How do we celebrate Chanukah?

Chanukah, also known as the Festival of Lights, is a joyous Jewish holiday commemorating the miracle of the oil that lasted for eight days in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.

In this article, we will explore how to celebrate Chanukah in Hong Kong, ensuring that the holiday is observed with reverence, joy, and adherence to the teachings of the Torah.

  1. Lighting the Menorah:

The centerpiece of Chanukah celebrations is the lighting of the menorah, a nine-branched candelabrum. According to Halacha, the menorah should be placed in a prominent location, such as a window, to publicise the miracle. The candles are lit from left to right, adding one candle each night, using a separate candle called the "Shamash" to kindle the others. This practice symbolizes the increasing light and joy throughout the holiday.

  1. The Timing of Candle Lighting:

To fulfill the mitzvah (commandment) of lighting the menorah, candles should be lit after nightfall when the stars are visible. It is essential to consult a reliable Jewish calendar or local rabbi to determine the precise time for candle lighting each night. The candles should burn for at least 30 minutes after nightfall, and they should not be extinguished or used for any other purpose during that time.

  1. The Blessings (Brachot):

Before kindling the menorah, two blessings (brachot) are recited. The first blessing, "L'hadlik ner shel Chanukah," is said when lighting the Shamash, and the second blessing, "She'asah nissim la'avoteinu," is recited when lighting the candles. It is customary to listen attentively to the blessings and not to speak until the lighting is completed.

  1. The Placement of the Menorah:

According to Halacha, the menorah should be placed in a location where it can be seen by passersby. Ideally, it should be positioned at a height of approximately three feet from the ground. This placement ensures the fulfilment of the mitzvah of publicising the miracle. They are different customs on where to place the menora, contact Rabbi Oser or Rabbi Javasky for a discussion of your minhag and ideal placement in Hong Kong.

In addition to the menorah, it is customary to display Chanukah decorations, such as dreidels and gelt (chocolate coins), to enhance the holiday spirit.

  1. Dietary Observances:

Enjoying festive meals and traditional foods is an integral part of Chanukah. It is customary to eat foods fried in oil to commemorate the miracle of the oil. Latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganiyot (jelly-filled doughnuts) are popular Chanukah treats. Additionally, dairy dishes, such as cheese blintzes and cheese-filled doughnuts, are also enjoyed during this holiday.

  1. The Dreidel Game:

Playing the dreidel game is a cherished Chanukah tradition. According to Halacha, when playing with money or valuable objects, the winnings are considered a form of gambling and should be avoided. Instead, use chocolate coins, nuts, or other tokens as game pieces. The four Hebrew letters on the dreidel, Nun, Gimmel, Hey, and Shin, represent the phrase "Nes Gadol Haya Sham" (A great miracle happened there), signifying the miracle of Chanukah.

  1. Reciting Hallel and Al Hanisim:

During Chanukah, it is customary to recite Hallel, a collection of psalms praising God's miracles, on each of the eight days. Additionally, the prayer Al Hanisim, which recounts the story of Chanukah, is included in the daily prayers and the Grace After Meals. By reciting these prayers, we express gratitude for the miracles that occurred during the holiday at that the time of the Macabees and in our present times.

  1. Acts of Charity and Tzedakah:

Chanukah is a time for giving, and acts of charity hold great significance. Orthodox Jews often donate money or goods to those in need, reaffirming the values of compassion and kindness that are central to Jewish teachings. Supporting charitable causes and helping others during the holiday season is a meaningful way to celebrate Chanukah.

Celebrate Chanukah in Hong Kong

Celebrating Chanukah according to Orthodox Jewish Halacha allows individuals and families to connect with their religious traditions and honor the miraculous events of the holiday.

By adhering to the guidelines of lighting the menorah, reciting the appropriate blessings, enjoying traditional foods, playing the dreidel game, reciting prayers, and engaging in acts of charity, we can ensure a meaningful and joyous observance of Chanukah.

May the Festival of Lights bring warmth, inspiration, and blessings to all who celebrate it in accordance with Halacha.