Hannukah: history, traditions, & applications to Believers

Week 28, year 2! (Sunday-Shabbat)

During the reign of Alexander the Great (336-323 BC), Syria, Egypt, and Palestine experienced much freedom and were allowed to practice their own religions. Under Alexander the Great’s relative benevolent rule, many Jews adopted much of the Hellenistic culture, language, customs, and dress of the Greeks. However, a century later, under the rule of Antiochus IV Epiphanes, Jews were severely oppressed. In 168 BC, the Temple was desecrated. There was not only worship of Zeus in the Temple, but a statue of Zeus was erected and pigs were sacrificed on the Altar. Jews were ordered to bow down to Greek gods.

A remnant of Jews resisted and refused to worship false gods, and a rebellion broke out against Antiochus and the Seleucid/Greek monarchy. Mattathias and his five sons led the resistance. Following Mattathias’ death, his son Judah took over. They called themselves the Maccabees (an acrostic of the Hebrew Mi Kamocha B’Elim Adonai (Who among the mighty [other gods] is like You, Lord?) Thru guerilla-type warfare tactics, the Maccabees were successful and regained control of the Temple. Judah then called for the Temple to be cleansed, rebuild the Altar, and light its menorah, which was to be kept burning every night. According to tradition, the Jews discovered there was only one vial of undefiled oil. Nevertheless, the menorah was lit … and it continued burning for eight days, until more oil could be made.

Though this event occurred after the close of the Tenach (Old Testament), it is referred to in the Brit Hadashah (New Testament) when Yeshua (Jesus) was in Jerusalem during the Feast of Dedication (“It was now winter, and Jesus was in Jerusalem at the time of Hanukkah, the Festival of Dedication,” John 10:22, NLT).

As Rabbi Shimon Apisdorf stated, the Jewish people are a “tiny and ill equipped people [who] was prepared to take on the superpower of its day.” [Are we, as believers, willing to follow God even when we are facing formidable enemies?]

There are three things Hannukah celebrates:

1.   The miracle of the Temple’s one vial of oil lasting for eight days, not one.

2.   The Rededication of the Second Temple. (Another name for Hannukah is the Feast of Dedication.)

3.   The victory over assimilation. The Jews’ resistance to becoming completely Greek in action, thought, language, and culture. (It is interesting to note that Jews do not glorify military victory, only the resulting events. For example, the reclaiming of the Temple in 164 BC and the Western Wall in 1967.)

To a believer, perhaps the most significant is God’s intervention:

1.   HE enabled the weaker and less significant (the Jews) to overcome the most powerful (the Seleucid/Greek army).

2.   HE enabled the one day of oil to last for eight.

3.   HE enables us to have victory over assimilation into the world around us; victory over the trials of our personal lives. Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life,” John 8:12b, NIV.)

4.   Daily, He wants us to rededicate our lives (our earthly temples) to Him.

Many non-Jews think of Hannukah as the ‘Jewish Christmas’. They, however, celebrate two totally different events. Since Hannukah is not a major Biblical festival, there are no prescribed ways of commemorating it. Consequently, traditions have grown up surrounding this miracle.

Some think of traditions as anathemas. But are traditions evil? Let me ask. If I were to mention turkey, cranberries, and pumpkin pie, what immediately comes to mind? Thanksgiving. Doing the same thing year after year helps us to remember a special day. These actions bring vivid memories to mind. So, it is with the various traditions surrounding holidays. While they are not evil, they are not to be exalted above God’s Word.

When one thinks of Hannukah traditions, five come to mind: Hannukah Menorah (Hannukiah in Hebrew; the 9-branch candelabra); gelt (money in Yiddish); latkes (potato pancakes); soofganiot (a type of jelly-filled donut); and dreidels (4-sided tops).

The Hannukah menorah (hannukiah in Hebrew) has 9 branches while the Temple menorah has only seven. Why 9? One branch is the shamash, or servant candle, from which the others are lit. The remaining 8 candles remind us of the miracle of the oil’s lasting 8 days. The Temple menorah has only 7 branches, according to God’s instruction.

