Jupiter and Saturn are about to do something not seen for nearly 800 years and Water Authority prepares to open Degania Dam amid high hopes for Kinneret and Four Israelis wounded in a car crash caused by Palestinian rock-throwers and the immense size of the Solar System that Hashem Created and My Jewish Press article Before and After the Corona Era and Chanukah starts tonight! and 13 Hanukkah Facts Every Jew Should Know By Menachem Posner and Chanukah at the Western Wall--CANDLE LIGHTING TIMES
Yehuda Lave is an author, journalist, psychologist, rabbi, spiritual teacher, and coach, with degrees in business, psychology and Jewish Law. He works with people from all walks of life and helps them in their search for greater happiness, meaning, business advice on saving money, and spiritual engagement.
Chanukah at the Western Wall- Candle lighting times
As in previous years, Chanukah candles will be lit every night of Chanukah at the Western Wall Plaza, the site closest to the where the miracle of the oil took place.
Presence at the candle-lighting ceremonies will be in accordance to Health Ministry regulations at the time. Additional information will be published on https://www.thekotel.org/
The candles will be lit in a magnificent menorah made of bronze which is over 2 meters high and about 2 meters wide, weighs one ton, and took about seven months to create.
The Chanukah candles will be lit according to mehadrin min hamehadrin tradition, with olive oil, in special holders that are wind and rain-proof so the menorah can stay lit throughout the night.
First Night – Thursday, 24 Kislev – December 10, 2020 – 5:00 pm
Second Night – Friday, 25 Kislev – December 11, 2020 – 3:30 pm
Third Night – Saturday, 26 Kislev – December 12, 2020 – 7:00 pm
Fourth Night – Sunday, 27 Kislev – December 13, 2020 – 5:00 pm
Fifth Night – Monday, 28 Kislev – December 14, 2020 – 5:00 pm
Sixth Night – Tuesday, 29 Kislev – December 15, 2020 – 5:00 pm
Seventh Night – Wednesday, 1 Tevet – December 16, 2020 – 5:00 pm
Eighth Night – Thursday, 2 Tevet – December 17, 2020 – 5:00 pm
The Three Musketeers at the Kotel
Remembering two forgotten heroes: Ben Hecht and Peter Bergson
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By Steve Frank, JNS
The news of the Jewish genocide in Europe was mostly ignored, except by two men whose lives are largely forgotten: an acclaimed American-Jewish playwright and an underground fighter in pre-state Israel.
On Nov. 25, 1942, a five-paragraph article, buried on page 10 of The New York Times, confirmed the deaths at that time of 2 million Jews in Nazi-controlled Europe and warned of the perilous plight of the remaining 4 million. The final solution was no longer a secret, if it ever had been.
The news was, for the most part, ignored, except by two men whose lives are largely forgotten now: Ben Hecht, an acclaimed American-Jewish playwright, and Peter Bergson, an underground fighter in pre-state Israel. They joined forces to produce a pageant in Madison Square Garden in March 1943 designed to save the 4 million Jews still alive under Nazi occupation.
It's worth taking a moment to reflect on who they were and what they tried to do.
The dreadful fate of the Jews of Europe was hardly hidden. Adolf Hitler's genocidal plans for the Jews were foreshadowed in his autobiography Mein Kamp as early as 1925. Once he became chancellor of Germany in 1933, he implemented his plan in stages.
The Nuremberg Laws of 1935 stripped Jews of their citizenship and all civil rights. Jewish businesses were ransacked and set on fire during Kristallnacht (the "Night of Broken Glass") in November 1938. Ghettos and labor camps were created across German-occupied Europe to facilitate the deportations to the death camps to come. The extermination of Jews, the "Final Solution," was approved by senior Nazi officials at the Wannsee Conference in Berlin in January 1942.
