Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Happy Chanukgiving--Thanksgiving and Chanukah together

Difficulties Increase Your Merit

When you are trying to do good deeds and difficulties arise, realize that the difficulties actually serve to increase the merit of your good deeds.
Love Yehuda Lave
Our trip to Albany for a Brit:

Is it true that . . .
Thanksgiving falls on Chanukah this year,
it's never happened before, and
it will never happen again?
Yes, no, and maybe.
Yes, this Chanukah, if you're celebrating Thanksgiving, you'll want to light the second candle of the menorah at your turkey dinner.
No, it's not true that this has never happened before. Let's work this through step by step:
Chanukah was declared a Jewish national holiday 2178 years ago. Thanksgiving was declared a national American holiday on the last Thursday of every November by Abraham Lincoln in 1863. Before then, Thanksgiving was celebrated on different dates in different states, so we won't count those. But, using the Date Converter, you will see that Thanksgiving coincided with the first day of Chanukah on November 29, 1888. It also coincided with the fifth day of Chanukah on November 30, 1899.
On November 28, 1918, Thanksgiving was on Chanukah eve. But since it's still Thanksgiving until midnight, and Jewish days begin at night, that would still mean that Jewish Americans would have eaten their turkeys that Thanksgiving to the light of their first Chanukah candle.
It gets more complicated. Originally, Thanksgiving was always on the last Thursday of November. In 1939, FDR decided it would be good for the economy to push Thanksgiving back a little, so he declared the fourth Thursday of that November to be Thanksgiving—even though there were five Thursdays to November that year. In 1942, that became federal law. But not all states went along with it. As late as 1956, Texas was still celebrating Thanksgiving a week later than the rest of the country.
Which means that if you were a Texan Jewish family, you would be eating that turkey to the light of your first Chanukah light in 1945 and 1956.
Will it ever happen again? Interesting question. If we project forward, assuming that:
Thanksgiving will be celebrated on the same schedule,
The people celebrating Thanksgiving will continue following the Gregorian calendar without modification,
The Jewish calendar will continue on its current 19-year cycle,
. . . then the next time the two will coincide would be when Thanksgiving falls on Chanukah eve in the year 2070. That would repeat itself in 2165.
Let's chart this out:
Kislev 25, 5649—2 candles that night
Kislev 29, 5660—6 candles
Kislev 24, 5679—1 candle
11/29/1945 (Texas only)
Kislev 24, 5706—1 candle
11/29/1956 (Texas only)
Kislev 24, 5717—1 candle
11/28/2013 (you are here now)
Kislev 25, 5774—2 candles
11/27/2070 (theoretically)
Kislev 24, 5831—1 candle
11/28/2165 (theoretically)
Kislev 24, 5926—1 candle
You'll notice that these dates are getting further and further apart. That's not just FDR's fault. Both the Gregorian calendar and the Jewish calendar are slowly drifting in relation to the actual solar year—but at different rates. After 2165, Chanukah would have completely drifted out of November—unless one of these calendars (or Thanksgiving) is changed.
The most important codification of the laws of the Jewish calendar was written by Maimonides in the 12th century. The standard medieval commentary to that text points out that the calendar is set up in such a way that eventually it will self-obsolesce. By the year 6000 (that's 2240 on the Gregorian calendar), the holidays—most importantly, Passover—will start falling in the wrong seasons.
His conclusion: Before that time, Moshiach is expected to arrive and gather the Jews from the diaspora. At that point we will return to establishing the calendar on a month-by-month basis, as was done originally, before the current diaspora.1
Yes, making appointments is going to be a bit of a challenge, but there will certainly be solutions. At any rate, the benefits far exceed the inconvenience.
One thing is certain, however, as Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman wrote in the 13th century:2 We will forever continue to light the Chanukah lamps for eight nights, every Chanukah. Some lights can never be extinguished.
For more on the connection between Thanksgiving and Chanukah, read Thanksgiving Meets Chanukah.
Video: In 1984, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, the Rebbe, of righteous memory, highlighted some of the correlations between Chanukah and Thanksgiving in a public address:
1. Peirush to Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Kiddush ha-Chodesh 9:11. See also Ittim le-Binah, Maamar 12; Torah Sheleimah vol. 13, Sod ha-Ibbur, ch. 2.
2. In his commentary to Numbers 8:2.
Rabbi Tzvi Freeman, a senior editor at, also heads our Ask The Rabbi team. He is the author of Bringing Heaven Down to Earth. To subscribe to regular updates of Rabbi Freeman's writing, visit Freeman Files subscription.

