If you would like to download the e-book “8 Days of Happiness”, click here.
Positive Psychology is a growing field that focuses on understanding happiness, fulfillment and wellbeing, and identifying the factors that contribute to positive human development. Some of those include qualities and values like empathy, generosity, gratitude and strong, healthy relationships. It turns out that Chanukah provides an enormous opportunity to nurture those traits within children and adults alike.
So, consider this a Chanukah gift to yourself and your family. We have built a library of resources that can expose you to some of the best stuff that’s been discovered about HOW our lives can be filled with happiness and fulfillment, and it all relates to Chanukah.
So play around, click each candle below, enjoy and have a happy, happy Chanukah!
Around the year 167 BCE, the ruler of the Syrian kingdom Antiochus sought to pull Jews away from Judaism so that all his subjects in his vast empire-which included the Land of Israel-would share the same Greek Hellenist culture. He marched into Jerusalem, vandalized the Temple, erected an idol on the altar, and desecrated its holiness with the blood of swine. Decreeing that studying Torah, observing the Sabbath, and circumcising Jewish boys were punishable by death, he sent Syrian overseers and soldiers to villages throughout Judea to enforce the edicts and force Jews to engage in idol worship, and during this period, many of the Jews began to assimilate, taking on Greek names and marrying non-Jews. When the Syrian soldiers reached Modi’in they demanded that the local leader and elder Matityahu the Kohen be an example to his people by sacrificing a pig on a portable pagan altar. He refused and killed not only the Hellenized Jew who stepped forward to do the Syrian’s bidding, but also the king’s representative, Apelles, in order to enable him and his sons to escape. Matitiyahu and his five sons (Jonathan, Simon, Judah, Eleazar, and Yohanan) fled to the hills and caves of the wooded Judean wilderness. Within a few months of this incident, Matityahu died and he left instructions that this third son, Judah who was known as ‘the Maccabee’ (literally, ‘the hammer’ because he and his brothers were said to strike hammer blows against their enemies) lead the fight. Over a period of three years Judah, his brothers and his followers were able to overcome the military superiority of Antiochus’ army and on the 25th Kislev 164 BCE the Maccabees regained control of the Temple.
On this day, the 25th Kislev, they held a ‘Chanukah’ (lit. dedication) of the Temple with proper sacrifice, rekindling of the golden menorah, and eight days of celebration and praise to God. When it came time to re-light the Menorah, they searched the entire Temple, but only one small jar of oil bearing the pure seal of the High Priest could be found. Miraculously, the small jar of oil burned for eight days, until a new supply of oil could be brought. From then on, Jews have observed a holiday for eight days in honour of this historic victory and the miracle of the oil.
On every night of Chanukah, Jews light their Chanukiah in prominent positions – ideally by a window or door and facing a public area – for פרסומי ניסא (in order to ‘publicize the miracle of Chanukah’). While it would suffice to light just one candle each night, the custom developed to add a further candle each night so that by the eighth night of Chanukah, all eight candles are lit. Prior to lighting the candles, two blessings are recited (להדליק נר של חנוכה + שעשה ניסים) and on the first night of Chanukah, the additional blessing of שהחיינו is recited. When the candles are lit, it is customary to sing the songs הנרות הללו and מעוז צור.
There are numerous Chanukah customs. One of them is to play with a ‘dreidel’ which was used as a ruse when Torah was being taught after the decree of Antiochus. The dreidel is often labelled with the letters נ(נס)-ג(גדול)-ה(היה)-פ(פה)ש(שם). Another is to eat foods made with oil, to recall the miracle of the oil.
On Chanukah, we sing הלל and add the prayer of על הניסים into our daily Amidah and Birkat Hamazon.
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