Torah Readings for ChanukahDecember 17, 2014 - December 24, 2014 (25 Kislev - 2Tevet, 5774)
Kindle the First Chanukah Candle on the evening of December 16th (See Blessings Below). One of the common laments about Chanukah is that there is so little to it in the way of ritual. Such is really not the case. As so often happens, we are not aware of the rituals that already exist to celebrate our holidays. It was this lack of basic knowledge that probably gave rise to the Reform Movement’s call for us to raise our respective level of “Jewish literacy.”
The Torah and Chanukah
The Torah never sleeps. There is a connection between Torah Study and Chanukah. While most of us know the basics about observing Chanukah, many of us are unaware of the special reading from the Torah for each day of the holiday. While many Reform Temples may not follow this custom, it is useful for all Jews to be aware of the practices of our people and to understand the many origins modern day Judaism.
The Torah is read on all eight days of Chanukah. However, tracking the readings is not that simple because Shabbat comes during Chanukah. In those years when the first day of Chanukah falls on Shabbat, the eighth day also falls on Shabbat. Furthermore, the month of Tevet starts during Chanukah. This means that Rosh Chodesh Tevet falls on the sixth (and in some years the sixth and seventh) day of Chanukah. This also affects the Torah readings. If you are not thoroughly confused by now, keep reading and see if you can be confused later.
The special readings for Chanukah include the entire seventh chapter of Bamidbar and the first four verses from chapter eight. During the year we read chapter seven as part of Naso and chapter eight as part of Beha’alotcha. Chapter seven describes the gifts brought by the leaders of each of the twelve tribes at the time of the dedication of the Tabernacle in the Wilderness. Since Chanukah commemorates the re-dedication of the Temple, these verses are an appropriate reading for the holiday. The first four verses of chapter eight relate to the Menorah found in the Tabernacle. The Chanukah Menorah has eight branches while the one used in the Tabernacle only had seven. They are not the same, but considering the close identification of the holiday with the menorah, these verses too are appropriate as part of the holiday celebration.
Except on Shabbat Chanukah and Rosh Chodesh, the reading is divided into three aliyot. Three is the minimum number of aliyot that is permissible. The list is not laden with typos; the readings do overlap.
Shabbat ChanukahWhen Chanukah falls on Shabbat, two scrolls are taken from the
Rosh Chodesh - The First Day of the New MonthWhen Rosh Chodesh Tevet falls on the Sixth Day of Chanukah, two scrolls are taken from the
Triple HeaderWhen Rosh Chodesh Tevet falls on Shabbat Chanukah, three scrolls are taken from the
Why use more than one Torah?The commentators caution against unduly prolonging the service. Winding the Torah from one special reading to the next can be a time consuming process. Hence we take out the number of scrolls consistent with the number of special readings. However, if the congregation has only one Torah, it still follows all of the readings. It just takes more time.
There is a special relationship between the concept of the haftarah and Chanukah. According to some, the special reading from the Prophets began during the Syrian persecution when Jews were forbidden to study the Torah. A reading from the Prophets was substituted for the Torah reading. Apparently this practice proved to be so popular that it was modified and adopted as part of our observances. During Chanukah, the haftarah is read only on Shabbat. The special haftarah replaces the one normally paired with the weekly reading. During those years when the first and eighth days of Chanukah fall on Shabbat, there are two different readings from the Prophets. For this special guide, we will only concern ourselves with the special holiday message of the Haftarah. We will discuss the Prophet and his message when we meet him during the annual cycle.
First Shabbat Chanukah - Zechariah 2: 12 - 4: 7The special Torah readings for Chanukah deal with the dedication of the Tabernacle in the Wilderness and the Menorah. The prophetic portion envisions a restored
Second Shabbat Chanukah - First Kings 7: 40 - 50The Chanukah Torah readings deal with the dedication of the Tabernacle and the Menorah, the source of light. The reading from First Kings deals with the building of the
Chanukah Literature(This is not intended to be an all inclusive discussion of Chanukah. There are numerous books and websites which approach the story in depth and from all kinds of different points of view.)
The original source for the story of Chanukah comes from the Books of the Maccabees. The first book covers the period from approximately 175 to 135 B.C.E. and describes the events of the revolt. The second book covers a shorter period of time (175 to 160 B.C.E.). It may be a shorter form of a five-volume work by Jason of Cyrene. At any rate, it is a book portraying a war against the pagans and filled with tales of martyrdom. These books are not in the TaNaCh. They are part of the Apocrypha. The Scroll of the Hasmoneans also tells the Chanukah story, but it probably dates back to the tenth century and is more or a compilation of popular legends. At one time it was read in Italian synagogues much as the Scroll of Esther is read on Purim. We can look to the First Book of the Maccabees for the origin of the holiday and why it lasted eight days. “Then Judah and his brothers and the whole congregation of Israel established that the days of the consecration of the altar be celebrated for eight days at this period, namely beginning with the twenty-fifth of the month of Kislev, in joy and happy renewal.” (I Maccabees 4: 36 - 61) The holiday was tied to Sukkoth, which was the holiday associated with the dedications of the First and Second Temples. In fact, the holiday may have been known as the Sukkoth Feast of the Month of Kislev. The Mishnah, which was completed in the third century (almost three hundred years after the revolt) does not mention the holiday. Chanukah and the cruise of oil story appear in the Gemara, the second part of the Talmud, which was finished at the start of the sixth century.
FoodsUnlike with Pesach, there are no required foods. The custom is to eat foods cooked with oil because of the miracle of the oil burning for eight days. Ashkenazim developed the custom of eating Latkes - potato pancakes. Sephardim developed the custom of eating “sufganiyot” (doughnuts). After all doughnuts are just dough cooked in oil. Think of it - Krispy Kremes for Chanukah!
Blessings, Prayers and SongsEverybody knows about the blessings over the Chanukah lights, which are recited after lighting the shamas but before lighting the candles themselves. When lighting the candles, always do Chanukah before Shabbat, but do Chanukah after Havdalah. In the synagogue, Hallel is recited as part of the morning service throughout the holiday. A special prayer called Al haNissim (For the Miracles) is recited during the Shemoneh Esrei during each of the three daily services and during the Grace After Meals. The version of this prayer recited at Chanukah summarizes the story of the Maccabees. There are numerous songs that have been composed over the centuries concerning this holiday. They include “Rock of Ages,” “Who can retell,” and that most ubiquitous one of all, “I Had A Little Dreydel.” This is not meant to be an all-inclusive list and thanks to the wonders of the internet you can find all this and so much more with music included. In the mean time for your convenience we have listed some of the basics below in Hebrew, English and Transliteration.
Chanukah Blessings and Chanukah courtesy of Temple Israel, Westport, Connecticut
Ba-ruch a-ta Adonai, Eh-lo-hei-nu meh-lech ha-o-lam a-sher ki-d'sha-nu b' mitz-vo-tav v'tzi-va-nu l'had-lik ner shel Chanukah.
We praise You, Eternal God, Sovereign of the universe: You hallow us with Your Mitzvot, and command us to kindle the Chanukah lights.
Ba-ruch a-ta Adonai, Eh-lo-hei-nu meh-lech ha-o-lam, sheh-a-sa-ni-sim la-a-vo-tei-nu/l'i-mo-tei-nu ba-ya-mim ha-heim ba-z'man ha-zeh.
We praise You, Eternal God, Sovereign of the universe: You showed wonders to your fathers/mothers in days of old, at this season.
ON THE FIRST NIGHT ONLY, ADD THE FOLLOWING BLESSINGBa-ruch a-ta A-do-nai, E-lo-hei-nu me-lech ha-o-lam, she-hecheyanu, v'ki-y'manu, v'higi-anu la-z'man hazeh.