Although it had long been suspected, news of the final solution was officially confirmed to the outside world via a telegram sent on Aug. 8, 1942 by Gerhard Riegner, the World Jewish Congress representative in Geneva, to the U.S. government. The cable confirmed the deaths of 2 million Jews in Europe thus far and revealed the existence of a comprehensive German plan to murder the remaining 4 million Jews of Europe.
The reaction to this momentous news in the United States was general indifference. The U.S. State Department initially sought to block the news and prevailed upon Rabbi Stephen Wise, a prominent Jewish leader—who had also received a copy of the cable—to remain quiet.
When the news finally was made public 78 years ago this week, it was relegated to back pages of major newspapers, and the Roosevelt administration abandoned the remaining Jews to their gruesome fate. The appalling apathy of the American government, the media and American-Jewish leaders towards the plight of the Jews in Europe has been well documented in such books as While Six Million Died, The Abandonment of the Jews, Buried by the Times and, most recently, The Jews Should be Quiet.
When the world ignored the dire warning of the Riegner cable, the stage was set for the execution of the final solution.
Enter Hecht and Bergson.
At the time, Hecht was an acclaimed American screenwriter, director, producer, playwright, journalist and novelist. He wrote 35 books (including his celebrated autobiography, A Child of the Century) and well more than 70 of the most entertaining screenplays and plays in America. These included: "Front Page," "Scarface," "It's a Wonderful World," Alfred Hitchcock's "Spellbound" and "Notorious," "The Shop Around the Corner," "Foreign Correspondent," "The Sun Also Rises," "Mutiny on the Bounty," "Casino Royale," "The Greatest Show on Earth" and "Gone With the Wind."
He was nominated for six Academy Awards and won twice. The Dictionary of Literary Biography: American Screenwriters calls him "one of the most successful screenwriters in the history of motion pictures."
A secular Jew, born of Russian-Jewish immigrants, Hecht joked that he "became a Jew" only in 1939. This was when he met Bergson, a leader of the Irgun underground militia determined to recreate a Jewish state in the ancient homeland of Israel.
Bergson, a charismatic 25-year-old and nephew of Israel's first chief rabbi, had come to America to promote the muscular Revisionist Zionism of Vladimir Ze'ev Jabotinsky and to raise awareness about the plight of Jews during the Holocaust. He sensed a potential ally in Hecht and reached out and arranged a meeting at the 21 Club, Hecht's favorite Manhattan hangout. A "force of nature" with a "small blonde mustache, an English accent and a voice inclined to squeak under excitement" was Hecht's impression of Bergson after that first encounter. They were an odd couple, but a perfect match, the screenwriter and the promoter.
On March 9, 1943, just months after the Riegner telegram had warned the world of the imminent threat to the remaining Jews of Europe, the Bergson Group produced the lavish afore-mentioned pageant in Madison Square Garden, written by Ben Hecht, titled "We Will Never Die," memorializing the Jews who had already been murdered.
The show was directed by Moss Hart and featured a full orchestra, a choir, lavish scenery and a gigantic cast of more than 1,000 performers, including Paul Muni, Edgar G. Robinson, Frank Sinatra and Sylvia Sidney. Music was provided by noted German composer Kurt Weil. Demand for tickets was so high that they put on an extra performance and broadcast it through loudspeakers to a crowd of 20,000 that gathered outside the sold-out venue.
Forty thousand people saw the pageant that first night, and it went on to play in five other major cities, including Washington, D.C., where First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, six Supreme Court justices and some 300 members of Congress watched it.
In spite of the momentary popularity of their pageant, Hecht and Bergson were disappointed in the results. As composer Weill noted afterwards: "The pageant has accomplished nothing. Actually, all we have done is make a lot of Jews cry, which is not a unique accomplishment."
Hecht later wrote in A Child of the Century: "The Americanized Jews who ran newspapers and movie studios, who wrote plays and novels, who were high in government and powerful in the financial, industrial and even social life of the nation, were silent."
Towards the end of the war, the Roosevelt administration even refused to bomb the railroad tracks leading to the gas chambers. The remnants of Europe's Jews were lost to history.
