Why Only Hanukkah Is Celebrated as a Family

Judaism places the value of a happy marriage more than military victory, children more than soldiers, and the home more than the battlefield.

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I have this sweet childhood memory from Hanukkah that I take with me until today. My father would light the candles and then the entire family would sing the Hanukkah songs together. And then we'd sit on the carpet, all cozy, around my mother and father, and play family games in the glow of the menorah. It was pure moment of fun and laughter, not running anywhere, just enjoying the moment together as a family.

There is something special about Hanukkah, it’s the only holiday we perform as a family. Matzah we eat individually, shofar we blow as a community, but the Hanukkah candles are lit as a family. Why is that?

Perhaps the answer lies in a fascinating law about the Hanukkah candles. If one has only one candle as the Shabbat of Hanukkah is about to begin – he should use it for the shabbat candles and not for the menorah. Shabbat takes precedent.

You see, Hanukkah commemorates one of the greatest military victories in Jewish history, but the Greeks didn’t just try to defeat us, they tried to break us. They knew that the secret of Jewish continuity lies in the Jewish home. That's why they tried to destroy the Jewish home with their decrees, but the Maccabees didn’t give up.

The Shabbat candles symbolize peace at home. This is why the Shabbat lights take precedence, and why uniquely Hanukkah is celebrated as a family, because peace and connection in our Jewish homes is THE secret of Jewish survival and is the mission of the Jewish people as Maimonides put it – “the entire Torah was given in order to make peace in the world.”

This is part of the reason why Judaism alone survived the ancient world – because Judaism places the value of a happy marriage more than military victory, children more than soldiers, and the home more than the battlefield.

As you light the Hanukkah candles, stop for a moment to appreciate and celebrate your Jewish family. Allow the light of peace and harmony, of children and family into your home, because the future of the Jewish people depends on it.

Comments (7)

(4) yl, December 13, 2020 11:43 PM

what happened to passover

can't even read the article; the premise that chanuka is the only family-celebrated Jewish holiday is absurd and a symptom of galus. all Jewish holidays as is life in general are centered around family. even according to this author's argument, what happened to Passover, which halachically requires a son to ask about our experiences?!

Eitiel, December 15, 2020 8:14 PM

Good question, see first comment who also asked the same question. Chanuka is preformed "ner Ish Ubeiso" a candle per household. Passover is celebrated in a chabura, which can include the extended family or many families together.

(3) Avraham Sonenthal, December 10, 2020 7:44 PM

Without the soldiers you have no family

Evil men are able to succeed because they are enabled by weak men who do nothing. This article states a false dichotomy. It is not either soldiers or family, the home or the battlefield. It is both. Without strong Jewish men who are willing to dish out death and destruction to our enemies, the Jewish home will cease to exist.

A good Jewish man is not a man who is incapable of violence. That just makes him a weak and ineffective man. A good Jewish man is one who is able and willing to deal out death and destruction and heinous violence, but only in the service of defeating evil people. Once you can do that, you have become a good Jewish man.

(2) Roz Leffler, December 10, 2020 4:58 PM

Very meaningful

I will be sending to two friends who are not observant hoping it will make an impression and will be thought provoking.

(1) Anonymous, December 10, 2020 3:11 PM

The family is just as important if not more in other holidays

If anything,, on Pesach it is more important to celebrate in a family. The Korban Pesach was eaten in families, and also part of the mitzvah is telling the story of going out of Egypt (especially to the children). You can light a Chanukia alone, if you had to. A wife can light without her husband if she has to. But the general point you are trying to make is absolutely true: the continuity of the Jewish People depends on the family.

Bunny Shuch, December 11, 2020 4:44 PM

I agree!

Pesach is a very family centered holiday. Everyone sits around the table and relates and relives together the story of the Exodus and eats the ceremonial foods. It’s one of our family’s favorite holidays.

Anonymous, December 15, 2020 8:20 PM

Great question. Passover is celebrated in a chabura, in a group, which can include the extended family or many families together. Where Chanuka is preformed "ner Ish Ubeiso" - a candle per household. While we can go visit our grandparents, we light in our own home with our nuclear family.


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