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What is the Torah reading for Chanukah?

by Rabbi Naftali Silberberg

  

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Chanukah means "dedication" and it is a holiday commemorating the rededication of the Second Temple after a period of enemy occupation. So on Chanukah we read about (a similar theme, in) the offerings which the twelve tribal leaders brought when the original Tabernacle was dedicated.1

The dedication of the Tabernacle happened on the first day of the Hebrew month of Nissan. But the Midrash tells us that the Tabernacle was actually completed several months beforehand, on the 25th of Kislev, only G-d told Moses to wait until Nissan. So the 25th of Kislev lodged a complaint against G-d! It felt that the date when the Tabernacle was completed deserved to be a special holiday. G-d reassured the 25th of Kislev that the day will come, and she too will be proclaimed a holiday.

Sure enough, on the 25th of Kislev, 1173 years later, the Maccabees proudly rededicated the altar of the Holy Temple after years of defilement by the Greeks, and the holiday of Chanukah debuted on the Jewish calendar.

The commandment of kindling the menorah read on Chanukah alludes to the Maccabees, who were priests, and descendants of Aaron, and kindled the menorah in the Temple.
On the first seven days of Chanukah we read of the sacrifices and gifts offered by the first seven tribal leaders. On the eighth day we read of the offerings of the remaining five leaders, and we continue with the next portion, reading about G-d's commandment to Aaron to kindle the Menorah in the Tabernacle.

This commandment is an allusion to the Maccabees, who were priests, and descendants of Aaron, who kindled the menorah in the Temple, this resulted in the constant kindling of the menorah in every Jewish home on the wonderful holiday of Chanukah.

On the Shabbat of Chanukah we take out two Sifrei Torah, one for the reading of the weekly Torah Portion and one for the Chanukah reading. The Haftorah we read is "Rani V'Simchi" (Sing and Rejoice daughter of Zion) from the Book of Zechariah.2 The Haftorah talks of Zechariah's prophecy concerning a menorah. If there are two Shabbatot on Chanukah, on the second Shabbat the Haftorah is from Kings I3, and it describes the menorot which were produced for use in the First Temple.4


Rosh Chodesh Tevet (which, depending on the year, could be one or two days), always falls out during Chanukah. On Rosh Chodesh we also take out two Sifrei Torah and read both the normal reading of Rosh Chodesh and the reading of the day for Chanukah. If Rosh Chodesh happens to be on Shabbat, we take out three Sifrei Torah one for the reading of the weekly Torah portion, one for the Rosh Chodesh reading and one for the Chanukah reading

Footnotes

  • 1. Numbers 7:1-8:4.
  • 2. Zechariah 2:14-4:7
  • 3. Kings I 7:40-50
  • 4. Code of Jewish Law, Orach Chaim 684:1.

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RELATED CATEGORIES

Holidays » Chanukah » The Laws

Shabbat
(pl: Shabbatot). Hebrew word meaning "rest." It is a Biblical commandment to sanctify and rest on Saturday, the seventh day of the week. This commemorates the fact that after creating the world in six days, G-d rested on the seventh.
Torah
Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
Chanukah
An eight day mid-winter holiday marking: 1) The miraculous defeat of the mighty Syrian-Greek armies by the undermanned Maccabis in the year 140 BCE. 2) Upon their victory, the oil in the Menorah, sufficient fuel for one night only, burned for eight days and nights.
Moses
[Hebrew pronunciation: Moshe] Greatest prophet to ever live. Led the Jews out of Egyptian bondage amidst awesome miracles; brought down the Tablets from Mount Sinai; and transmitted to us word-for-word the Torah he heard from G-d's mouth. Died in the year 1272 BCE.
Nissan
The first month of the Jewish calendar. This month, which falls out in early spring, is known for the holiday of Passover which starts on the 15th of Nissan.
Tevet
The tenth month on the Jewish calendar. Falls out in mid-winter.
Rosh Chodesh
The "Head of the Month," Rosh Chodesh is observed the first day of every Jewish month. If the previous month had 30 days, then the last day of the previous month is also observed; hence a two-day Rosh Chodesh. Rosh Chodesh is a semi-holiday, marked by Torah-reading and special prayers.
Haftorah
Section from the prophetic writings that is read at the conclusion of the Torah reading on the Sabbath, Jewish holidays and fast days. The Haftorah contains a message similar to the weekly reading, or speaks of the current holiday.
Midrash
(Pl. Midrashim). Non-legal material of anecdotal or allegorical nature, designed either to clarify historical material, or to teach a moral point. The Midrashim were compiled by the sages who authored the Mishna and Talmud (200 BCE-500 CE).
Shabbatot
Plural form of "Shabbat." Hebrew word meaning "rest." It is a Biblical commandment to sanctify and rest on Saturday, the seventh day of the week. This commemorates the fact that after creating the world in six days, G-d rested on the seventh.
Kislev
The ninth month on the Jewish calendar, normally corresponding to November-December. The holiday of Chanukah starts on the 25th of this month.
Menorah
Candelabra. Usually a reference to the nine-branched candelabra kindled on the holiday of Chanukah.
Aaron
Brother of Moses. First High Priest of Israel and progenitor of all Kohanim (priests) until this very day. Died in the year 1272 b.c.e.
Torah Portion
The Five Books of Moses are divided into 54 portions. Every Sabbath morning we read one portion. Several weeks during the year a double portion is read, in order to accommodate the Torah's completion on the Simchat Torah holiday.
Tabernacle
Mobile sanctuary which traveled with the Jews in the desert, containing the Ark with the Tablets, and the sacrificial altars. When the Jews entered Israel, it was erected in the city of Shiloh where it remained for more than 300 years. It was buried when the permanent Holy Temple was erected in Jerusalem.
Temple
1. Usually a reference to the Holy Temple which was/will be situated in Jerusalem. 1st Temple was built in 825 BCE and was destroyed in 423 BCE. The 2nd Temple was built in 350 BCE and was destroyed in 70 CE. The 3rd Temple will be built by the Messiah. 2. A synagogue.
G-d
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.
Maccabees
The Maccabees (Hebrew: Makabim) were a Jewish family who fought against the rule of Antiochus IV Epiphanes of the Hellenistic Seleucid dynasty in the story of Chanukah. The Maccabees founded the Hasmonean royal line and established Jewish independence in the land of Israel for about 100 years.