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Mishegoss – Hanukkah 2023


Hanukkah Means Dedication

While one might think Hanukkah means festival of lights, the actual translation is “dedication.” Hanukkah celebrates the Maccabees’ victory against King Antiochus around 167 BCE. King Antiochus took control over the Holy Temple (the Second Temple) in Jerusalem and used it to worship Greek gods and for the sacrifice of pigs. During the battles, the small Jewish army led a successful rebellion and reclaimed the Temple and restored it for its original use. The Maccabees rekindled the Temple’s menorah and this rededication became the festival of Hanukkah.

How Do We Spell It?

Due to the challenges of transliterating Hebrew to English there are many variations in spelling the name of the Holiday. Do you start with a h or ch, one n or 2, one k or 2 and should you add an h to the end. All in all, Google recognizes 16 ways to spell the holiday and everyone has their favorite.

Going Round and Round

Nun, Gimel, Hey, Shin: The letters on the dreidel, Nun, Gimel, Hey, and Shin, stand for “Nes Gadol Haya Sham” in Hebrew, which means “A Great Miracle Happened There,” referring to the Hanukkah miracle that took place in the Land of Israel. In Israel, the Shin is replaced with a Pe, so it stands for “Nes Gadol Haya Po,” meaning “A Great Miracle Happened Here.” 

NASA astronaut Jeffrey A. Hoffman with a dreidel celebrated the first Hanukkah in space during the STS-61 Hubble Space Telescope repair mission in 1993.

Hanukkah in Space

A stronaut Jeff Hoffman, the first Jewish American male astronaut to fly into space, celebrated Hanukkah live via satellite. In 1993, Hoffman brought a Hanukkiah and dreidel on the Space Shuttle Discovery STS-61 Hubble Space Telescope repair mission. As he spun the dreidel he pondered how to reinterpret the rules since the dreidel continues to spin with no up or down. Of course, the traveling menorah was not lit. Over Hoffman’s five space flights he once brought a mezuzah which he attached to his station bunk bed he and fellow Jewish astronaut Scott Horowitz shared. On his last flight in 1996 on the Space Shuttle Columbia he brought a small Torah and on Shabbat he read from the Book of Genesis.

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