December 11, 2023 /
I have always been amused at how we attempt to transliterate the word for our holiday of חנוכה. Is it Chanukah or Hanukah? Two ‘n’s or one? What about the ‘k’s? All-in-all I have found about 16 different ways to spell the holiday in English and here they are in “Rav Google’s” ranked level of acceptance: Chanukah, Hanukkah, Hanukah, Chanuka, Chanukkah, Hanuka, Channukah, Chanukka, Hanukka, Hannuka, Hannukkah, Channuka, Xanuka (that’s right, with an ‘x’), Hannukka, Channukkah, Channukka, and Chanuqa.
No matter how you spell Chanukah in English, there is only one way to spell it in Hebrew, חנוכה, whose root word means dedication. The story behind Chanukah has changed considerably over the millennia, but it has always been a story about “dedication.”
The miracle attributed to the holiday is that there was only enough oil to light the Temple’s menorah for one day, but it lasted for eight instead. I see the oil in our miracle as being a metaphor for massim tovim, righteous actions, because massim tovim have the power to light up the lives of those who receive them. This miracle teaches us that we should never underestimate the power of performing massim tovim. That every little deed we do has exponential effects on our society and while the actions may seem small and inadequate to us, like the oil to our ancestors, they can have life-altering effects for others.
Chanukah for me is not about lighting candles; it’s about rededicating myself to holy living and holy actions and serves as a reminder to never become complacent in trying to make the world a sacred place.
Philip N. Bazeley