Following the war, Hecht's 1946 play, "A Flag is Born," featuring Paul Muni and an unknown Marlon Brando, who played a Treblinka survivor, helped finance the purchase of a ship, renamed the SS Ben Hecht, which made a 1947 voyage to Israel with 800 survivors. The ship was intercepted on the way to Palestine by the British, and the passengers were interned on the island of Cyprus.
Hecht, whose career in Manhattan and Hollywood had climbed to new heights of success in the 1930s, sabotaged his professional life by castigating the United States for failing to stop the Holocaust. In 1964, he died suddenly of a heart attack at age 70 in New York and was eulogized by Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, who said: "Ben Hecht wielded his pen like a drawn sword."
Bergson served in Israel's first Knesset (parliament) but eventually grew disillusioned with politics. He was especially disappointed with Israel's failure to write a constitution to protect the rights of all Israeli citizens, Arabs and Jews. Until his death at age 86 outside Tel Aviv in 2001, he continued his campaign for an Israeli constitution built on a strong division between synagogue and state.
Since the end of the Holocaust, the slogan "never again" has been popular. And yet, twice in our lifetime, millions of Jews have been threatened with extinction—during the 1967 Six-Day War and the 1973 Yom Kippur War—while the world stood idly by as it did during the Shoah. Even today, the anti-Semitic regime in Iran repeatedly threatens to annihilate Israel and its now 6.8 million Jews. And the incoming Biden administration promises to reengage with Iran.
Where are the Ben Hechts and Peter Bergsons of today?
Steve Frank is an attorney, retired after a 30-year career as an appellate lawyer with the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C. His writings on Israel, the law and architecture have appeared in numerous publications, including "The Washington Post," "The Chicago Tribune," "The Jerusalem Post," "The Times of Israel" and "Moment" magazine.
Caption: Ben Hecht. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.
My Jewish Press Article
B.C.E. and A.C.E. (Before Corona Era and After the Corona Era).
I have grown up with the idea of the fact that Jews don't use BC and AC because of the Christian Connection. Because we are living in a time of dramatic change of before Corona and after Corona (my new nomination--can I patent this?), it's worth looking at the issue.
Common Era (CE) is one of the year notations used for the Gregorian calendar (and its predecessor, the Julian calendar), the world's most widely used calendar era. Before the Common Era (BCE) is the era before CE. BCE and CE are alternatives to the Dionysian BC and AD notations respectively. The Dionysian era distinguishes eras using the notations BC ("before Christ") and AD (anno Domini, "in [the] year of [the] Lord").
The two notation systems are numerically equivalent: "2020 CE" and "AD 2020" each describe the current year; "400 BCE" and "400 BC" are each the same year. The Gregorian calendar is used throughout the world today, and is an international standard for civil calendars.
The expression has been traced back to 1615, when it first appeared in a book by Johannes Kepler as the Latin annus aerae nostrae vulgaris, and to 1635 in English as "Vulgar Era". The term "Common Era" can be found in English as early as 1708, and became more widely used in the mid-19th century by Jewish religious scholars. Since the later 20th century, CE and BCE are popular in academic and scientific publications as culturally neutral terms. They are used by others who wish to be sensitive to non-Christians by not explicitly referring to Jesus as "Christ" nor as Dominus ("Lord") through the use of the other abbreviations.
The year numbering system used with Common Era notation was devised by the Christian monk Dionysius Exiguus in the year 525 to replace the Era of Martyrs system, because he did not wish to continue the memory of a tyrant who persecuted Christians. He attempted to number years from an initial reference date ("epoch"), an event he referred to as the Incarnation of Jesus. Dionysius labeled the column of the table in which he introduced the new era as "Anni Domini Nostri Jesu Christi".
This way of numbering years became more widespread in Europe with its use by Bede in England in 731. Bede also introduced the practice of dating years before what he supposed was the year of birth of Jesus, and the practice of not using a year zero. In 1422, Portugal became the last Western European country to switch to the system begun by Dionysius.