GOOD MORNING!Hanukah is coming soon, Wednesday night, November 27th. It's a wonderful family holiday. After we light the candles, we sing Maoz Tzur, eat jelly donuts, tell stories, have quizzes about Hanukah -- all in the light of the Hanukah candles. Memories are made up of a collection of precious moments. Hanukah can provide you with many wonderful memories!
There are two ways which our enemies have historically sought to destroy us. The first is by physical annihilation; the most recent attempt being the Holocaust. The second is through cultural assimilation. Purim is the annual celebration of our physical survival. Hanukah is the annual celebration of our spiritual survival over the many who would have liked to destroy us through cultural assimilation.
In 140 BCE the Syrian-Greek emperor, Antiochus, set out to destroy Judaism by imposing a ban on three mitzvot: The Shabbat, The Sanctifying of the New Month (establishing the first day of the month by testimony of witnesses who saw the new moon) and Brit Mila (entering the Covenant of Abraham through Torah-ordained circumcision). The Shabbat signifies that God is the Creator and Sustainer of the Universe and that His Torah is the blueprint of creation, meaning and values. Sanctifying the New Month determines the day of the Jewish holidays. Without it there would be chaos. For example, if Succot is the 15th of Tishrei, the day it occurs depends upon which day is declared the first of Tishrei. Brit (or Bris) Mila is a sign of our special covenant with the Almighty. All three maintain our cultural integrity and were thus threats to the Greek culture.
Matityahu and his 5 sons, known as the Maccabees, started a revolt and three years later succeeded in evicting the oppressors. The victory was a miracle -- on the scale of Israel defeating the combined super-powers of today. Having regained control of the Temple in Jerusalem, they wanted to immediately rededicate it. They needed ritually pure olive oil to re-light the Menorah in the Temple. Only a single cruse of oil was found; enough to burn for just one day. However, they needed oil for eight days until new ritually pure olive oil could be produced. A miracle occurred and the oil burned for eight days.
Therefore, we light Hanukah candles (or better yet, lamps with olive oil) for eight days. One the first day, two the second and so forth. The first candle is placed to the far right of the menorah with each additional night's candle being placed to the immediate left. One says three blessings the first night (two blessings each subsequent night) and then lights the candles, starting with the furthermost candle to the left. The menorah should have all candles in a straight line and at the same height. Ashkenazi tradition has each person of the household lighting his own menorah. Sefardi tradition has just one menorah lit per family. The blessings can be found on the back of the Hanukah candle box or in a Siddur, prayer book. The candles may be lit inside the home. It is preferable to light where passersby in the street can see them -- to publicize the miracle of Hanukah. In Israel, people light outside in special glass boxes built for a menorah or little glasses with olive oil and wicks.
The tradition to eat latkes, potato pancakes, is in memory of the miracle of the oil (latkes are fried in oil). In Israel, the tradition is to eat sufganiot, deep-fried jelly donuts. The traditional game of Hanukah uses a dreidel, a four-sided top with the Hebrew letters Nun, Gimmel, Hey, Shin (the first letters of "Nes Gadol Haya Sham -- A Great Miracle Happened There." In Israel, the last letter is a Pay -- for "here.") In times of persecution when learning Torah was forbidden, Jews would learn anyway. When the soldiers would investigate, they would pull out the dreidel and pretend that they were gambling. The rules for playing dreidel:  Nun -- no one wins; Gimmel -- spinner takes the pot; Hey -- spinner get half the pot; Shin/Pay -- spinner matches the pot!
If enough oil was found to burn in the Temple menorah for one day and the oil lasted for eight days, then the miracle was really only for the seven additional days of lighting. Why then do we celebrate Hanukah for eight days and not seven? The Rema, Rav Moshe Isserlis, answers that in these 8 days we can celebrate a Bris, Rosh Chodesh (the new month which occurs during Hanukah) and a Shabbat -- thus countering the Greek ban!

Visit my Blog: