Weekly Reader Hanukkah
December 5, 2021
Hanukkah may be almost over, but that’s no reason to stop celebrating. If a little bit of oil can last eight days, then maybe some Hanukkah-related reading can last all year. And I think we can all agree that latkes are delicious, even when they’re not seasonally appropriate. So slide into your comfiest fireside slippers and dig in.
Winter in the Shtetl
As you might recall, we recently sent out an all Scholem Asch themed Weekly Reader. But you don’t need a special occasion to read Asch. In fact, given Asch’s prolific literary output, he’s really a writer for all seasons. This prose poem, “A Winter in the Shtetl,” comes from Asch’s very first collection, inauspiciously titled In a Bad Time: Sketches and Stories, which was first published in Warsaw in 1903.
A Menorah by Any Other Name
A menorah—or menoyre, in Yiddish pronunciation—is not a Hannukah candelabrum. Not in Yiddish, at least. Nor in modern Israeli Hebrew. In Yiddish, menoyre is the term for the biblical seven-branched candelabrum originally housed in the Holy Temple—or its likeness, as is often found decoratively in synagogues or as the emblem of the State of Israel. How, then, did the word come to be associated with the holder of the Hannukah candles? The answer might have something to do not with Yiddish or Hebrew, but with the Sephardic language of Ladino.
Whatever miracles Hanukkah is meant to celebrate—the victory of the Maccabees, the rededication of the Temple—for children Hanukkah means two things: money and gambling. Which is why there’s no better Hanukkah story than Sholem Aleichem’s classic “Khanike gelt.” Here we share the perspective of an impish child who eagerly enjoys the material rewards of Hanukkah and greedily counts his Khanike gelt until he dreams at night about wolfing it down like a steaming plateful of latkes.
Stories and Sufganiyot
Like every Jewish holiday, Hanukkah is all about the food. In this episode of The Shmooze podcast Tina Wasserman, author of Entree to Judaism: A Culinary Exploration of the Jewish Diaspora and Entree to Judaism for Families: Jewish Cooking and Kitchen Conversations with Children, discusses some traditional Hanukkah recipes and the histories behind them.