On Chanukah in the year 1897, shortly after the First Zionist Congress was held, Theodore Herzl wrote an article called “The Menorah,” in which he compared himself to the shamash that lights and wakes Jews of all affiliations. Recent research on Herzl and his family points to the bond between Judaism and Zionism that was the cornerstone of his Zionist thought. Herzl was not raised as an Orthodox Jew nor did he become such, yet the shift in his attitude towards Jews of different stripes represented a move away from the assimilationist stance of his youth, when he was alienated from Judaism.
Have you addressed the matter of [Hanukkah] gelt, and especially that of gifts, from a historical and halakhic standpoint? Are there articles you could point me towards? Texts? Responsa?
Chanukah, the Festival of Lights – when those colorful little candles illuminate the great darkness imposed by nature, when the days are short and the moon has waned – provides us with a good opportunity to recount the story of the growing, multifaceted Spiritual Care movement in Israel, which is bringing light and gladness to those in darkness and despondency.
The great strength of any national movement, Zionism included, is founded on its social justification and is based to a large extent upon foundations built in the past.[note] Shmuel Almog, “The Historical Dimension of Jewish Nationalism,”Zion, 53, 4 (1986), pp.405-421.[/note] Zionism chose to establish itself upon fundamentals that were familiar to its supporters and with which they identified; the same principles would also be respected by the free world. On this basis did the Zionist leaders present themselves and their movement, taking care to differentiate Zionists from “the others.” [note] Ibid., p. 417.[/note]
The regulations for lighting the Hanukkah lamp are found in neither the Mishnah nor the Tosefta, the corpora reflecting halakhic practice in the land of Israel in the years immediately following the destruction of the Second Temple. The main source for the rabbinic laws of Hanukkah is a series of passages in the Talmud Bavli, Shabbat 21a-24b. These passages contain much material attributed to sages from the land of Israel, but the fact that there is no comprehensive discussion of the laws of Hanukkah in tannaitic or amoraic literature from the land of Israel itself led Louis Ginzberg to doubt the attribution of some of the material in the Babylonian corpus.
The holiday of Hanukkah has many beautiful customs such as the dreidl, latkes, and sufganiyot, but there is one custom which we would expect to find on Hanukkah which seems to be missing – the reading of a scroll in public. After all, on Purim we read the Scroll of Esther every year in order to publicize the miracle. Why don’t we read a scroll on Hanukkah in order to publicize the miracles which God wrought for our ancestors in the days of Matityahu and his sons? The result is that most Jews only know the legend about the miracle of the cruse of oil (Shabbat21b) and not about the actual military victories of the Maccabees.
Traditionally, Hanukkah celebrates two distinct events: the victory of the Maccabees and the restoration of the Temple after its desecration. The military victory is stressed in the Al Hanissim prayer, while the Talmudic passage concerning Hanukkah (Shabbat 21b) emphasizes the rededication and the related miracle of the oil. Another motif was apparently added to the festival during the reign of Herod: the kindling of the Hanukkah lights in ascending order, in honor of the winter solstice, which marks the lengthening of the daylight hours (see Moshe Benovitz, ” Hordos veHanukkah “, Zion 68 (2003), pp. 5-40).
Most biblically ordained Jewish festivals have a double significance: they have one meaning associated with nature and another meaning associated with Israelite history. The Sabbath commemorates creation, but it is also called zekher litisiat mitsrayim , a commemoration of the Exodus. Passover is the festival of spring and the festival of Israelite freedom; Shavuot is both a harvest festival and the day on which the Torah was given; Sukkot celebrates the ingathering of produce as well as being a reminder for all generations “that I caused the Israelites to dwell in booths when I took them out of Egypt” (Leviticus 23:43).
Most of the laws of Hanukkah are related to the lighting of the menorah or hanukkiya [note]In the Diaspora, the Hanukkah lamp is called a menorah; in Israel it’s called a hannukiya. Technically speaking, the menorah is the seven branched candelabrum which was used in the Tabernacle and in the Temple in ancient times (Exodus 37:17-24; Numbers 8:1-4) and should not be used to describe a Hanukkah lamp.
The Second Temple period of Jewish history begins with the edict of Cyrus in 538 BCE marking the end of the Babylonian exile. The Persian Empire provided the means and opportunity for restoring Jewish autonomy and rebuilding the Jerusalem temple. This experience of support and recognition heralded almost three and half centuries of political cooperation with the various forces that dominated the Mediterranean basin.