Showing posts from December, 2014

Dreidel, dreidel, dreidel, I made it out of....

Little known Hanukkah fact: In the original Yiddish version of the dreidel song, the dreidel is not made of clay, but of 'blai,' which is lead. Lead used to be the most popular material for making dreidels, before it was known how terribly toxic such dreidels would be. From an old guide to Hanukkah crafts, here are instructions for making a dreidel out of molten lead. But if you love your family, please make your dreidel out of clay or wood or plastic and not out of lead!

Thousands of years of long-lasting oil

Everyone knows the Hanukkah story about a little bit of oil lasting for eight days.  But not everyone realizes that this was not actually the first story in Jewish tradition about miraculously long-lasting oil. Earlier this fall, we and communities around the world read a passage from the book of Kings, the Haftarah for Parashat Vayera, which is about miracles performed by the Prophet Elisha, the protege of Elijah the Prophet. One of these stories (2 Kings 4) describes a woman who approaches Elisha and tells him:  I am in dire financial straits; my husband is dead and we are in terrible debt; our creditors now want to seize my two children as slaves. Elisha asks her: “What do you have at home?”  She responds:  “We have nothing at all at home, except for a jar of oil.”  Elisha tells her to borrow jugs and vessels from all her neighbors and then to pour oil out of this jar that she has, into the borrowed vessels.  Miraculously, this jar of oil keeps on pouring.  It fills up all

Shammai and Hillel fight it out: How should we light the Hanukkah candles?

How was it decided that we should light one candle on the first night of Hanukkah? In this audio message, join me in going back in history to listen to the debate between the ancient rabbis Hillel and Shammai about how best to mark the Hanukkah miracle, and how best to face the challenges of the future.  Chag Urim Sameach - best wishes for a happy Hanukkah holiday!