Northern Lights: A Hanukkah Story
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By the eighth night, all eight candles are alight. They are lit from a separate candle, the Shamash or servant candle. During Hanukkah Jews follow simple religious rituals in addition to their regular daily prayers from the Siddur, the Jewish prayer book. They recite three blessings during the eight-day festival. On the first night, they recite three and on subsequent nights they say the first two.
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The blessings are said before the candles are lit. After the candles are lit, they recite the Hanerot Halalu prayer and then sing a hymn. Fried food in particular reminds Jews of the miracle of the oil and the candles that burned for eight days after the Maccabees won back the temple in Jerusalem. Dairy products are often eaten during Hanukkah. The tradition has its roots in the story of Judith Yehudit who saved her village from the Syrians by making an offering of cheese and wine to the governor of the enemy troops.
Judith encouraged the governor to get drunk. After he collapsed on the floor, she beheaded him with his own sword and took his head back to the village in a basket. It is customary to play games at Hanukkah. The most common game uses a dreidel and is a popular way of helping children to remember the great miracle. Each player puts a coin in the pot and takes it in turns to spin the dreidel. The letter on which the dreidel stops determines each player's score.
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Other games include trying to knock other players' dreidels down and trying to spin as many dreidels as possible at any one time. The exchange of gifts or gelt is another old and cherished Hanukkah custom that dates back to at least the Middle Ages, possibly earlier. Gelt is the Yiddish term for money. Modern day gelt includes saving bonds, cheques and chocolate coins wrapped in gold foil. Search term:. Read more. This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets CSS enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience.
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Find out more about page archiving. On savoring the miracle of darkness, read this. We can see them and feel a sense of miracle and gratitude. In our world, where light pollution is growing worse and worse, billions of people are robbed of the experience of simply seeing the stars. The flames from the menorah are like little seeds of light, not torches.
Northern Lights Hanukkah Story by Diana Cohen, First Edition - AbeBooks
When we perseverate about dispelling and banishing the dark, we are teaching ourselves to ignore the beauty of the night, which is the only realm our little seeds of flame can thrive in. In the Industrial and post-Industrial Age, the majority of Jews live in places where they can never see more than a handful of stars. Just try seeing the stars in Jerusalem, or in New York.
If God had asked Abraham to look toward the heavens and count the stars on a typical New York night, it would have made for a very sad covenant. LEDs are hundreds of times more concentrated and intense at their source, making them more painful to look at than the brightest traditional streetlamps, and they can mimic daylight.
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Where I live in western Massachusetts, you could frequently see the Milky Way, if just barely. But last year, Northampton installed LED streetlamps in place of sodium vapor lamps, in order to save on electricity. Now, on most nights except the clearest, their bluer color drowns out the Milky Way. And brighter lights do not mean safer streets. But the worst lights do more than that.
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They can change night into hormonal day, and overwhelm our senses and our pineal gland which is our real third eye , suppressing the secretion of the melatonin we all need to drive our sleeping and waking. One consequence is that the worst lights can actually increase the incidence of breast cancer and some other cancers. Those are the kind of lights they have in Greenfield, MA, less than half an hour from where I live, and in Boston.
Everywhere the new LED lights are installed, people have become guinea pigs. As has the wildlife around and above us, whose behavior and flight patterns, hunting and hiding, are so much more dependent on the rhythms of light and dark than we allow ourselves to be. From space, we can see that more and more of the planet is being drawn into this massive experiment. We need the light we create, and the light created long before we were created, both embedded in the dark, to illuminate our destiny on this planet, spinning like a dreidl , as Rebbe Nachman taught , through a universe full of light, and of darkness.
My first telescope was from Astronomy Without Borders , a nonprofit that donates telescopes to communities around the world — a telescope is donated for every one purchased. More Hanukkah teachings from me can be found on neohasid. David Seidenberg. Pleiades star cluster — Northern Lights Graffiti cc on flickr.
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Rabbi David Seidenberg is the creator of neohasid. Press, , and a scholar of Jewish thought. He teaches around the world and also leads astronomy programs.