny, nut, or piece of chocolate in half. Leave the odd item there.

Hebrew letter Shin

Shin You put a unit into the pot. Shin is for shenk; yes, that means “give.”


You can speed up the game by upping the ante, raising shin and post-gimmel contributions to two, three or even four units.

Any player that cannot contribute after landing on a shin or after a fellow player lands on a gimmel, is out of the game. The game ends when there is one player left.

The traditional Chanukah dreidel is a throwback to the times when the Greek armies of King Antiochus controlled the Holy Land, before the Maccabees defeated them. The powerful regime passed a series of laws outlawing the study of Torah and many of the mitzvot. The Jews were compelled to take their Torah learning “underground, pretending they are playing games.

Chanukah Food

Since the Chanukah miracle involved oil, it is customary to eat foods fried in oil. The Eastern-European classic is the potato latke (pancake) garnished with applesauce or sour cream, and the reigning Israeli favorite is the jelly-filled sufganya (doughnut).

Chanukah food traditions have their origins in the first years that the holiday was celebrated and are meant to remind us of certain miracles associated with the events of Chanukah itself. And, of course, remembering the miracles and the freedom that we’re all celebrating adds a special flavor to everything we serve. 


Sufganiyot (Doughnuts)
There are many recipes for these Chanukah doughnuts, this recipe is the typical traditional “jelly doughnuts”, meaning they are filled with your choice of jelly, whatever you like, and represent this holiday very well. Sufganiyot (Hebrew for doughnuts) are synonymous with Chanukah.

Below, is a short video on how to bake these Sufganiyot and how to shape them

How to shape Sufganiyot into their round shape

Potato Latkes
You’ll need onion, oil, salt, potatoes, eggs, flour and oil. While the recipe works with any type of potato, using Yukon Gold will be much more aesthetically pleasing because they discolor much more slowly than other potatoes and will keep your mixture looking bright and fresh for longer. They also have a buttery taste which will take your latkes to the next level.

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Qusar El Yahud

Originally we planned to continue around the Sea of Galilee and then up to Jerusalem, but most of the sites around the Sea of Galilee are still closed due to the Covid-19 situation, so we changed the order of the video episodes and we are starting with the South of Israel

In this episode, we will visit the site at the Jordan river, near Jericho, known as Qusar El Yahud, that’s Arabic for “the crossing of the Jews” – this have to do with the tribes of Israel crossing the Jordan river on their way to the promised land in the time of Joshua, but it’s also the place where John the Baptist was baptizing and where Jesus himself was baptised.

Very important place to visit and talk about biblical events !




Qusar El Yahud – Crossing of the Jordan river


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Below, you will find a page with all the episodes in our series of Beautiful Israel
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Wars of Israel and Geo Political Situation

In the Golan Heights, overlooking the border between Israel and Syria, we talk about the different wars of Israel, starting from the War of independence in 1948, through the Six days war in 1967 and, the Yom Kippur war in 1973 and into our days, to the last comflicts between Israel, the Palestinians and Hezbollah in south Lebanon

We will also talk about the complicated Geo political situation in the Middle east and try to explain the different forces active in the Middle East and how it effects Israel

Very interesting episodes to watch !




Different wars of israel

Geo political situation in the Middle East


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Below, you will find a page with all the episodes in our series of Beautiful Israel
Click here to be transferred to a page with videos and watch all our episodes