Local Hanukkah Observance Set

Chanukkah or Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights, will be observed this year beginning the evening of Dec. 18 and ending the evening of Dec. 26.

Locally, a dinner will begin at 6 p.m. Dec. 18 at Temple Mizpah, 849 Chestnut St. Tickets for the dinner are $5 and reservations are required by Dec. 14. Those interested in attending can email Cantor Monica O’Desky at cantormj@cantormj.com

Everyone is asked to bring a favorite menorah, the primary symbol of Hanukkah. Candles will be provided. 

Hanukkah is an eight-day festival that begins at sundown on the first day of the observance. Hanukkah is based on the rededication of the Jerusalem Temple in 165-164 B.C.E. The story tells of the miraculous oil lamp that burned for eight days when it was filled with oil sufficient for only one day. 

Monica J. O’Desky

An unusal fact about Hanukkah is that it is spelled in a variety of ways. O’Desky explained that the problem comes from trying to translate from Hebrew to English. Hebrew for Hanukkah is חֲנֻכָּה. Her explanation follows:

“Now reading from right to left as you do in Hebrew, that first letter is a ‘chet.’ The sound is that guttural throat sound like you were clearing your throat or gargling! You hear it in some European languages, but not in English at all. So right away you need to make it an ‘H’ or a ‘CH’ but actually neither is correct,” O’Desky wrote.

“The third letter with a dot in it is a ‘KAF.’ If it has the dot (called a dagesh) it is a hard ‘K’ sound. Without it, it sounds just like the ‘chet!’ The dot represents a few things grammatically, but one of them is doubling of the letter as in, well, leTTer. There are no doubled letters in Hebrew. Because of that, you see the English as HanuKKah to represent that doubling, although it would make no difference in pronunciation if it were not there. Just like ‘leTer’or ‘leTTer’ sound the same!”

(Editor’s Note: Monica O’Desky is the cantor at Temple Mizpah, 849 Chestnut St. She travels to Abilene for special services, including Hanukkah, which will be observed Dec. 18-26. She submitted the following primer on what Hanukkah is and isn’t.)

What Hanukkah isn’t:
* Jewish Christmas
* About Jesus
* About presents
What Hanukkah is:
* A celebration of the first successful battle for religious freedom.
* A celebration of Israelite triumph over the tyranny of the Syrian-Hellenist Antiochus IV. He outlawed Torah study and observance, attempting to end the Jewish way of life.
* Celebration that God helped the Maccabees “deliver the strong into the hands of the weak, the many into the hands of few… the wicked into the hands of the righteous.”
* A celebration of being free to transmit our heritage and identity to our children.
Whatever and however you may celebrate, may your heart be filled with gratitude, generosity, kindness and hope in this season of light.
 Traditional Chanukah greetings:
Chanukah Samey’akh! חנוכה שמח. (“Joyous Chanukah”)
Chag Samey’akh חַג שָׂמֵחַ (“Joyous Festival”)
Chag Urim Sameach! (“Joyous Festival of Lights”)
Chag Chanukah Samey’akh חַג חֲנוּכָּה שַׂמֵחַ (“Joyous Festival of Chanukah”)

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