We praise you, Eternal One, Sovereign God of the universe, for giving us life, for sustaining us, and for enabling us to reach this season.
The Chanukah readings which are all from Bamidbar (Numbers) are as follows:
Torah Readings for Wednesday, December 17, 2014First Day Chanukah
7:1-7:17 Bamidbar (Numbers)
Torah Readings for Thursday, December 18, 2014Second Day Chanukah
Torah Readings for Friday, December 19, 2014Third Day Chanukah
Torah Readings for Saturday, December 20, 2014Fourth Day Chanukah (Shabbat Shel Chanukah)
Fourth Day Chanukah
Torah Readings for Sunday, December 21, 2014Fifth Day Chanukah
Torah Readings for Monday, December 22, 2014Rosh Chodesh Tevet (First Day)
Sixth Day Chanukah
Torah Readings for Tuesday, December 23, 2014Rosh Chodesh Tevet (Second Day)
Seventh Day Chanukah
Torah Readings for Wednesday, December 24, 2012Eighth Day Chanukah
Torah Readings for Saturday, December 20, 2014(Shabbat Shel Chanukah)
Miketz, (literally “at the end,” the first distinctive word in the portion) is the tenth sedrah in Bereshit (Genesis) and the second in the Jacob/Joseph cycle. The sedrah divides neatly into two parts. The first part (41:1-56) recounts Joseph’s rise to power as he becomes second most powerful person in Egypt. The second part (42:1-44:17) recounts Joseph’s first two encounters with his brothers.
Joseph’s Rise To Power (41:1-56): Two years have passed since the end of last week’s sedrah. The cupbearer has been restored to his position, but he has failed to keep his promise and Joseph continues to languish in prison. Miketz opens with one of those famous Bible Stories that we all heard in Sunday School. Pharaoh dreams of seven fat cows rising from the
Nile that are consumed by
seven lean cows. He then dreams of seven
ears of corn that are swallowed up by seven thin ears of corn. When nobody can interpret the dreams in a
meaningful way, the cupbearer remembers Joseph, the interpreter of dreams. Joseph is brought before Pharaoh who tells
Joseph of his dreams. It should be noted
that the dream and what Pharaoh describes as the dreams are slightly different. Compare 41:1-7 with 41:17-24. In speaking of the cows Pharaoh adds “never
had I seen their likes for ugliness in all the !”
In speaking of the ears of corn he adds
“but when they had consumed them, one could not tell that they had consumed
them for they looked just as bad as before.”
In other words, Joseph does not actually interpret Pharaoh’s dreams, he
interprets Pharaoh’s second version of the dream. The additional comments Pharaoh makes help
provide clues as to their meaning. At any
rate, Joseph describes the dreams as a revelation from God of impending
events. What is left to Pharaoh is to
find a way to cope with what is coming.
Fortunately, Joseph has a plan of action that Pharaoh is only too glad
to adopt. And since it is obvious to
Pharaoh that Joseph has insight into God’s will, Joseph is the obvious choice
to carry out the plan. The willingness
of this Pharaoh to acknowledge God is far cry from the view of God displayed by
the Pharaoh we see at Pesach. This part
of the sedrah ends with Joseph becoming a full member of the Egyptian
society. The Hebrew slave gets an
Egyptian name and is given a prominent Egyptian woman for his wife. When Joseph was cast into the pit, he lost
his status in the material world. Now,
he has not only regained what he lost, he has reached undreamed of heights in
the material world. In other words, the
first part of the sedrah can be viewed as the Material Redemption of Joseph. land of Egypt
Joseph’s First Two Encounters With His Brothers (42:1-44:17): The narrative shifts back to Canaan and the house of Jacob. Famine is abroad in the land and Jacob sends ten of his sons down to
to buy supplies. The Torah is silent as to why he sent
ten. Certainly one or two of them could
have made the purchases. The text is
explicit as to why it is ten and not eleven.
