Temple Shabbat Shalom Chanukah Seder

Rabbi Alpern


Blessings for each night’s candle lighting:

  1. Blessed are you, Lord our God, Ruler of the universe, who sanctified us with commandments, and commanded us to light the Chanukah lights.
  2. Blessed are you, Lord our God, Ruler of the universe, who made miracles for our ancestors in those days, at this time.

For the first night only;

  1. Blessed are you, Lord our God, Ruler of the universe, who grants us life, sustains us, and enabled us to reach this time.


  1. Ba-ruch A-tah Ado-nai E-lo-he-nu Me-lech Ha-olam A-sher Kid-sha-nu Be-mitz-va-tav Ve-tzi-va-nu Le-had-lik Ner shel Chanukah.
  2. Ba-ruch a-tah ado-nai e-lo-he-nu me-lech ha-olam she-asa nisim La-avo-te-nu Ba-ya-mim ha-hem bi-z’man ha-zeh.
  3. Ba-ruch A-tah Ado-nai E-lo-he-nu Me-lech Ha-olam she-hech-eanu ve-ki-yima-nu Ve-higi-a-nu La z-man Ha-zeh


The order of lighting the candles:

▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ 1

▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪1 2

▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪1 2 3

▪ ▪ ▪ ▪1 2 3 4

▪ ▪ ▪1 2 3 4 5

▪ ▪1 2 3 4 5 6

▪1 2 3 4 5 6 7

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8


The Kabballahistic custom is to place the Menorah to the left of the doorway, opposite the Mezzuzzah. This service may be done in eight parts, one per day or all together the first night or any night.





Day One (May be read all eight days)


Chanukah is a major holiday for Jews. We also invite non-Jews to celebrate this holiday with us today. You will learn that with all the legends, prayers, food and gifts associated with Chanukah, in the end we turn to the Hebrew Prophet Zechariah to teach the true meaning of this holy day. In our age , which often seems devoid of inspirational leadership, the Prophets words are especially welcome.

     In America, Chanukah is celebrated as a children’s holiday, and this is great for the children, who, in the spirit of the season, look forward to many presents.

Chanukah offers other gifts. Remember the Chanukah story predates the story of Christmas by almost 2 centuries. If our people had assimilated or been destroyed our story would have ended with Judah the Maccabbee.

It is time to examine the history of Chanukah. The Greek persecution of the Israelites was a war of a dominant culture against a subjugated minority. The main battle focused on the Temple in Jerusalem. The Temple was established on a rock upon which stood the Ark of the Covenant, containing the original 10 commandments. This Temple was thought of as the gateway to heaven.

The Temple was illuminated be a huge golden Menorah. The size of the Menorah was the same as an adult with their arms reaching out. (See Exodus 25:31-40) The Menorah symbolizes the essence of the Jewish religion. The Menorah burns with 6 lights and an Eternal Light in the middle. This represents creation, and its diversity, in that truth has many dimensions. The Greeks, in contrast, saw culture from only one narrow perspective, by their own light.

The Prophet Zechariah gives us a vision of Peace as the name and spirit of God, and the messianic future of our people. We will see by the light of the Menorah that this is the true meaning of the holiday Chanukah.



Day Two (May be said all eight days)

Each night, after lighting, we traditionally say this prayer:



We light these lights on account of the miracles and wonders, triumphs and battles God performed for our ancestors through the holy priests in those days, at this season.


 In all other daily prayer services, including Grace after meals add:


We thank you God, for the miracles, for the redemption, for the mighty deeds and triumphs and for the battles which you performed for our ancestors in those days at this season.


In the days of the Hasmonean Mattathias Ben Yochanan, the High Priest, a wicked Hellenic government arose against your people to make them forget your Torah and to transgress its teachings.


Thou, O lord, stood by us in this test, championing our cause, defending our rights. You delivered the strong into the hands of the weak, the many into the hands of the few, the impure into the hands of the pure, and the wicked into the hands of the righteous and the arrogant into the hands of the students of your teachings.


All this sanctified your Holy Name in the world and your people acknowledge this deliverance until this day.


Then our children’s children entered your home, cleaned your Temple, purified the Sanctuary and kindled lights in your Holy courtyards. They designated these eight days for giving thanks and praising your great Name.


