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Monday, June 25, 2018  |  183 Days Until Christmas

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The Nativity

Festival Of Lights

Celebrate the Festival of Lights

Over the eight days of Hanukkah, we'll be celebrating right here on the site.

There are Hanukkah songs to sing!

You can explore our list of important Jewish Web resources  or try our holiday recipes: Sufganiyot ... special Hanukkah doughnuts; nut cake with honey syrup; and the perennial holiday favourite, latkes!

And you can visit Hanukkah Customs  and the Story of Hanukkah or play the Dreidel game.

Hanukkah Songs

We've collected the lyrics to some popular Hanukkah songs for you. (English words appear on the left side of the page; the transliterated versions in Hebrew appear on the right side of the page.)

Rock of Ages (first verse only)

Rock of Ages, let our song praise thy saving power
Thou amidst the raging foes, waste our sheltering tower
Furious, they assailed us, but thine arm availed us,
And thy word broke their sword when our own strength failed us

Maoz Tzur

Ra'ot sav'ah nafshi, b'yagon kochi chalah,
Chai'yai meraru b'kushi b'shibud malchut eglah,
Uv'yado hagdolah hotsi et-hasgulah,
Chayl Paroh v'chol zaro-yordu k'even m'tsulah.

Dreidel, Spin, Spin, Spin

Dreidel, spin, spin, spin!
Chanukah is a good holiday;
Chanukah is a good holiday -
Dreidel, spin, spin, spin!

It's a happy holiday for the people;
A great miracle happened there;
A great miracle happened there -
It's a happy holiday for the people.

Sevivon, Sov, Sov, Sov

Sevivon, sov, sov, sov!
Chanukah, hu chag tov;
Chanukah, hu chag tov -
Sevivon, sov, sov, sov!

Chag simchah hu la-am,
Nes gadol hayah sham;
Nes gadol hayah sham -
Chag simcha hu la-am.

Who Can Retell

Who can retell,
the things that befell us,
Who can count them?
In every age a hero or sage,
Came to our aid.

Hark! In days of yore in
Israel's ancient land,
Brave Maccabeus led the
faithful band.
But now all Israel must as one arise,
Redeem itself through deed and sacrifice.

Who can retell,
the things that befell us,
Who can count them?
In every age a hero or sage,
Came to our aid.

Mi Yemalel

Mi yemalel g'vurot Yisra-el,
Otan mi yimneh?
Hen b'khol dor yakum hagibor,
Go-el ha-am.

Sh'ma! Bayamim hahem
bazman hazeh,
Makabi moshiyah ufodeh -
Uv'yamenu kol am Yisra-el,
Yit'ahed, yakum veyiga-el.

Mi yemalel g'vurot Yisra-el,
Otan mi yimneh?
Hen b'khol dor yakum hagibor,
Go-el ha-am.


Oh Hanukkah, oh Hanukkah, come light the Menorah,
Let's have a party, we'll all dance the hora.
Gather round the table, we'll give you a treat.
Sevivon to play with, Latkes to eat.
And while we are playing,
The candles are burning low.
One for each night, they shed a sweet light,
To remind us of days long ago;
One for each night, they shed a sweet light,
To remind us of days long ago;

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Jewish Resources on the Web

Apart from the gifts and the food, one of the special things about Hanukkah is that it's a time for honouring learning and tradition. The Maccabees triumphed over Antiochus because of their dedication to Judaism; that dedication can be mirrored today through education, knowledge and awareness.

Here's a list of important Jewish resources available over the Web. Each one highlights different and interesting aspects of Jewish life and tradition.

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Sufganiyot -- special Hanukkah doughnuts! They're considered a special holiday treat because they're fried in oil ... oil which symbolizes the miracle of the oil that burned for eight days.


  • 2 1/2 cups flour (625 mL)
  • 3/4 cup warm milk (175 mL)
  • 1 pkg dry yeast (about 1 tbsp or 10 mL)
  • 2 eggs (separated)
  • 4 tbsp. sugar (50 mL)
  • 1/4 tsp. salt (1 mL)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla (5 mL)
  • 1 tbsp. (10 mL) grated lemon rind or 1 tsp. (5 mL) cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup butter (125 mL)
  • Jam for filling
  • Vegetable oil (for frying)
  • Icing sugar (for dusting over the doughnuts)

Note: If you want to serve sufganiyot at a meat meal, you can replace the milk with water, and the butter with non-dairy margarine.

What to do:

First, mix together the yeast, 2 tablespoons of the sugar, and the milk (or hot water). Let it sit for a few minutes -- you should see it bubbling.

