Fifth Day and the Light is Spreading!

Day five of the Miracle of Lights!

What is “gelt” and why is it associated with Chanukah?

Gelt is the yiddish word for money. Back in the 18th century (and maybe earlier) in Poland, parents would give their children gelt to learn Torah during Chanukah. The children would save the gelt and on the last day of the holiday, each child would take 10% of the money they saved and give it to charity. In this way the children were learning Torah along with the importance of sharing what they had earned with those who were in need.

In addition to giving gelt to children to learn Torah, parents would give gelt for the children (usually boys because girls did not go to school at that time) to take to their rabbis during Chanukah, a gift of gratitude. Gelt was used for playing dreidel, too, and in early 20th century America (1920 to be exact) chocolatiers began making chocolate gelt, wrapping them in gold or silver foil, and packaging the gelt in small yellow net bags (money bags) for Chanukah treats. These treats make their appearance around Chanukah time to this day, and we are reminded of the importance of learning Torah, giving charity . . . and playing fun games and eating sweet delicacies during Chanukah!

Chanukah gelt English: Chocolate coins for Cha...
Image via Wikipedia

Day Four of the Miracle!

Four days, and the flame still flickers!

In Judaism it is important that the stories, the traditions, the beliefs and teachings of the sages be passed from generation to generation so that the Jewish people never forget that Hashem is our G-d. But how do you do that, pass on our stories, if the authorities forbid you to learn those stories, or to study the sacred writings and teachings? Well, one way was to design games of learning that to the outsider appeared to be simple games of chance, something the common folks would play. Children and youth would learn in secret, but when they heard the guards coming they would quickly hide their scrolls and bring out a game. And that brings us to the delightful dreidel game that has been played by Jewish children at Chanukah for centuries!

The dreidel is a four-sided spinning top. On each of its four sides is a Hebrew letter, forming the acronym for “Ness Gadol Haya Sham,” or “A Great Miracle Happened There,” thus insuring that as the children played, they would be reminded of the great miracle in the temple when the oil burned for eight days and nights. To play the game, everyone puts “gelt,” (money or tokens) in the pot. Each player takes a turn spinning the dreidel. If it lands on Nun, pass to the next player. If the dreidel lands on Gimmel, take the whole kitty. Land on the Hay, the player gets half the kitty, and if it lands on Shin, the player contributes to the kitty. When the kitty empties out, each player contributes equally back to the kitty once again. There is usually singing and laughter during the game, and every child knows the dreidel song by heart!

I have a little dreidel

I made it out of clay

And when it’s dry and ready

Then dreidel I shall play


Oh dreidel dreidel dreidel

I made it out of clay

And when it’s dry and ready

Then dreidel I shall play

It has a lovely body

With legs so short and thin

And when it is so tired

It drops and then I win!


My dreidel’s always playful

It loves to dance and spin

A happy game of dreidel

Come play now, let’s begin!


For some reason, this won’t embed properly. This is the best I could get it. Hopefully you will be able to enjoy it.

Blessed holidays to you all!

Five Question Friday: November 18, 2011

Good Friday everyone! I do hope you all are waking up to wonderful possibilities today. And for those who are struggling for whatever reason, may you find the strength to get through your day, and comfort for having weathered the storm, whatever it is.

Nothing much has happened this week other than studies! By mid-December the quarter will come to an end and I will have completed one of the toughest required courses in this program. (The other mind-melter comes in the spring quarter!) Since not much else is going on, let’s get on with 5QF!

1. Do you have a go to song that always puts you in a good mood?

I have so many “go to” songs and music I don’t even know where to begin. MANY songs of many genres fit this bill. There is one however, that comes to mind right away. Not your everyday fare, but oh so uplifting! Maybe not your cup of tea, but I love it! dance to it! hum it! Enjoy. 🙂

2. Are you a real Christmas tree kinda person or do you go with a real fake one?

We are not Christmas tree kinda people here. Nope. Not at all. Instead, around this time of year we celebrate Chanukah. We will light the menorah for eight nights, have a few latkas with applesauce, sing a few songs, visit friends and relax. Chanukah is not one of our major holidays, but it is certainly a beloved holiday by many.

3. What are you thankful for?

Too much to expound upon here. Soooo…. I’ll send you to my gratitude blog. Click here. There you will find many things for which I am thankful! 🙂

4. Which fashion fad from the past do you wish you could wear today?

Nah….  None. Absolutely none. The clothes I wear aren’t so faddish anyway.

5. Do you wait until the “low fuel” light comes on before you fill up the gas tank?

Absolutely. Isn’t that what you are supposed to do? Makes my husband crazy. He thinks that one should never let the gauge go below the half-way point. I say, “why not?” After all, isn’t that what the low fuel light is for, to let us know when it is time to fill up again?



So, that’s it for this week. Have to get back to the books, but this has been a nice break. Y’all enjoy your weekend, and I’ll see you next Friday from KENTUCKY!

Five Question Friday: Sept. 2, 2011

Good morning, and time for another Five Question Friday.  I hope your week was excellent! Ours was hectic, as many of you know, but we are both in one place now, and in a sweet little apartment that fits our present needs.  So in spite of boxes and “mess,” we are confident that this is the place for us at this time.  Now, on to the five questions, here they are!

1. Shoes in the house – yay or nay?

Yes, we allow shoes in the house.  I sometimes think about how nice it would be to have everyone leave their shoes at the door, but then I would be the enforcer and become a nag . . . all the time.  That really doesn’t suit my personality, so it is definitely shoes in the house!

2. What do you call them — flip-flops, slippers, thongs, etc?

I’ve always called them flip-flops.  Always.

3. What song are you almost embarrassed to admit you know all the lyrics to?

I don’t know about embarrassment, but I know most of the words to American Pie (but then I think just about everyone from that era knows that one.) My husband and I like to sing “I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow” when we are traveling.  Don’t know why, but we do. Then there is “Gloom, Despair and Agony on Me,” which the last time I checked, my kids hated. Of course that might have something to do with the fact that when one or all of them were whiny and complaining, I would go off into a rousing rendition of the ditty. I may have ruined my kids. I’m not sure. I am sure though, that there are more songs that I embarrassingly know the lyrics to, but these are the first to come to mind.

4. What is the best quality to have in a friend?

Best quality?  That’s a tough one.  Kindness, love, fun, loyalty (but not blind), honesty, support, listener, sharing, playful, laughter. . . The list is endless.  It’s these qualities together that make for friendship.  It’s the stick-to-it-ness of growing and learning together, sharing the ups and downs of life, being there for each other, calling each other out when need be.  So many things.  There is no “best quality,” friendship requires many qualities.

5. Do you know what you want for Christmas?

Since we do Chanukah, I’ll tell you a little about that holiday.  We celebrate for eight days to commemorate the successful Maccabean revolt in which we regained our Holy Temple. Sadly, Antiochus and the Seleucids whom he ruled, desecrated the temple and contaminated the holy oil for the menorah as well (simple explanation), except for one vial that contained enough oil for one day.  The Hebrew people decided to burn the oil, but miraculously the lamp burned for eight days instead of the one, giving the people time to press fresh olive oil to replenish the lamp and maintain the required perpetual flame. Thus, we light candles each night of Chanukah, starting with one and then adding another each night till the last night when we light 8 candles. Historically, parents and teachers gave gelt (coins) as reward to children for studying Torah during Chanukah. The dreidel game began as one way of teaching children the history of Chanukah. Other Chanukah traditions emerged through the years adding to the festivities of the holiday.  Gift giving was not a part of Chanukah until recent years when Christmas became such a big celebration along with gift giving and receiving.  Jewish parents wanting their children to feel more a part of the mainstream culture while at the same time maintaining a Jewish identity, began giving gifts to their children each of the eight nights of Chanukah.  You will most likely not find this widespread practice outside of the Western culture where Christmas and gift giving are synonymous.  We do not take part in this latest custom, but we do sing, eat latkes (potato pancakes} with applesauce), read Chanukah stories, and of course, light candles.

Now it is your turn.  I look forward to seeing your answers!