For all this you are blessed and exalted forever and ever.






Day Three (May be said all eight days)


The Prophetic reading of Zechariah is read on the Shabbat of Chanukah.

First a prayer before reading the Prophet


Blessed is the Lord our God, Ruler of the universe, who has chosen faithful Prophets to speak words of truth. Bless the Lord, for this revelation of Truth:


Zechariah Chapter four:


The angel who talked with me came back and woke me,

He said “What do you see”

And I answered “A lamp stand of gold with a bowl above it, seven lamps on seven arms

And next to the Menorah, two olive trees one on the right, one on the left.”

I in turn asked the angel who talked to me, “What do these things mean?”

The angel replied “You really don’t know what they mean?”

 “No” I answered.

Then the angel explained “This is the word of the Lord Zerubbabel”

          “Not by might

           Nor by power

           But by my spirit” says God.


          The selection of this Prophet for Chanukah is meant to teach that the holiday is above all a vision of a peaceful messianic future. This is the meaning illuminated by the Menorah. The reason the military victory of the Maccabeans is not stressed will become evident as we add new light each night to our understanding of this major holiday.


Day Four       The Talmud

(May be read all eight days)



What is the miracle of the lights? The survival of our people? A Military victory, the few defeating the many?


In the Talmud the Rabbis tell us specifically what they believe the miracle to be.


Our source is the Babylonian Talmud, Tractate on Shabbat, page 21 side b:



What is Chanukah? The Rabbis teach that on the twenty fifth day of the Hebrew month Kislev the eight days of the holyday begin. During these eight days we do not eulogize the dead or fast.



When the Greeks entered the sanctuary of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem they defiled all of the consecrated kosher olive oil used in the Menorah. When the Kingdom of the Hasmonean priests took power they searched and could only find one container of oil with the seal of the High Priest, and it contained only enough olive oil to burn for one day.



A miracle occurred and they lit with this oil for eight days.

The next year they made these days for a festival, for praise and for Thanksgiving.






Day Five:  The Menorah asks: What? And Why?

(May be read all eight days) 


The Menorah is the symbol of Biblical religion, the Temple in Jerusalem and Rabbinic and Prophetic Judaism.


The Hebrew letters Mem, nun, vav, resh, hey, when transposed spell Nur Ma, which means: light that asks what, and why.



1.) What is the miracle of Chanukah?


2.) Why do the Rabbis of the Talmud not mention the military victory?


3.) What does the choice of Zechariah as the reading for the Shabbat of Chanukah teach?


4.) What ever became of the Maccabbes and the Hasmoneans?


5.) What do we learn from the leadership of Judah Maccabbee, who in The Book of Maccabbes conducted war according to the teachings of the Torah?

(Deuteronomy Twenty)


6.) Why then are the two books of Maccabbes found in some Christian bibles not in the Hebrew bible?


7.) What is the role of women in the story?


8.) What does Chanukah teach us today?



You will learn the answers to these questions in the narratives on days six, seven and eight.



Day Six:  History or A Fable Agreed Upon?


The Rabbis of the Talmud agreed to stress the miracle of the Menorah over the military victories for good reason. Hundreds of years after the event the Rabbis knew they could not extol the virtues of the Hasmonean dynasty which ultimately became corrupt as the Priests waged wars of conquest. The two books of Maccabbes were not canonized as the Rabbis asserted their own authority and created the legend of the miracle Menorah and its oil. This legend has helped our people survive the dark night of history. The Temple in Jerusalem is twice destroyed, first by the Babylonians and then the Romans.

The Greeks in the Chanukah story converted the Temple into a pagan palace. Symbolically we are left with a drop of olive oil. With faith sufficient only for one night we survive and dream of a better future. The miracle continues.

Judah the Maccabbee was, in a way, our first Rabbi. Fundamentalists of his time refused to protect themselves on the Sabbath since scripture gives no clear direction on this in Deuteronomy Chapter Twenty. Judah understood that

a higher, fundamental, principle would save his people. The Torah teaches that the covenant was cut to live by the teachings, not to die by them. He taught self defense on the Sabbath and in this Rabbinic law begins.