Although Jews have their own Hebrew calendar, they often use the Gregorian calendar, without the AD prefix. As early as 1825, the abbreviation VE (for Vulgar Era) was in use among Jews to denote years in the Western calendar. As of 2005, Common Era notation has also been in use for Hebrew lessons for more than a century. In 1856, Rabbi and historian Morris Jacob Raphall used the abbreviations CE and BCE in his book Post-Biblical History of The Jews. Jews have also used the term Current Era.
Our lives have been changed by the Corona Virus. I prayed outside in 45-degree temperatures this Shabbat, because we can't pray inside the synagogue anymore.
We aren't supposed to invite our friends for Shabbat meals. We used to travel around the world and we would find a Chabad or someone in the synagogue to host us for meals, even sometimes someone to put us up overnight so we didn't need a hotel. You used to be able to know you would be spending Shabbat with friends or with learned scholars. Now, most people over 60 don't want to see anyone in their home or go to the synagogue.
People used to travel back and forth to Israel at a whim and spend days or months or residents used to fly home to their home countries without thinking about it. Israel still after 10 months lets only residents in with minor exceptions. The travel industry that had 5 million visitors no longer exists. Eliot, a tourist center has 80% unemployment.
People's lives, businesses, and family relationships have been crushed, let alone those that have become sick or died from the virus.
What is the good? Teachers that used to have 10 live students now have a hundred for the same class because you can watch it from home instead of having to go to the teacher. Families that never used to see each other are now confined to home in lockdowns that havened prooved to do anything. Being forced to be with each other can be good or bad.
The list can go on and on. Let's summarize in life. There is BCE (before the Corona Era) and ACE (after the Corona Era)
By the way here is an excuse you can no longer use in the ACE, because all the funerals are on Zoom!
Life After Death
"Do you believe in life after death?" Shimmy Rubenstein asked one of his employees.
"Yes, Sir." the new recruit replied.
"Well, that makes sense then," Mr. Rubenstein went on, "Because after you left early yesterday to go to your grandmother's funeral, she stopped in to see you."
Water Authority prepares to open Degania Dam amid high hopes for Kinneret
The opening of the dam will likely take place around April 2021 if the water level rises high enough.
The Water Authority is preparing for the possibility that it may need to
open the Degania Dam for the first time in 25 years as the Kinneret remains high after two years of, especially rainy winters. If the rainfall in the coming winter exceeds 90% of the perennial average, then the dam will need to be opened.
The hydrological service's forecasts predict that the coming winter will have slightly lower rainfall than the perennial average, but the Kinneret is already just a little less than 1.2 meters below the upper red line which marks a full lake, due to the last two rainy winters. The Water Authority, therefore, believes that there is a likelihood that the Kinneret will fill up this winter and that the Degania Dam will need to
be opened. The opening of the dam will likely take place around April 2021 if the water level rises high enough. send water from the Kinneret to the southern Jordan River with the goal of bypassing the Degania Dam and preventing its opening.In April of this year, the authority decided to open a canal, which allowed five billion liters of water to flow from the Kinneret to the Jordan River and bypass the dam to avoid negatively affecting pumping stations in the area and the financial costs required to open the dam, which would also impact the water supply for agriculture in the area. The canal allowed for the Kinneret to be kept from overflowing without causing floods and waves. The dam was opened partially in 2013, but has not been opened fully since 1995. It had been expected to be partially opened at the beginning of May in order to prevent flooding, according to the Kinneret Draining Authority.
Jupiter and Saturn are about to do something not seen for nearly 800 years
The two largest planets in the solar system, Jupiter and Saturn, have fascinated astronomers for hundreds of years. But the two gas giants will do something next month not seen since the Middle Ages -- they will look like a double planet.
The rare occurrence will happen after sunset on Dec. 21, 2020, the start of the winter solstice.