Gelt (money; the Hebrew word isdmei): did you know that the first Jewish coins, according to Jewish Outreach Institute, were minted in 142 BC, after the Macabees gained independence from the evil Syrian king. Jewish coinage ceased after the destruction of the Second Temple, in 70 AD, until Israel became a state. To connect the ancient with the modern, the Bank of Israel began striking commemorative coins. The first was stamped with the same image of a menorah that had appeared on the last Maccabean coin — 1,998 years beforehand! (An interesting side note: the 1976 commemorative coin, the 200th anniversary of the US Declaration of Independence, featured a colonial American menorah.)

Why money at Hannukah? This tradition dates back to the 17th century in Europe, particularly in Poland. Families gave their children money to give to their teachers. Children were also given money for themselves. By the 18th century, it became customary for poor children to visit more well-off families who would give them gelt. This custom met with the approval of rabbis and spread as the story of Hannukah spread.

Is there a correlation between Americans’ giving money for Christmas and gelt giving …?

Prior to the Civil War, American Jews rarely celebrated Hannukah. By the 1920s, Hannukah began increasing in commercialism, paralleling Christmas. Also in the 1920s an American confectioner produced chocolate gelt. These are coin-shaped chocolates covered with foil and made to resemble real coins. They come in “money bags”, plastic netting.

Is gift giving Jewish? Jonathan Sarna, professor of American Jewish History at Brandeis University, explains that Jews exchanged gifts on Purim. In the late 19th century, gift-giving switched from Purim to Hannukah, when Christmas became a national holiday in America. He adds: “Hannukah gelt is an old custom, well attested in Europe. Gift giving, by contrast, is new.” The practice of giving gifts on Hannukah became widespread in the post WWII 1950s. (The intention was to help Jewish kids feel happy and proud of being Jewish.)

Many families desire to get away from the commercialization of Hannukah. They buy a family gift, or give money (because of its being more of a Jewish tradition). A wonderful idea: give $1 on the 1st night; two on the second; and so on. By the final night, the child will have gotten $36! This is a great opportunity to teach the children about tzedekah (giving to the poor) and money management.

Latkes (potato pancakes) & soofganiot (jelly-filled donuts). As with all holidays, food is an important part. Hannukah is no exception. However, these two food traditions are popular in different parts of the world. What is consistent is the eating of fried foods during Hannukah, commemorating the oil’s lasting for 8 days. Latkes, potato pancakes, are very popular in Europe and their popularity spread to the US with the influx of European Jews (Ashkenazi Jews). However, soofganiot (jelly-filled donuts) are popular in Israel;many American Jews are unfamiliar with these tasty treats.

Every grandmother has her special recipe for latkes. These recipes are proudly, and often secretly, passed from generation to generation. Basically all latkes are made of shredded potatoes, onions, eggs, salt, pepper, and flour (often matzah). Once they are formed into patties, they are fried in oil.

Soofganiot are all the rave in Israel. Possibly these came from the North African tradition of making sfenj. As the central and eastern European Jews mingled with North African Jews, these delights gradually evolved into soofganiot.

Shortly after Sukkot, one will find soofganiot sold on the streets of Israel. These are a heavy cake-type donut filled with jelly; though today some have cream or other donut types of fillings. (It is interesting to note, that in this day of nutrition awareness, many soofganiot are made smaller so as to cut the calories in half.) Again, the emphasis is on fried food reflecting back to the lasting of the oil in the Temple.

The largest bakery in Israel reportedly fries more than 250,000 soofganiot during the 8 days of Hannukah!! Each batch uses 100 kilos (220 pounds!) of dough and makes 1600 soofganiot. There are even contests as to which bakery makes the best.

The final tradition of Hannukah is the dreidel. As with many traditions, there is much question as to the origin of this children’s game. Many claim this dreidel game was devised to help camouflage the study of Torah. The Greeks forbid Jews to study Torah. When a Greek soldier was spotted, the scrolls would be hidden and the Jews would begin spinning their tops (dreidels). The soldiers then thought they were gambling, an approved activity. Many children play this game with Hannukah gelt, candies, raisins, nuts, stones.