Today we may marvel at the insight of the Rabbis as the Menorah continues to illuminate with its message. We are back in our homeland. For those living in Israel Chanukah is a major holiday. Many Israelis see themselves as modern day Maccabbes. Each and every year the Prophet Zechariah is resurrected and his message chanted: The Menorah teaches not might, nor power, but the light of salvation.

We pray that all people of faith understand that the Temple in Jerusalem is anointed with the olive branch of Peace. The Temple is a home of Peace and a house of Prayer for all people.


Also, the return of the Sechinah glory, Gods feminine presence in history, is a reminder of women’s role in the original Chanukah story as we shall see on days seven and eight of Chanukah.


Day Seven Chag Ha Banote

 (May be said all eight nights)


Welcome to our celebration of women in our history. We will call this version “herstory. We invite Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah, Yael, Judith and Bruria.These seven are models of virtue and courage. On Chanukah we tell the story of Judith.


Judith means Jewess in Hebrew, she represents every woman. In ancient times her entire book was read as part of the Chanukah celebration. Before she tells her story, a few words of explanation are in order. The book takes on the establishment, which was not politically correct, so Judith refers to Antiochus as Nebuchadnezzar (the Babylonian) so she could speak freely.


This reading is from A Merging of the Two Jerusalems, One Old and One New


History and Herstory: A Dialogue (Selections)



History: I am history, the narrator originator and generator of civilization.

Patrimony is the legacy of every nation. The Fathers of philosophy: Aristotle, Socrates and Plato. The Masters of art Michelangelo, da Vinci to Van Gogh

Even the Lord, of course, a man.


Herstory: History a pompous diary: crusades, world wars, tirades, young boys dying for their Fatherland. Bowing to the blasphemy of God, A man of war.

History, the has been, documentation of oppression and fear of the future, as the cycle repeats again.


Now women draw near, for it is time to hear the voice of our matriarch, resonant and clear:


The Psalm of Judith:


My God is the One

Who crushes war

Cruelty and slaughter.

Warrior against history

The murderer of our sons

The raper of our daughters.


I, Judith, Thank Thee My Lady

Who made me a women

One bold and without fear, who

In the time of Nebuchadnezzar

Took on the mighty terrorist General Holofornes

Who surrounded our homes

To starve then eat our children and bury our village

In its own tomb.

Then I, Judith

Enticed Holofornes with my curves

And comeliness of form

Till he beseeched me to his bed

And promised the safety of my people

If I did, so, instead of cowering

Like our leaders

I plied the Babylonian with wine

Drew near to the bed

Took hold of his hair

And with two strong hacks

Severed his head

And took it for a trophy

In my sack. 


Day Eight: A Kabballahistic Haggaddah

 (May be said all eight nights)


A Kabballahistic Haggaddah means a telling and retelling of the Chanukah story that enlightens and reveals secrets. We invite the prophet Jeremiah as one of the eight leaders of our people:


Call to me and I will answer you and I will tell you about extraordinary events- secrets you have not known. For thus says the eternal Being, the God of Israel concerning the houses in the city and the palaces of the leaders of Judah… I am going to bring her relief and healing. I will reveal to them an abundance of Peace and truth.

The truth of peace is revealed first in our homes and then in the palaces. Our homes are holy sanctuaries, marked by God’s word written on our doors and this Menorah, which we light for eight nights.


We begin with a meditation:


For the unification of Gods holy name, which is Shalom, Peace, the joining of yould hay and vav hay, (the male and female dimensions of divinity) we pray for unity. Hear O Israel, the Lord and God: One. So shall we be, once again, one nation upon God’s Earth. With reverence and love, Lord our God, we ask you to answer us on this day that we call out to you.

As we light these eight lights may we be receptive to the secrets revealed and darkness illuminated by their light. The original Menorah was the size of a human with arms reaching out to teach us that we are all Menorahs awaiting the anointing of the oil of Shalom. The Torah teaches that Zion means Peace, when no nation lifts up weapons against another, nor learns or teaches war any more. O lord we pray for this Eden, for the Menorah is A Tree of Life and Light.

We pray for Eden, and not Armageddon.