"Alignments between these two planets are rather rare, occurring once every 20 years or so, but this conjunction is exceptionally rare because of how close the planets will appear to one another," said Rice University astronomer Patrick Hartigan in a statement. "You'd have to go all the way back to just before dawn on March 4, 1226, to see a closer alignment between these objects visible in the night sky."
A view showing how the Jupiter-Saturn conjunction will appear in a telescope pointed toward the western horizon at 6 p.m. CST, Dec. 21, 2020. The image is adapted from graphics by open-source planetarium software Stellarium. (This work, "jupsat1," is adapted from Stellarium by Patrick Hartigan, used under GPL-2.0, and provided under CC BY 4.0 courtesy of Patrick Hartigan)
Between Dec. 16 and Dec. 25, the two planets will be separated by less than a full moon, Hartigan added.
"On the evening of closest approach on Dec. 21 they will look like a double planet, separated by only fifth the diameter of the full moon," Hartigan explained. "For most telescope viewers, each planet and several of their largest moons will be visible in the same field of view that evening."
The celestial event can be observed anywhere on earth, but Hartigan noted the farther north someone is, "the less time they have to catch a glimpse."
Stargazers should try to see the event next month or risk waiting a long time for the next occurrence. The two planets won't be this close to each other again until March 15, 2080, and sometime after the year 2400, Hartigan explained.
Four Israelis wounded in car crash caused by Palestinian rock throwers
Four Israelis were wounded Monday in a multi-vehicle car crash that occurred after one of the vehicles was reportedly hit by rocks thrown by Palestinians, the Magen David Ambulance service reported.
The incident occurred near the town of Yitzhar on Route 60, the main north-south road that runs through Judea and Samaria, when the driver of a car apparently lost control after his vehicle was hit by rocks. He then crashed into a van and another private automobile.
An MDA spokesman said three people suffered light wounds, but a fourth, a resident of Yitzhar, was seriously injured.
"When we arrived at the scene, we found vehicles with severe damage in the front," said MDA medic Aviel Mamlia, adding that one man had a severe head injury and the civilian ambulance crew got assistance from an IDF medical team.
Firemen helped extract the seriously wounded man from the vehicle, the B'Hol News website reported.
Those involved in the crash said the collision was caused when the rocks were thrown at them as they traveled on Route 60 near the Palestinian Authority-controlled town of Burin. The Palestinian Ayn News reported that rocks were thrown at the vehicles in the area south of the Arab city of Nablus.
Israeli security forces are searching for the perpetrators.
The Shabak Israel National Security Agency reported that terror attacks in Judea and Samaria have been rising over the past several months, with 82 serious incidents reported in October, including a pipe bomb attack that wounded two IDF soldiers in the same area as the car crash.
The attacks in October included 95 firebombs, 14 pipe bombs, six cases of arson, one stabbing attack and one shooting incident. In some cases, multiple firebombs were used.
Scores of rock-throwing incidents occur monthly, but most are not tabulated by the Shabak, although vehicles that are damaged do report the incidents to local police in order to process insurance claims.
Earlier this year, the human rights group UN Watch published a report on Palestinian violations of child rights that documented how Palestinian institutions promote and encourage rock throwing.
The Israeli watchdog organization Palestinian Media Watch documented "Fatah's guide to rock throwing for kids" in which an official Palestinian social media site published how-to instructions for Palestinian children throwing rocks at Israelis.
Today's selection -- from Our Universe by Jo Dunkley. Our solar system:
"The Solar System as a whole [is a] loosely defined collection of objects that are centred on our own star, the Sun. We know the Sun extremely well, of course, and the planets that orbit the Sun are also familiar to most people, at least by name. There are also asteroid rocks, comets, dwarf planets, and innumerable pieces of space debris that are drawn towards the Sun and orbit around it.
"Despite all this, the Solar System is astonishingly empty.
"It can be hard to get a good sense of this, as pictures on the pages of a book do not easily capture the true scale of things. A convenient way to imagine the sizes is to shrink the Earth to the size of a small peppercorn, a couple of millimetres across. With the Earth this small, the Sun becomes a basketball, one hundred times larger from side to side. If we now put the basketball -- Sun down and work out where Earth should be, we might expect it to be fairly nearby. But you would need to walk twenty-six large paces to reach the peppercorn -- Earth, the full length of a tennis court. In between the real Earth and the Sun there are just two tiny planets, Venus and Mercury. Mercury would be ten paces from the Sun in this model, and peppercorn-sized Venus nineteen.
"To reach our outer planetary neighbours starts to require some serious walking. Mars, a half-peppercorn-sized planet like Mercury, would be fourteen more paces past Earth. The largest planet, Jupiter, a large grape to Earth's peppercorn, would be almost 100 paces further. Jupiter is five times further from the Sun than Earth, or five tennis courts laid end to end. A little over another hundred paces on comes Saturn, an acorn, now ten times as far from the Sun as Earth. Uranus is twenty times and Neptune thirty times further than the Earth from the Sun. Tiny Neptune, like Uranus about the size of a raisin, is now almost half a mile away from our basketball-Sun, almost 800 paces and a roughly ten-minute walk. You could hold all those planets comfortably in your hand; the rest of the Solar System is almost entirely empty."
Why is Chanukah (Hanukkah) eight nights long? The Talmud asks and answers:
The sages taught: On the 25th of Kislev, the days of Chanukah are eight. One may not eulogize on them, and one may not fast on them. This is because when the Greeks entered the Sanctuary, they defiled all the oils that were in the Sanctuary. And when the Chashmonean monarchy overcame them and emerged victorious over them, they searched and found only one cruse of oil that remained with the seal of the High Priest. And there was sufficient oil there to light the candelabrum for only one day. A miracle occurred, and they lit the candelabrum from it for eight days. The next year, the sages instituted those days and made them holidays with the recitation of Hallel and prayers of thanksgiving.1
But there's more. Seven represents all that is found within this world. There are seven days of the week, seven classical planets and seven musical notes. In fact, the world itself was created in seven days.
Then there is the number eight, which represents that which is above, that which does not fit into the neat slots that hold the bits and pieces of our lives. The number eight evokes the transcendent and the G‑dly. Eight is the number of miracles.
2. Light After Dark
The Chanukah candles must burn after night falls, since their purpose is to bring light into darkness. But they need to be lit early enough that someone will be around to see them. The lights need to be seen so they can serve their function of reminding others of the great miracle G‑d wrought.
3. The Silent Holiday
Chanukah is the only Jewish holiday not mentioned in the 24 books of the Bible. That's because the canon was sealed by the Men of the Great Assembly, who flourished two centuries before the Chanukah miracle. Nor does it have a tractate in the Talmud that discusses its observances. Instead, it gets a by-the-way mention in Tractate Shabbat. In the context of discussing Shabbat candles, the Chanukah candles (and by extension, the Chanukah holiday) get their time in the Talmudic sun.
4. Before There Were Potatoes There Was ... Cheese!
Today, there is a widespread custom to enjoy potato latkes on Chanukah, since the oil they are fried in reminds us of the miracle of the flames on the Temple menorah burning for eight days. But there is an older custom to eat cheese pancakes on Chanukah, which is reminiscent of the dairy (and intoxicating) meal that the brave Judith fed the Greek general before she decapitated him in his sleep, saving her village. Apparently cheese latkes morphed into potato latkes (potatoes were unknown in the Old World until the late 16th century), and a new custom was born.
5. You Light a Hillel Menorah
In the days of the Talmud, there were two major academies of learning: Hillel and Shammai. The House of Hillel taught that every night of Chanukah we add another candle—as we do today. The House of Shammai, however, maintained that we begin with eight lights on the first night and light one less flame every night, ending Chanukah with a single flame.2 Tempted to try the Shammai template? The time to do that is yet to come. Tradition tells us that when Moshiach comes, we will follow the rulings of the House of Shammai. But until then, there is a beautiful lesson to be learned from the Hillel model. Add more light every night. Every little bit of lights add up to create something brilliant.