Dreidels, 4-sided tops, come in many different colors and materials. Each dreidel has these letters.

נ– the nun stands for Nes and stands for miracle.

ג– the gimmel stands for Gadol and stands for great.

ה— the hey stands for Haya and stands for was [happened]

פּ— the pey stands for Poh and stands for here [dreidels made in Israel have the pey]: A great miracle happened here!

שׁ— the shin stands for Sham and stands for there [dreidels made outside of Israel have the shin]: A great miracle happened there!

Some children play this game this way:

If the dreidel lands on the nun – the player does nothing.

If it lands on the gimmel, they get everything.

If it lands on the hey, they get half.

If it lands on the pey, they put in.

Because of the gambling overtones, when our children were young, and even today, we play byseeing whose dreidel will spin the longest – a great exercise in dexterity and a fun activity for the kids and adults.

So what does Hannukah mean to me as a believer? That I have another opportunity to focus on God’s miracles in our lives. To focus our attention away from the busy-nessof life and onto the King of the Universe, the Creator of all!

ASSIGNMENT: pray 15 minutes a day! Prayer changes things! These benefits are even more pronounced when we have the LORD Yeshua, in our lives.

“LORD, we bless You!!! You have mightily intervened and brought Your miracles before us. We thank You for having given Bonnie back to us – again. Thank You for all the miracles concerning her health – we continue to pray these will be the first steps of her healing! Touch her, Maxine, and Paul. Thank You for Your touch on Maxine and Joe – heal them. Be with Lynn & Paul. We pray Your strength – Paul’s back pain, pneumonia, and mucus plug. Be with our soldiers – protect them and their families. We pray that our children’s families will be close and focused on serving You. Bring Your revival to our land and give Israel Your peace. In Your most holy Name, we pray.”

IMMEDIATE Prayer Requests:

1.      PROTECTION FOR ISRAEL – God’s will bring His peace to J’lem and all of Israel.


3.      FAMILIES – FAMILIES – FAMILIES: God will bring families together. Spirit of division will cease.

4.      Lori: back to be strengthened and healed.

5.      Bonnie: healing, vitality – no more health issues

6.      Joe: healing

7.      Paul: total restoration: back pain, pneumonia and mucus plug to leave! Back pain is still excruciating. Will be at HealthSouth until 12/27.

8.      Connie: healing

9.      Art: blessings and anointing on Art’s Christmas card and banana bread outreach.

10.  Dan (Art’s son): job interview – favor, wisdom, he gets job! Also, prayer for his desire to mend his marriage.

11.  John: believers have wisdom how to best help John.

12.  Isaiah (Phyllis’ grandson): emotional healing and physical protection from bullies. That You will give him a heart of compassion and a desire to serve You all of his days. That he will have favor & excitement when he goes to his new school after their move. Phyllis also requests prayer for the bullies.

13.  Daughter (Debbie & Dennis): wisdom regarding employment.

14.  Dennis: wisdom concerning early retirement.

15.  Murray: broken foot; god-son to be re-fucused.

16.  Phyllis & families’ moves into their new homes will be easy. In prayer, we know there is no distance: we pray that God will bless their homes and cleanse them of anything contrary to His Word.

17.  John: healing.

18.  Joan, Bonnie, & Connie: healing and ordering of their footsteps for treatment.

19.  Bonnie: emotional healing from sister-in-law’s death.

20.  Niece (Bonnie): healing for 4-yr old’s body.

21.  Connie: new place to live; victory in her life. Son to move to Tucson.

22.  Aunt (Jeannette): fell and hit head; airlifted to El Paso; healing and salvation.

23.  Leonard (Phyllis brother): kidney action to be resumed; doctors to determine problem.

24.  Family members who are far off will return and serve God.

25.  Families to serve God.

26.  Power to overcome temptations.

27.  David (Bev & Ruben): repentance, deliverance.

28.  Brother (Bev): healing from massive heart attack and salvation

29.  God son (Doc): attitude change; wisdom for Doc.

30.  Amy, Debbie, Charity (Debbie & Dennis): prayer for resolving emotional scars of past which are affecting extended family relationships.