Sift the flour and mix it with the 2 remaining tablespoons of sugar, salt, lemon rind or cinnamon, 2 egg yolks, and the yeast mixture.

Knead the dough into a ball. Add the butter (or margarine), and knead it into the dough until the butter or margarine is fully absorbed. Cover the dough with a tea towel and put it into the refrigerator overnight to rise. If you don't have enough time t o do this, let the dough rise for about an hour, or until it's doubled in size.

When the dough has risen, roll it out on a floured board to a thickness of about a centimetre. Cut the dough with a small round glass or a cookie-cutter into an even number of rounds. You should be able to make at least 24 rounds.

Now for the filling. Take a small spoonful of jam and place in the middle of half of your rounds. Use whichever kind of jam is your favourite. Over each round with jam in the middle, place another round. Seal the edges with your fingers and egg whites . (You'll probably want a pastry brush for the egg whites). Leave the doughnuts to rise for about half-an-hour.

Heat about 6 centimetres of vegetable oil to about 375 degrees (Celsius). Drop the doughnuts into the hot oil, browning on both sides. When done, drain the sufganiyot on paper towels, and when they've cooled a little, dust them in icing sugar.

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Nut Cake with Honey Syrup

Nut Cake with Honey Syrup, a recipe which comes from the Turkish Jewish Tradition.


    For the Nut Cake

  • 3 cups flour (750 mL)
  • 3 Tbsp. sugar (40 mL)
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cloves (2 mL)
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon (2 mL)
  • 2 cups finely chopped walnuts (500 mL)
  • 1 cup dried dates, minced (250 mL)
  • 1 cup vegetable oil (250 mL)
  • 1 cup water (250 mL)

    For the Honey Syrup

  • 1 1/2 cups honey (375 mL)
  • 1/2 cup water (125 mL)
  • Juice of 1 small lemon
  • 1/2 tsp. grated lemon zest (2 mL)

What to do:

To make the Nut Cake ...
The traditional way to make the cake is to mix it on a board, using your hands. You can also mix the ingredients together in a bowl. Either way, you first combine the dry ingredients. Make a mound with a well in the centre.

Pour the oil and water slowly into the well, then mix again. Knead the dough for about a minute; don't knead too long or the texture of the cakes will be gluey.

Grease a 9" pan with oil. Press the dough gently into the pan. Bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for one hour. Remove, and allow to cool.

To make the Honey Syrup ...
Combine all the ingredients in a saucepan and cook over medium heat. Allow the liquid to reduce by 1/4.

Next, place the cooled nut cake onto a shallow plate or serving tray. With a fork, make small holes over the top of the cake. Slowly pour the warm syrup over the cake, and allow to sit for one hour. Serve with strong coffee, and enjoy!

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  • 3 large potatoes, peeled and grated into ice water
  • 1/4 cup grated onion (50 mL)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 tsp. baking powder (1 mL)
  • 1/2 tsp. salt & pepper to taste (2 mL)
  • 3 Tbsp. matzo meal (40 mL)
  • 2 Tbsp. (approx.) vegetable oil for frying (25 mL)

What to do

Drain the potatoes and place on a tea towel. Bundle the potatoes in the towel and squeeze tightly to remove excess water from the potatoes. This is very important; with water in the potatoes, the latkes won't cook properly.

In a large bowl, mix the potato with the grated onion and egg. In a small bowl, mix the dry ingredients together. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the potato mixture, mixing well.

Drop the mixture by tablespoons onto a very hot, well-oiled skillet. Cook on one side until golden brown, then flip. Use a fork to spear and flip the latkes, (because it helps let you know if they're done -- if the latke is too soft to pick up with the fork, it's too soft to turn over). When cooked, place the latkes onto paper towels which will absorb the excess oil. Serve with sour cream or apple sauce, and enjoy! (Serves 5 or 6 people as a major side dish.)

You might also want to try these variations ...

For sweet latkes, omit the egg and onion, and add a sprinkle of ground ginger and ground cloves. (And we really mean just a sprinkling ... clove especially is a very strong spice. Don't use more than 1/4 of a teaspoon of clove and 1/2 of a teaspoon of ginger.

To make Kremslach, a Czech version, cook and mash the potatoes; let them cool. Omit the onion. Add TWO eggs, one tablespoon (15 mL) of sugar, a sprinkle of salt (just a couple of shakes), and two teaspoons (10 mL) of lemon juice to the potatoes and mix well. Form into patties and fry in a little vegetable oil. Small patties are more manageable and cook more quickly. Drain on paper towels and serve.

