Rachael’s Centre Chanukah Resources

Chanukah, also called Chag Urim, the Festival of Lights, occurs as the days are getting shorter and darkness grows through the winter.  Growing darkness can be frightening, and the candles represent the stability of knowledge, spirituality and our ability to help light the way for each other.  As we enjoy the candles each night, let’s remember that Chanukah also speaks of Jewish heroes.  Sitting together lighting the candles is a wonderful opportunity to share our stories of family heroes, and the people who have guided us in our lives.  The symbols of the candles are invitations for us to remember that those who inspire us and bring light to our lives can be honoured by sharing their stories, just as we have learned to speak of the Maccabees.

Wishing everyone a very happy and meaningful Chanukah this year shared with family and friends.  

Chag Urim sameach!


  • Dr. Rachael Turkieicz’s paper on Omitting the Maccabees

  • Coloring Pages at Crayola.com


  • Chanukah word scramblers at bigactivities.com


  • Dr. Rachael Turkienicz’s video on Women: the forgotten heroes of Chanukah

  • Chanukah recipe roundups from BonApatite.com


  • Coloring Pages at Getcoloringpages.com


  • Dr. Rachael Turkienicz’s video on The Chanukah Story in World History: Does it All Check out? 

  • Udiscovermusic.com 25 best songs to celebrate the festival of lights


  • Chanukah connect the dots at bigactivities.com


  • Dr. Rachael Turkienicz’s video on Who Where the Maccabees?

  • Chanukah recipe roundups from TasteofHome.com


  • Chanukah Crossword puzzle at bigactivities.com


  • Dr. Rachael Turkienicz’s video on How to Play the Dreidel Game

  • Chabbad’s list of Chanukah music


  • Chanukah story starters at bigactivities.com


  • Dr. Rachael Turkienicz’s video on How to Light Chanukah Candles

  • Chanukah word decoder puzzles at bigactivities.com


  • Chanukah word searches at bigactivities.com


  • Chanukah recipe roundups from Delish.com


  • Chanukah songs for kids

  • Chanukah Music roundup from MyJewishLearning.com


  • Kveller Chanukah Music


  • 21 Chanukah songs for kids from Parents.com


  • Rachael’s blog posts on the eight nights of Chanukah from 2019
  • The First Candle: Looking Forward or Looking Backward?
  • The Second Candle: Liberating Gender Barriers
  • The Third Candle: Get the Gelt While the Getting’s Good
  • The Fourth Candle: Let the Man Handle It
  • The Fifth Candle: Only I Get To Say Who I Am
  • The Sixth Candle: I Need a Hero
  • The Seventh Candle: People Are Strange When You’re A Stranger
  • The Eighth Candle: We Have Come to Chase the Darkness Away

  • Rachael’s Chanukah Blog 2020

Parshat Vayeishev: I Will Send You a Little Candle https://www.rachaelscentre.com/2020/12/11/parshat-vayeishev-i-will-send-you-a-little-candle/

  • Rachael’s Centre Chanukah Video Archive


Chanukah Sameach everyone!

We hope you have a wonderful holiday season!

Rachael’s Centre

The Fourth Candle: Let the Man Handle It

Hanukkah represents a time when everything Jewish was under attack.  The people, the religion, the culture, independence, autonomy, monotheism, family, Torah, everything that connected us to anything Jewish was under attack.  We often think Hanukkah was a time of warriors and battles with weapons and armies. But the books of the Maccabees also describe the civilian resistance that was waged by the women.

While the men picked up weapons, the women made sure to pass Judaism to their children.  Circumcision was punishable by death, as was teaching Torah, Hebrew, keeping Shabbat or eating Kosher.  And yet, story after story is recorded of women who never gave an inch. These stories are tremendously heartbreaking and difficult to read but it is clear that these women knew that if the war is won, but Judaism is lost, then nothing has been won.

Jewish law thanks women for their steadfastness, courage and bravery by stating that while the Hanukkah candles are burning, women are to refrain from labour.  So every night while those candles burn, the women should gather around the candlelight and share their stories. It happens around sunset – around dinner. For these 8 days, the men of the household are to handle everything while Jewish history honours our women.

Hanukkah is about recognizing the unsung heroes among us.

The Third Candle: Get the Gelt While the Getting’s Good

Hanukkah gelt is a traditional way of celebrating Hanukkah in Judaism.  It is a time to give money, traditionally coins, deliciously chocolate coins, to our kids.  In today’s world, people are giving gifts and forgoing the ‘gelt’ (Yiddish for money) but perhaps we shouldn’t give up on the gelt so quickly.  

Hanukkah coins are used to bet on the outcome of spinning the dreidel.  Everyone would put money into the pot and bet on which letter the dreidel would land on.  There are 4 Hebrew letters on a dreidel, to spell out the sentence of a great miracle happening there.  Legend has it that because Jews weren’t allowed to study Hebrew, on penalty of death, parents created these toys with the Hebrew alphabet on it as a way to continue teaching Hebrew to their children.  In order to fool the soldiers, they told their children to make it look like they are playing a money game. Then the soldiers won’t look too closely at the dreidel because the money would distract them.

It is traditional to still play the dreidel game and still bet with chocolate coins, but the legend doesn’t always get told.  

When we give Hanukkah gelt to our kids we should tell them the legend.

Hanukkah is about being creative to maintain our Jewish identities as we secure it from one generation to another.

The Second Candle: Liberating Gender Barriers

There are several Jewish texts that we believe describe the events or time of Hanukkah.  The first are the books of the Maccabees, which tell of the Hasmoneans and Judah the Maccabee.  There is another text that we believe intends to speak to the Hasmonean time, although it is not set in that time period, and that is the book of Judith.  None of these texts have entered the Jewish canon, and so they are not often studied, but they describe interesting gender diversities that challenge our stereotypes.  

Judah the Maccabee was a warrior and Judith was a widow living quietly in her town.  When Judah the Maccabee liberated the Temple, he and his men are described as sweeping it clean, hanging curtains and decorating the rooms.  When Judith’s town is threatened by an enemy and no one will fight them, Judith plans and executes a strategy to behead the enemy general, Holofernes, and gather an army to fight.

Judah and Judith, the same name, the same goal, each crossing gender stereotypes of their time.

Hanukkah teaches us to exceed our perceived limitations to fight evil and achieve our goals.

The First Candle: Looking Forward or Looking Backward?

There was an argument about lighting the Hanukkah candles between two famous Sages: HIllel and Shammai.  The holiday of Hanukkah was shaped on the holiday of Sukkot. During Sukkot, we offered 70 sacrifices for all the nations of the world.  We started with 70 the first day and offered a few less every day of the holiday. Because we started with a number that symbolized the totality of holiness, Shammai argued that Hanukkah should also start by lighting 8 candles the first night and reducing each night by 1.  That way we honour our past and maintain the impact of holiness into the world. Hillel argued that we should understand our past but always look forward in time and increase holiness in the world.  

Do we use our past to inspire our future (Hillel) or do we use our past to shape our future (Shammai)?  Both present compelling arguments.  

Hillel’s argument carried the day.  We begin with 1 candle and increase candles every night.  

Hanukkah inspires us to elevate ourselves as we move forward.