31.  Nephew (Bev & Ruben): Believer diagnosed with leukemia.

32.  Friend (Norman G): able to conceive a child

33.  New jobs for those in need.

34.  Favor, peace, and wisdom in the work place.

35.  Dawn’s daughter and grandson: accident. Both cars totaled; hallelujah: they were not hurt but badly shaken.

36.  Chantell: new job

37.  Joanne (Dawn): 84 yrs and not well. Please pray for her salvation

38.  Laura (Norman G): unspoken; prayer for Steven as he begins life since his wife’s death

39.  Maxine, Bonnie, Jim, Joe, Deb, John, Phyllis, and all others: pain-free, energy, healing, and vitality.

40.  Brother (Murray): healing spiritually and physically.

41.  Ron (Debbie & Dennis): light stroke; no apparent damage; air lifted to UMC. Prayer for total restoration.

42.  PJ & Tracy: house and finances.

43.  Son (Les’a’s co-worker’s son): healing and motivation

44.  Adriana (Yvonne’s sister): continued emotional healing.

45.  Krinskys: sale of home and moving mercies

46.  Natan and Chantell: finances and transition into ‘normal God-centered life’

47.  Natan: PTSD – transition home and all will quickly “be on the same page”

48.  Son (John): divorce and custody, know the God of his father

49.  John: correct medicine will be prescribed and there will be no side effects

50.  Families: please pray that God will intervene and bring His peace and righteousness to these families.

51.  Uncle (Deb): cancer

52.  Father (Deb): seek medical needed medical assistance to be able to regain mobility

53.  Friends and family (Deb): close relationship with the Messiah

54.  Rhonda: stress & car issues.

55.  Unspoken: spiritual battles. Pray that His love & truth will prevail.

56.  Jobs (Dawn’s ‘grandson’, Debbie’s daughter, Betty, Art’s son, Les’a and Don’s daughter in law): favor and wisdom. God will open the doors to jobs where they can prosper (emotionally, physically, and financially)

57.  Pamela & Norman: finances. That we ALL will be debt-free by 12/31/2012!

58.  Heather (Tracy & FaceBook): coma due to brain aneurism; she awakens

59.  Bonnie: work comes early in the week – with no technical difficulties.

60.  Tere: 2-year legal proceeding regarding mother’s care to come to a close quickly. And with a positive outcome.

61.  Tsilla (Debbie): depression

62.  Prayer for our soldiers: spiritually, mentally, physically, and emotionally whole!

63.  Jordan (Les’a & Don): Navy Sailor – prayer for him & his family.

64.  Kyle (Yvonne’s son): heart to the Lord – heaviness of depression to lift.

65.  Debbie & Dennis (& us all!!): God will lead and guide our footsteps and use us to minister to others.

66.  Cynthia: lawsuit against her parents and their food bank ministry. Pray suit will be dropped & healing will result.

67.  Isabel Mercedes Celis (6-year old Tucson girl who was abducted April 21): pray for safety and return to her family.


Read ALL He is doing this year through prayer!

·         Joan (Les’a’s mom): great report from spinal doctor. Physical therapy is immediate direction, rather than surgery – a true answer to her prayers!

·         Maxine: out of the hospital and doing well. feeling soo much better! Did not have any compressions fractures!

·         Bonnie: survived a 7-hour heart attack! And with only minor damage! And, He has granted her heart’s desire: she will not have open heart surgery! Out of the hospital – her doc was amazed at how much better she looked than she had 3 weeks before!

·         Bev & Ruben: huge answers to prayer. Pray David follows thru with his direction.

·         Phyllis & family arrived in Ohio. They had a good trip! Nevertheless, we miss her! Danielle was able to purchase a beautiful double-wide home. Phyllis is going to service Sat!!

·         Connie: found a new home!

·         Granddaughter (Betty & Harold): born healthy!

·         Rudy (Les’a’s friend’s son): cracked skull resulting in major mental complications – improvement and is able to have work. His mother is grateful for the prayers and is amazed at his healing.

·         Rhonda & Norm: the Lord brought order out of chaos!

·         Paul: even little setbacks, God uses! Paul is back at HealthSouth!