Benjamin, the remaining son of Rachel, was to stay with Jacob “Lest
disaster befall him.” Does this mean
that Jacob was still so caught up in playing favorites that he was willing to
lose his other sons, but could not bear the thought of losing the living link
with Rachel? Egypt
The brothers arrive in Egypt and when they see Joseph whom they recognize only as a great Egyptian official “they bowed down to him.” Joseph not only recognizes his brothers, he recognizes the fulfillment of his youthful dream in their behavior. Since Joseph knows who the brothers are, the accusations about being spies and the ensuing imprisonment cannot be for the reasons stated. As the second most powerful person in
Joseph had no reason to fear his brothers.
So, is his behavior merely a very human act of revenge or is it, as some
commentators suggest, a test by Joseph to see if his brothers have repented for
what they did to him? Or is it a
combination of both? Regardless, Joseph
withdraws his charges, gives his brothers grain and sends them on their way
back home. But they must leave Simeon
behind as a guarantee that they are not spies and that they will return with
Benjamin. Additionally, the brothers
find that the money with which they paid for the grain has mysteriously been
returned them. Egypt
When they come home, the brothers recount their tale to Jacob who responds in a tone of self-pity reminiscent of his response when he found out what his sons did to avenge Dinah. The self-pitying wail “These things always happen to me!” is hardly the noble voice of a great patriarch. Rueben makes his second, and last, attempt to play the role of the oldest son. Rueben assures his father that that he can kill his sons if anything happens to Benjamin when they take him to
. Jacob spurns the offer. The son who “lay with Bilhah, his father’s
concubine” and who was unable to save Joseph is swept away from the position of
leadership he has failed to fulfill. Be
that as it may, the famine continues and Jacob is forced to send his sons back
to procure more food. Judah now assumes
the role that Rueben had attempted to fill and guarantees the safety of
Jacob, in a move reminiscent of his encounter with Esau, commands his sons to take gifts and double the money so that all will go well when they meet “the man” in Egypt. Joseph still does not seem to have made up his mind about his brothers when he sees them for the second time. In moves worthy of Laban, he tricks them into believing that all is well. But in the end, he concocts an elaborate ruse that threatens the well-being of Benjamin and therefore the very life of Jacob. The story carries echoes of early narratives. The meal that Joseph feeds his brothers reminds us of the meal they ate while Joseph languished in the pit. The “theft” of the cup (a religious object) by Rachel’s son is reminiscent of the theft of Laban’s household gods by Rachel. The important thing, from Joseph’s point of view, is that the brothers do not desert Benjamin. They will not leave him to languish in slavery. They will not treat Rachel’s youngest son as they had her eldest. Not only do the brothers all return to Joseph’s house, but Judah steps up to the plate to plead his brother case. This sedrah is a cliffhanger. We will have to wait until next week for the final outcome.
More than one kind of Smarts: When he finishes interpreting Pharaoh’s dreams, Joseph offers the following solution, “And now shall Pharaoh look for an intelligent and wise man, and set him over the land of Egypt”(41:33). Why use both terms? Why not just say intelligent or just say wise? The sages of the Middle Ages came up with explanations that are surprisingly consistent with modern management theorists. According to Moses Ben Nachman, the 13th century Sephardic Rabbi also known as the Ramban, intelligence refers to human learning and human structures. Wisdom refers to natural phenomena and properties. The knowledgeable person knows the natural sciences as well as the humanities and the social sciences. Another way of looking at this is that the knowledgeable person is conversant with secular and religious matters. This leads logically to the concept that a person should divide his time between earning a living and studying Torah.
