Hanukkah Core Concept – Miracles

Gimels Up!Congrats to Kathy L, winner of night three in our Hanukkah Surprise Pack Giveaway!

In her surprise pack is a box of Hanukkah Thank You Notes that your children can customize by checking off which Hanukkah activities they enjoyed this year. Plus, there’s room for the kids to write a message or draw a picture. Grandparents, aunts, and uncles love ‘em. (Available in Hanukkah in a Box and Hanukkah Thank You Notes.)  It’s not too late to enter – just sign up at www.JewishHolidaysInABox.com.


In an earlier post, we suggested three key Hanukkah concepts that are good as starting points with young children: light, miracle, and oil.


A miracle that gets bigger each night

Explaining the concept of a miracle is bit more challenging than demonstrating light.

Depending on the age of your children, you can talk about how the small band of Maccabees, with few weapons, won over the large, well-trained Syrian army, pushing the Syrians out of Judea.

Or you can start with the classic legend:

After three years of fighting, the Jews entered the Holy Temple to clean and polish it. But when Judah and his band of Maccabees wanted to rededicate the Temple, they discovered that there was only one vat of pure oil to rekindle the ner tamid, the eternal flame that was supposed to burn day and night.

This one vat of oil should have lasted a single day. So they knew that they needed to begin immediately to purify more oil, because this process took a week.

But there was a miracle. That one vat of oil lasted not for one day, but for eight days. By that time, the new, purified oil was ready.

And this is why the Hanukkah menorah has eight candles, plus a place for the shamash or helper candle.

Most children between 4 and 10 can also understand that the miracle of Hanukkah grows with each night, as we light one more and one more candle. They see that the illumination from the menorah is increasingly dramatic each night.

Dreidel game underscores the miracle

You can expand on this by explaining that the Hebrew letters on the dreidel stand for the phrase “a great miracle happened there.” Nun for “nes,” gimel for “gadol,” hey for “haya,” and shin for “sham.”  Nes gadol haya sham.

For older children, you can even explain that in Israel, dreidels replace the shin with the peh, standing for “poh” or here.  “A great miracle happened here.” Nes gadol haya poh.


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