·         Nephew (Les’a): serious auto accident with car’s being totaled. His outlook is great!

·         Maxine: trip was fantastic!

·         Krinskys: home has sold and they are getting ready to move.

·         Interviews (Dawn’s ‘grandson’ and Debbie’s daughter): God to open doors to jobs

·         David (Bev & Ruben): he is fulfilling court obligations. Pray for total deliverance and repentance.

·         Danielle (Phyllis): excellent report – no cancer!

·         Somewhat estranged son (John): initiated a visit!! Visit was good!

·         Phyllis: feeling better!

·         Lord is orchestrating timing!

·         Becca (Tracy’s friend): surgery successful and, after a month in physical therapy, is able to go home! Prayer for salvation.

·         Tere: trip was amazing!

·         Danielle (Phyllis’ daughter): surgery successful – no malignancy. Doing amazingly!!!

·         Jim’s nephew: able to return to work in record time!! (accident and all facial bones, except jaw, were broken.)

·         Steve (Pamela’s friend): successful surgery & desire to be discipled.

·         PJ: truth verified regarding his physical situation.

·         Yom Kippur fast: several commented this was their first fast & it was very special.

·         Janet: during Yom Kippur fast received word that her art was accepted in a festival!

·         Maxine & Joe: trip was refreshing.

·         Leonard (Phyllis’ brother) is out of the hospital!

·         Jim: trip was fruitful.

·         Pamela: strained back: able to work.

·         John (Phyllis): going to AA everyday and is determined to make good decisions. He and his wife are speaking!! Hallelujah!!

·         Harold: a fantastic word about his new job!!! TYJ!

·         Maxine’s baptism: amazing and refreshing for all – especially her!

·         Debbie’s and Dennis’ trips to see families: very good.

·         Deb: trip to ABQ to see father, was very specialtime & experiences during visit, & seeds of love, devotion, & hope were planted.

·         Daughter (Tere): successful out-patient surgery to remove fatty tissue cyst on leg.

·         Joe: procedure: revealed no problems! Prayers they determine what is causing him the pain.

·         Ramon (Krinskys): PSA count went from 4.0 to 0.0!! Doctor was extremely pleased and said he didn’t need to see him for 6 months.

·         Bob (Maxine & Joe’s friend): excellent report from Mayo Clinic– cancer is in remission!!!

·         Adriana (Yvonne’s sister): appears to continue doing better. Prayers that she continues with treatment.

·         Betty & Harold: new jobs!

·         Les’a & Don: God healed our water softener – repairman asked his Bible study to agree with himJ

·         Family members are opening to the Word and prayer!

·         Matthew (Frank): decided to stay in rehab!! Pray for total deliverance.

·         Frank’s trip: good report

·         Olympic Runner Paul Ryan: announces God is his coach

·         Gabby Douglas: gives God glory for her Olympic gold medals in gymnastics.

·         Many little signs of His involvement in various situations all week – He is continuing to move – and we get to be part!!!!! Yes, we are His elite soldiers!

·         Jeff (Paul & Lynn’s son): GRE tests went very well!

·         Jeannette: camping was trip great with unexpected blessings.

·         Sylvia Powell (friend of Jeannette): family adjusting well without her.

·         Suzi (Jeannette’s friend): recovering from knee replacement – pray for continued healing.

·         Hawkins (soldier friend of Natan’s who was hurt in explosion in Afghanistan): he is doing well.

·         Infant Maxwell (parents are missionaries to Poland): 10 weeks old and over 12 pounds. Still tired and sleeps nearly all day, but nursing well. Pray his heart shows improvement, so he can go off meds. The family is “forever and a day grateful that you prayed for his life!”

·         Norman G: finished back taxes!

·         Bonnie: huge blessing regarding work hours.

·         Maxine: pain-free

·         Maxine & Joe: trip was fantastic

·         Marita: “Prayer Tools on your website is very popular.” It is being read in Israel, South Africa & France and is being translated into Spanish!!! May His Word continue to go forth! 

·         Brian (Paul): received the Lord! Pray Brian turns to God for comfort during his grieving.