Free will versus Predestination: We have been reading about the beginning of the Israelite migration to Egypt. Do the actors in this story really have any choice in the roles they are playing? Remember the words uttered by God to Abraham in Bereshit 15:13, “Know well that your offspring shall be strangers in a land not theirs and they shall be enslaved and oppressed four hundred years.…”
Names: In Miketz, Joseph is still referred to as being a Hebrew. For the first time, our ancestors are referred to as the “Sons of Israel.” The Hebrew term is variously translated as the Children of Israel, as well as, the more literal, sons of
. This is the name that will follow us
throughout our history. Israel
Famine: There would appear to be two famines described in Miketz. One takes place in
caused by the failure of the Egypt Nile to
flood. But there is a second famine in Canaan, a land not dependent upon the Nile. So what is the common thread? Rainfall or more simply the lack of
rain. The Blue Nile
does not flood when there is insufficient rainfall in the land of the White Nile. And we
know from later Biblical references that droughts came to the Promised Land
when there was a lack of rainfall. Interestingly
enough, at this time of the year when we read Miketz, we change the prayer in
the Amidah to read “give dew and rain for a blessing.” In other words, at a time when lack of rain
plays such a prominent part in our history, we add the prayer for rain to our
daily prayers. It may be a coincidence,
but it sure is an interesting one.
Dress for Success: “Thereupon Pharaoh sent for Joseph and he was rushed from the dungeon. He had his hair cut and changed his clothes, and he appeared before Pharaoh.” (4:14-15). Joseph does not appear before the King of Egypt in his work clothes. He changes his outfit and cuts his hair. If Joseph would take time to attend to his physical appearance before coming before the temporal King of Egypt, it makes you wonder why when people come to services to appear before the King of the Universe they do not at least make an attempt to emulate Joseph’s behavior. Even the poor Jews of Eastern Europe took to heart the words of Shulchon Oruch when it came to dress and personal hygiene.
Economics 101: Much of the current economic misery could have been avoided if people had paid attention to the story about the seven fat cows and the seven lean cows. The Bible provides us with a basic lesson of economics - prosperity does not last forever. People must take action during the good times to ameliorate the pain of privation. Considering the antiquity of the story of Joseph’s interpretation of Pharaoh’s Dreams, you would think that people would have gotten the message by now. Unfortunately, such is not the case.
Chanukah: Miketz is usually the sedrah read during Chanukah. In looking for a connection between the two we must be careful since the Torah came long before the holiday. In Miketz, Joseph gives God credit for his ability to explain dreams. In celebrating Chanukah, we give God credit for our ability to overcome the Syrians and for making the oil burn for eight days (yes, the last part is a myth but God still gets the credit). But Chanukah is also a holiday that sparks discussion about assimilation and imitation. The Chanukah fight was, in part, a fight between Jews who wanted to become like the Greeks and those who did not want to adopt their ways. In Miketz, we see Joseph being transformed from a Hebrew slave into an Egyptian official. In name, appearance and practice, he seems to become an Egyptian. Yet, it is obvious that he does not forget his roots or his people. Is enslavement the ultimate punishment for assimilation? Is some form of assimilation the cost of physical survival? These are questions raised in Miketz and that echo through the Chanukah story and down to our own times.
Second ScrollFourth Day Chanukah
7:30-7:41 Bamidbar (Numbers)
HaftarahZechariah 2: 12 - 4: 7 (Ashkenazim and Sephardim)
Usually there is a connection between the Weekly Torah Portion and the readings from the prophets. However, since this is a holiday Shabbat, the haftarah usually read with the Torah Portion is replaced by a special reading from the Prophets that is connected to the holiday. There is a special relationship between the concept of the haftarah and Chanukah. According to some, the special reading from the Prophets began during the Syrian persecution when Jews were forbidden to study the Torah. A reading from the Prophets was substituted for the Torah reading. Apparently this practice proved to be so popular that it was modified and adopted as part of our observances. During Chanukah, the haftarah is read only on Shabbat. The special haftarah replaces the one normally paired with the weekly reading. During those years when the first and eighth days of Chanukah fall on Shabbat, there are two different readings from the Prophets. For this special guide, we will only concern ourselves with the special holiday message of the Haftarah. We will discuss the Prophet and his message when we meet him during the annual cycle.
The special Torah readings for Chanukah deal with the dedication of the Tabernacle in the Wilderness and the Menorah. The prophetic portion for Shabbat Chanukah read by the Ashkenazim and the Sephardim envisions a restored
the permanent dwelling that has replaced the Tabernacle. In addition, the Haftarah references the
Menorah and the olive oil. Finally, the
prophet predicts the ultimate triumph with the language “this is the work of
the Lord…. Not by might, nor by power, but by My spirit - said the Lord of
Hosts.” “And Thy word broke their sword,
when our own strength failed us.” In
other words, the victory of the few Jews over the mighty Syrians was a product
of our faith in God. This is the message
of Chanukah. This reading from Zechariah
is also the Haftarah for the sedrah of Beha’alotcha, so we will be able to
study its other messages when we come to it as part of the annual cycle. Temple
Torah Readings for Monday, December 22, 2014Rosh Chodesh Tevet (First Day)
This is the standard reading for each Rosh Chodesh. Rosh Chodesh is the name of the minor holiday that marks the start of each month. The term Rosh Chodesh is translated as New Moon. The first day of the month is referred to as Rosh Chodesh because the months are lunar and the first day of each month comes with the start of the new moon. In the days of the Temple special sacrifices were brought in honor of the new moon. With the destruction of the
, the sacrificial system ended. In place of the sacrifices, Jews read a
description of the sacrificial offerings, which is described in the first
fifteen verses of chapter 28 in the book of Numbers. The Torah reading takes place during the
daily morning service. There are many
Jews who have no desire to return to the sacrificial system. They use these readings as a way of providing
a connection with the past which is one of the keys to our future
preservation. Because of its connection
with the moon, Rosh Chodesh is thought to have special meaning for women. There are some sages who suggest that wives
and mothers should be presented with gifts on this, their holiday. In lieu of gifts, others suggest giving
Tzdekah in their honor. Temple
Sixth Day Chanukah7:42-47 Bamidbar
Torah Readings for Tuesday, December 23, 2014Rosh Chodesh Tevet (Second Day)
Tevet is the fourth month of the year counting from Rosh Hashanah. It is the tenth month of the year when counting from Pesach. Tevet usually has 29 days, falls during the December/January timeframe and marks the start of the winter rains in the land of Israel. “The tenth month” is mentioned several times in the Bible, but the name Tevet is only mentioned once in the TaNaCh - in the Scroll of Esther (2:16). According to Second Kings and Ezekiel, the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar began the siege of
on the tenth of Tevet. This siege was
the prelude to the destruction of the First Temple in 586 B.C.E. For this reason the tenth of Tevet is a minor
fast day known by the Hebrew name of Asarah be-Tevet. The fast is a dawn to dusk fast. In Jerusalem , the Chief Rabbinate had
designated Asrah be-Tevet as the day of remembrance for those who died in the
Holocaust. They felt that the day that
marked the beginning of the worst calamity in ancient times was an appropriate
day for commemorating the worst calamity in modern times. However, Yom ha-Shoah, Holocaust Memorial Day
which falls on the 27th of Nisan is the day when most people in and
out of Israel
remember The Six Million. During the
time of the Israel , Tevet was a time
for other minor fasts. One such fast,
which fell on the Eighth of Tevet, marked the completion of the Septuagint, the
translation of the Bible into Greek. On
a personal note, the 10th of Tevet is the Yahrzeit for Judy
Rosenstein (nee Levin), a true Woman of Valor who left us too soon and will
always be remembered. Second
Seventh Day Chanukah7:48-53 Bamidbar
Copyright; December, 2014, Mitchell A. Levin
*Resource materials include but not limited to:Chumashim or Biblical Texts: Plaut, Hertz, Stone, Soncino, Magil and Etz Hayim
Works by: Telushkin, Trepp, Wiesltier, Steinsaltz, Weisblum, Wiesel; Wagner, Kolatch, Kushner, Schneerson, Cahill, Schiffman, Feller, Artson, Eisenberg and Wineberg