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Hanukkah Customs: The Menorah

About the Menorah

To Jews and non-Jews alike, the menorah, or Hanukkiya, is the most recognizable symbol of Hanukkah. It's usually a nine-branch candelabrum whose candles are lit by a "shamash" or service candle which then takes its own place at the centre of the menorah. The menorah itself is placed in a window or anywhere it can be seen by passers-by.

Lighting the Menorah

On the first night of Hanukkah, a single candle (or oil wick) is lit on the far right side of the menorah. A candle is added, from right to left, each night, and the newest candle is always lit first. Ideally, the candles should be lit as soon as stars become visible in the night sky, but they can be lit late into the night. While the candles are being lit and the blessing given, the whole family and any guests gather to witness the ceremony; everyone is encouraged to participate. By the eighth night, with all eight candles lit, the menorah makes a spectacular sight. And as they did the previous evenings, the candles will continue to shine until they burn themselves out.

The Blessing

The first blessing thanks God for the commandment to "kindle the Hanukkah lights."

Celebrate the Festival of Lights Baruch Atah Adonai Elohenu Melech Ha-olam Asher Kidshanu B'mitzvotav V'tzivanu L'hadlik Ner Shel Hanukkah.
Blessed is Adonai our God, Ruler of the Universe, by whose Mitzvot we are hallowed, who commands us to kindle the Hanukkah lights.

The second blessing praises God for the miracle the candles symbolize; it's said as the candles are being lit.

Celebrate the Festival of Lights Baruch Atah Adonia Elohenu Melech Ha-olam She-asa Nissim L'votenu Bayamim Ha-hem Ba-ZmanHa-zeh.
Blessed is Adonai our God, Ruler of the Universe, who performed wonderous deeds for our ancestors in days of old, at this season.

On the first night of Hanukkah the "shehechiyanu" blessing is included, to signify that this is the first time the Hanukkah lights have been lit this season.

Celebrate the Festival of Lights Baruch Atah Adonai Elohenu Melech Ha-olam She-he-che-yanu V'ki-ye-manu V'hi-ge Yanula-zman Ha-zeh.
Blessed is Adonai our God, Ruler of the Universe, for giving us life, for sustaining us and for enabling us to reach this s eason.

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DreidelHanukkah Fun: The Dreidel

A Hanukkah activity enjoyed by adults and children alike is the Dreidel Game. A dreidel is a four sided top with a Hebrew letter on each side.

The four letters are:

These letters mean "A Great Miracle Happened There." In Israel the dreidel letters mean something slightly different. They read "A Great Miracle Happened Here."

To play Dreidel, players use pennies, raisins, or chocolate coins (gelt) as tokens or chips. One player spins the dreidel. When the dreidel stops, the fate of the player is decided by the letter that is facing up.

  • NUN. Nothing happens. The next player takes his or her turn.
  • GIMEL. The player takes all of the pot
  • HEY. The player takes half of the pot
  • SHIN. The player must put one token into the pot

The game originated in Ancient India, and was adapted by European Jews.

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Story of Hanukkah

Hanukkah is a "Festival of Lights" to celebrate the victory of the Jewish Maccabees over the Syrians, and the rededication of the Jerusalem Temple. The holiday also commemorates the miracle of the oil that burned for eight days.

The Victory over Antiochus

More than 2000 years ago, the land of Judea was ruled by Antiochus, a tyrannical Syrian king. Even today, people fight wars over their gods, despite claims to value "religious tolerance." But a couple of thousand years ago, religious tolerance didn't exist at all. Religion was as good an excuse as any to oppress a people.

That's precisely what Antiochus did to the Jews: he forbade them to observe the Sabbath or study their religious text, the Torah, and he erected a statue of Zeus in their sacred temple of Jerusalem. Many Jews followed his decrees, because they had no choice; those who resisted were executed.

In 167 B.C., the Jews -- driven to desperation -- rose up against Antiochus. Mattathias, a well-respected priest, gathered together an army and put his five sons in charge. Judah and his brothers wanted a name for their battalion that would signify force and strength; "Maccabee", meaning "hammer", fit the bill. It took three years of fighting, but eventually the Maccabees drove the Syrians out of Israel and reclaimed the temple in Jerusalem.

Naturally, the Maccabees quickly got rid of the statue of Zeus. Then they cleansed and purified the temple, and rekindled the menorah, a candelabra that symbolized God's Divine Presence. Oddly enough, although it only held enough oil to burn for a single day, the menorah burned for eight. This was the miracle.

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