·         Men’s meeting: good food; great fellowship; interesting discussion. – if you’re a guy, don’t miss the next meeting!

·         Operation Jericho answers are coming!

·         Lori received medical report showing improvement!! Pray for 100% healing.

·         Natan returned from 3rd deployment.

·         Jim received an excellent report from doctor!!!

·         Bonnie: mechanical miracle with medical device – huge blessing!

·         God again spared Natan and others from insidious attacks by the enemy – an explosion was only 40 meters away. (As Natan put it, had it been closer it would have been a ‘bad day’!)

·         Quinton (Art’s grandson): born healthy!

·         Family reunions continue to occur – pray that they will all be joyous!! To date, good reports from all reunions!!

·         Lori (Norman G’s daughter): approval at new job. Please pray for housing.

·         Pamela and Norman: have work – hallelujah! Let us pray they have divine appointments– & full schedules!

·         Friend (Dawn): Court ruled earthly justice. Pray for emotional and spiritual healing for all.

·         Bonnie: family visit was excellent

·         Don: trip for his mom’s 90th bday was terrific!

·         Les’a: unexpected financial blessing (insurance company suddenly paid 100% of $219 vaccine, which previously they would said they would not!) TYL! – let us continue to pray we will all be debt-free, except for housing, by the end of 2012.

·         Lynn Mann: healing from foot surgery.


Families (all of our families):

  • To be whole and walk in the ways of the Lord!
  • God to continue strengthening and building family relationships!
  • Josiah D: favor, protection & a heart like King David.
  • God would bring godly helpmates and partners in ministry: T (Les’a & Don’s friend & a man of God), Cynthia, etc.


  • Marita (in Israel): prayer for total healing from kidney stones. She does much for the Kingdom!
  • Jeff & Paul (Paul & Lynn Mann): healing from knee surgeries.
  • Krys (Les’a’s co-worker’s husband): serious problems caused by Parkinson's.
  • Susie (Bonnie): from previous cervical fusion, one of the screws started migrating and was pushing at her esophagus threatening a puncture. Prayer for recovery from surgery and acceptance of Jesus.
  • Bud (Tracy’s father): continued healing; insurance issues resolved.
  • Bonnie: healing with oxygen levels.
  • Christopher & Liz (Maxine): she has ovarian cancer, resulting in financial problems. Pray for encouragement.
  • Bob & Pat (Maxine & Joe): healing.

Call to Prayer intercessors:

  • Debt-free by the end of 2012!
  • Intercessors for The Call To Prayer: wisdom and tenacity to continue on to see victory!


  • Favor & wisdom in the work force: We would be excellent in the work place – even as Joseph, Daniel, etc. were – blessings to the companies because we are there!
  • Deb and all those who not listedGod will give them fulfilling & rewarding employment where they will have great favor!

Relationship with our Lord:

  • 5 grandchildren (Debbie & Dennis): to know the salvation and love of Yeshua.
  • David (Bev & Ruben): his mom’s request “he quickly come to the end of himself and look up. Protection for him and all of his family.” Warfare is intense.
  • Keith (Dawn’s grandson): come to the God of his parents and grandmother


  • The hearts of Americans: turn to God! Our land will be healed.
  • Peace of Jerusalem!


  • Natan (Les’a and Don’s son and his family) & our soldiers:
  • Pray for wisdom, accuracy, and knowledge. God will bring them home whole: spiritually, mentally, physically, and emotionally. And God will be with their families.


  • God’s wisdom, power, anointing, and favor.

PRAYERS OF THE RIGHTEOUS BRING GREAT RESULTS: read a summation of what our LORDdid last year!!

1.      He has miraculously saved lives physically and spiritually.

2.      He has healed many from surgeries and sicknesses.

3.      He intervened and a 7-week premature baby was born healthy and continues to thrive a year later.

4.      He is mending many, manyfamily relationships.

5.      He opened doors where there were none.

6.      He has provided many with employment.

7.      He has touched finances.

8.      He has protected our soldier.

9.      He has taught us to be consistent and persevering in prayer.

On the website are specific answers from year 1 of Call To Prayer: