odds are it will spell hanukkah


In the spirit of Throwback Thursday, and in the looming shadow of Passover, i dug up two old comics i did way before i knew what a Tumblr was. They “attempt” to “explain” two often little-understood Jewish holidays, drawn in 2009 and 2010 respectively. The Passover comic is a direct follow-up to the Hanukkah comic, so i’ve included both for context.

These comics are neither accurate nor informative.

For more information on anything in this life, please consult Wikipedia.

8 Things to know about Hanukkah

1. What does Hanukkah celebrate?

So the basic ancient story is that the greeks were persecuting the Hebrew people and trying to prevent them from practicing their religion. The Maccabee (hammer) family formed an army to revolt against the oppressors and won against all odds, taking back the Second Temple and rededicating it.

In order to have a reason to celebrate other than a war victory, we also talk about this miracle story that when they were rededicating the temple, they only had enough oil to burn in the menorah (which is a candelabra thingy and is spelled מנורת i think) for ONE NIGHT but by a MIRACLE FROM GOD (omg) it burned for EIGHT NIGHTS

BONUS FACT: menorah (מנורת) is a 7-branched oil lamp (3 on each side, 1 in the middle). the hanukkah menorah, or hanukkiah (חֲנֻכִּיָּה , pronounced “ha-noo-KEY-yah”) is the 9-branched oil lamp/candelabra with 4 on each side and 1 in the middle. Everyone calls it a menorah, I used to mind it, now I don’t care.

2.  Someone asked: “why are there so many different spellings of (C )han(n)uk(k)ah? (as in, why did we never agree upon a single spelling? did it come to the English language relatively recently?)”

For reference, here’s the word in Hebrew: חֲנֻכָּה

Because of the back-of-the-throat sound, some people write “ch” and some people write “h”. As for the double “k”, it’s because in classical Hebrew, the kaf “כ” is pronounced for longer than other consonants. As for the number of “n”s, I have no clue. Lately I’ve been writing “hanukkah.” It really is kind of annoying that there’s no consistency, especially when you’re trying to search for something online.

3. When is Hanukkah this year (2015)?

sundown Sunday, December 6 to sundown Monday, December 14

4. Someone asked: “are there any common Hanukkah traditions that you want to share other than the mainstream ones that everyone talks about (dreidel, gifts, latkes, lighting the menorah)?”

The reason we eat latkes (fried potato pancakes, לְבִיבוֹת in Hebrew which I’m reading as “l’vivot”, so I guess “latke” is a yiddish word, Jumblr correct me if I’m wrong) is because we eat food fried in oil to commemorate the oil in the lamp (and because whoever came up with that tradition knew nothing about cholesterol) so we eat other fried food like jelly doughnuts (סופגניות, spelled sufganiyot in English, pronounced “soof-gan-ee-YOT”). Apparently, in Israel, they eat jelly doughnuts way more often than latkes.

The other traditions you listed are pretty much all that I know about. We don’t go to synogague for services (but some go for community parties and stuff). There are special songs we sing (which I plan on posting as one of my “gifts” later in the week so stay posted lol)

5. Is it true that you get one present for each night?

Depends on the family. My parents usually do one small gift like cool socks each night except for one bigger gift on one night. The whole gift giving tradition kind of stemmed from Christmas and isn’t really historically relevant.

6. Is it true that Hanukkah isn’t an important holiday in Judaism?

Kinda. It came about very recently compared to most other Jewish holidays, only a little over 2,000 years ago, and so it’ isn’t in the Torah. Nowadays, it’s important, especially I think in America, because of the coinciding dates with Christmas. From that it’s become a bigger deal, which I like, because it’s fun to have winter holidays to see family on and get gifts and decorate and stuff.

7. How does the candle lighting work?

The candle in the middle is called a shamash (שַׁמָשׁ, pronounced “SHAHM-ash”) which means “servant” or “helper.” You light that with a match or lighter and then light the other candles with the shamash. You put the candles in the hanukkiah from right to left (I guess because Hebrew is read right to left) and then light them with the shamash from left to right- newest candle first. On the first night, you light the shamash + one candle, then let them burn all the way down. On the second night, shamash + two candles, etc. So in total you need 44.

There are two blessings you say as you light the candles, and on the first night, you say an extra one. I’m getting bored of this post and don’t feel like listing them but they’re easy to look up.

8. How do you play dreidel?

First of all, dreidel is a yiddish word, and the hebrew word is סְבִיבוֹן (pronounced “siv-VEE-vohn”). Dreidel is a totally fine word to use, I use it all the time, but I figured you all should know.

There are 4 sides to a dreidel, each with a hebrew letter on it. Outside of Israel, the letters are “נ” (nun), “ג” (gimel), “ה” (hay), and “שׁ” (shin). They stand for “נס גדול היה שם” (nes gadol haya shahm) or “A Great Miracle Happened There”. (In Israel, instead of a שׁ, it’s a פּ, which stands for “po” and means here, as opposed to there.)

The rules of the game: You can play with chocolate gelt, real money, or whatever. My family has a decades old bag of hazelnuts that we take out to play with. It’s up to you. You spin the top. If you land on נ, nothing happens. If you land on ג, you get the whole pot. If you land on ה, you get half the pot. If you land on שׁ, you put a token in (my family says two, it varies.)

Well, this was freaking long.

2nd installment in Pluto Talks Judaism

Also, the first in a series of 8 gifts which I will be posting, one on each of the 8 nights of Hanukkah this year.