6. Syrians, Greeks, Hellenists or Yevanim?
We sometimes hear of Greeks, Syrians or even Hellenists in the Chanukah story. So who exactly were the interlopers who were expelled by the Maccabees? All of the above! After the death of Alexander the Great, his empire was broken up: the Seleucid Greek Empire was based in Syria, and the Ptolemaic Empire had its base in Alexandria, Egypt. The soldiers stationed in Judea belonged to the Syrian Greeks. And who are the Hellenists and the Yevanim? The very same people: Hella is the Greek word for Greece, and Yavan is how we say it in Hebrew.
(Now, just to make things a bit more confusing, there were also the Hellenized Jews, or "Mityavnim" in Hebrew, who sided with the Greeks/Yevanim/Hellenists/Syrians/Seleucids and posed an even greater threat to the survival of traditional Jewish life.)
7. Menorahs Everywhere
On the first Chanukah, candles were lit all over the courtyard of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. This brought the Chanukah light from the inner sanctum of the Temple, the holiest spot on earth, out into the open. As Jews continue to observe Chanukah all over the globe, the ripples of holiness continue to widen and expand.
8. Lots of Choices
Most Jewish holidays begin on only four out of seven days of the week. For example, the first day of Rosh Hashanah can be Monday, Tuesday, Thursday or Shabbat—never Sunday, Wednesday or Friday. However since the month preceding Chanukah (Cheshvan) can have 29 or 30 days, Chanukah can actually begin on any day of the week besides Tuesday.
9. Were the Maccabees Really So Great?
Any kid who attends Chabad preschool can tell you that the heroes of the Chanukah story are the Maccabees, the clan who led the brave insurgency against the Greeks invaders. But it was not all good. Judah Maccabee and his family were Kohanim, members of the priestly tribe chosen by G‑d to minister in the Holy Temple. Judah Maccabee's successors took the kingship for themselves, something that rightfully belonged to the descendants of King David from the Tribe of Judah. Indeed, it did not take long until the monarchy of Judea was dragged down into a series of unending power grabs and bloody intrigue, with king after king trying to imitate the very same Greeks their ancestors had ousted from the land.
10. Chanukah in the USSR
Avraham Genin, a leading figure in the network of underground Jewish institutions run by Chabad in the USSR (photo: Nathan Brusovani (Bar), www.brusovani.com)
Avrah... Genin, a leading figure in the network of underground Jewish institutions run by Chabad in the USSR (photo: Nathan Brusovani (Bar), www.brusovani.com)
For most of his life, Avraham Genin lit the menorah in the privacy of his own home, or in the synagogue. A former soldier in the Red Army, he lost his foot to a German bomb. But that didn't prevent him from walking to synagogue every week—an effort that took him an hour and a half. A stalwart chassid who refused to bow to Stalin and his minions, he served bravely as a mohel and a teacher of Torah, a beacon of light in a G‑dless communist era.
But then the unthinkable happened. By Chanukah of 1991, cracks had formed in the Iron Curtain and, in the presence of approximately 6,000 Jewish people, Avraham Genin kindled a giant menorah inside the Kremlin Palace of Congresses. (It was the second year that a large public menorah had been lit in the USSR; the previous year, a menorah had been placed near Russia's White House.)
Public Chanukah menorah lightings have been a staple of Jewish Russian life ever since.
11. Chanukah in Space
An Astronaut's Chanukah Adventure
In December of 1993, Space Shuttle Endeavour was sent into space to service the Hubble Space Telescope. One of the astronauts to bravely perform a spacewalk to repair the telescope was Jeffrey Hoffman.
Knowing that he would be stuck in space over Chanukah, Hoffman made sure to bring along a dreidel and a traveling menorah so that he'd be able to celebrate (because of lack of gravity and safety concerns, there was no way to light candles).
Then, via live satellite communication, he showed his Chanukah supplies, gave his dreidel a twirl in the air, and wished Jews everywhere a happy Chanukah
12. Is Your Menorah in the Doorway or at a Window?
The most common custom (outside of Israel) is to light the menorah at a window. In Mishnaic times, however, the menorah would be placed outside, on the left side of the door leading in from the street.
This led to a unique law. Normally if a person placed a candle in the street, and a straw-bearing donkey brushed by too close, the owner of the candle would be responsible for the ensuing conflagration. On Chanukah, however, he would be exempt because he was doing a mitzvah.
Why was the menorah placed to the left of the door? Because the mezuzah is placed on the right side. With the mezuzah on one side and the menorah on the other, you are literally surrounded by holiness.
The harsh realities of the diaspora, both sociopolitical and meteorological, forced the menorah to an indoor doorway, and some communities developed the custom to put it on the windowsill instead. Even today, many people (including Chabad) prefer to light in a doorway, surrounding ourselves with the mitzvahs of mezuzah and the menorah, just as in ancient times.
13. How Chanukah Went Public in Three Years
The purpose of the menorah is to spread awareness to as many people as possible. This is why the menorah is also lit in the synagogue every night. But in recent years, the mitzvah of menorah has rippled out even further.
Rabbi Moshe Hecht with students at the New Haven Hebrew Day School in Connecticut, 1987.
Rabbi Moshe Hecht with students at the New Haven Hebrew Day School in Connecticut, 1987.
During Chanukah of 1973, some Chabad-Lubavitch yeshivah students were planning to go to Manhattan to distribute menorahs. They figured that if they could put a giant menorah on top of a car, many more people would notice them and take the menorahs they were distributing. Using wooden scraps and cinder blocks, they manage to make a large menorah and tie it down to the roof of a station wagon. The menorah turned out to be a success.
By 1974, Rabbi Abraham Shemtov had the unusual, perhaps wild, idea of lighting a menorah right in front of Independence Hall, which houses the Liberty Bell, the icon of American freedom.
In 1975, Chabad Rabbi Chaim Drizin in San Francisco made arrangements to light an oversized wooden menorah in the city's Union Square. Bill Graham—a child survivor of the Holocaust and a well-known music promoter—donated funds for the construction of the 22-foot-tall mahogany menorah. To this day, it's called the Bill Graham menorah. (Photo: www.billgrahammenorah.org)
... 1975, Chabad Rabbi Chaim Drizin in San Francisco made arrangements to light an oversized wooden menorah in the city's Union Square. Bill Graham—a child survivor of the Holocaust and a well-known music promoter—donated funds for the construction of the 22-foot-tall mahogany menorah. To this day, it's called the Bill Graham menorah. (Photo: www.billgrahammenorah.org)
... 1975, on the opposite U.S. coast, Rabbi Chaim Drizin in San Francisco had made arrangements to light an oversized wooden menorah in the city's Union Square. Bill Graham—a child survivor of the Holocaust and a well-known music promoter—donated a 22–foot-tall mahogany menorah, and the tradition grew into its current form.
In 2016, Chabad-Lubavitch set up more than 15,000 large public menorahs. Public lightings and Chanukah events were held in more than 90 countries around the world. Additionally, 5,000 menorah-topped vehicles roamed the roads, creating holiday awareness in cities, towns and rural areas around the world.
Shabbat 21b, quoting Megillat Taanit.
By Menachem Posner
Rabbi Menachem Posner serves as staff editor at Chabad.org, the world's largest Jewish informational website. He has been writing, researching, and editing for Chabad.org since 2006, when he received his rabbinic degree from Central Yeshiva Tomchei Temimim Lubavitch. He resides in Chicago, Ill., with his family.
See you tomorrow bli neder which is the first day of Chanukah which starts tonight!!