Why are there so many ways to spell Chanukah?


It’s Chanukah time! Or is it Hanukkah? Or Hannukah, Hannukkah or Channukah? Oy.

Hanukkah has even more meanings than it does spellings. Education, training, rededication, inauguration, consecration. It’s like the other holidays aren’t even trying…

Emes kumt aroys vi boyml afn vaser (Over such a small amount of oil, you make such a big festival?)

There is an argument in the Gemara as to how many candles should be lit each night of Hannukkah. According to Beit Hillel, we start the first night with one candle and each night we add a candle. According to Beit Shammai, we start the first night with eight, and decrease by one every night after.

We even question how many nights we should celebrate. Why is Hannukah not celebrated for nine days in the Diaspora, with an extra day added on, as it is for Passover, Sukkot and Shavuot?
And why do we celebrate Channukah for eight days and not seven, as the flask of oil the Maccabees found had enough to last one day, so the miracle was really only for the seven days after that?

Emes kumt aroys vi boyml afn vaser (Truth comes out like oil on top of water)

But isn’t this part of the joy of being Jewish? We question, we argue, we allow, recognise and even celebrate the differences between us, because of the overarching, all-encompassing Jewishness of us all. Whether it’s celebrated eight or nine days and no matter how it’s spelled, the light of Chanukkah lives on beyond the holiday and the more open the tent flaps, the further away the light can be seen.

We also need to remember to be humble, to see the journey we still have to make on the path to wisdom. You can’t learn anything if you think you know everything.

Gisn boyml afn fayer (Pouring oil on the fire)

Whether we are lighting a candle or pouring oil on the fire, it’s clear that when we create light we see things differently.
Sometimes that light is shared by candlelight and sometimes by firebomb, but it’s still light.
Rabbi DovBer Pinson, scholar, kabbalist, and spiritual teacher asks in an article on Chabad.com “What is light? Light is commonly viewed as a metaphor for wisdom. The universal symbol for understanding in a cartoon or graphic illustration is a light or flash. Light. Seeing. “People of all cultures, when grasping a concept that is being explained, use in various languages one word: see. ‘Oh, I see,’ we say, when finally arriving at an understanding of something.”

This holiday reminds Jews to rededicate themselves to standing against forces that would destroy Judaism and to keep alive the flame of Jewish religion, culture, and peoplehood so that it may be passed on to the next generation.

But outside of the guidelines of halacha is a little bit of space for interpretation, for personality, for opinion, for the acknowledgement that we don’t all agree.

So what does all of this mean? There are many ways to spell it, many ways to understand what it means and many ways to light a chanukiyah.

But the most important part is that we remember who we are and choose to spread a little light.

A freylichn Chanike, a Happy Chanukah to you all.


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