Time to Give Thanks

Due to a new job, beginning graduate school, and preparations for and celebration of the high holidays, blogging has taken a back seat the past couple of months.  What  a pity.  Writing is something I enjoy doing and I’ve missed spending time with these pages.   Even now, time is at a premium but I wanted to post something…anything!  The holidays are now over, but classes start back up in a week.  Originally I intended to blog everyday during the break….didn’t happen.  But I’m here now!  So, for this post I decided to list ten things for which I am thankful.  Jewishly speaking, we are beginning a new year and this seems like a good way to start anew:

  1. Top on my gratitude list is my family.  Fortunately, I am married to a man I love and who loves me.  I will say no more because words will only dilute the immense gratitude I feel for him. My children are my joy, and have been since the day each was born.  They have grown into such caring, responsible and respectful adults.  I wasn’t always sure that would happen but now I look back and laugh at my fears.  Last, and most importantly, I am thankful to still have my parents with me.  They gave me my life.  Now in their eighties, Mom and Dad are really cool examples of how to grow old and stay vibrant!  My extended family makes this list, too.  We are many, we are far-flung, and we love each other.  What a blessing.
  2. Next, I am thankful for the gift of health.  As I age, I am feeling more aches and creaky joints, but for the most part I am healthy.
  3. I am also thankful for “attitude.”  That may surprise many of you, but attitude is one of those things we “choose” for ourselves.  I have the option of developing a positive attitude, or of being negative.  How I deal with life is often helped or hindered by my attitude.  I am thankful for that choice.  A note of clarification, however: attitude and depression are not the same thing.  Having the “blues” or being down in the dumps happens to the best of us, and deep or chronic depression is a painful affliction I wouldn’t wish on anyone.  Attitude, on the other hand, is about how I choose to face life, its vicissitudes and its joys.
  4. Another thing on my “thankful” list is books!  My husband and I are avid readers.  Our library covers numerous subjects: religion, science, art, music, history, poetry, biography, politics, social justice, novels, etc.  In recent years I’ve returned to reading classic literature.  Reading cultivates creativity and nurtures a questioning mind.  I read to learn, to be entertained, to relax, to question the status quo, to be spiritually strengthened, for curiosity… and  much more.
  5. Pets.  For those of you who have pets, you know what a joy they can be.  We are “cat” people around here, but we love many dogs, too.  Pets are wonderful companions even if a bit obnoxious at times….but then, so are we humans!
  6. Music.   What would this world be without music to fill the air.  Personally I favor classical, folk, jazz, bluegrass (the secret is out!)… not to fond of rap or hard rock, but I’m finding that some of the more contemporary artists are growing on me (such as Mattisyahu…not sure I spelled his name correctly, but music officiandos will know who I mean.)
  7. The world of nature.  When I am out-of-doors, I am acutely aware of the awesomeness of creation.  I marvel at how the world is so wonderfully and intricately made, how life is woven together on a myriad of levels, and it is beautiful.  When I take walks in the woods, or camp in a park, I am keenly aware of G-d’s handiwork
  8. I am thankful to have a job. I was unemployed for quite a while, and though this job is not my life’s calling, it is helping to sustain me (and us) on several levels as I work toward my profession.  I am also thankful that my husband has a job that supports us.  Fortunately, he likes his work and those he works with.  Having been unemployed for lengths of time—both of us—the fact that we now have “parnassah/livelihood” is a real blessing.  Neither of us has forgotten what it is like to be without.
  9. This one really belongs with the “family” list, however, there are two people who deserve their own space: Jacob and Genevieve!  They are our grandchildren.  Jacob, seven years old, is our daughter Mica’s son.  Vieve, one year old on July 4, is our son Tim’s and his wife Maria’s daughter. Nothing in this world brings a smile to our faces and joy to our hearts like the mere mention of our grandchildren.  Being a Bubbe (and a Zaide) is fun!
  10. There are a multitude of things to be thankful for, but I choose to end this particular list with something that is most important in household: our Jewish faith, heritage, and beliefs.  This is what grounds us, what connects us to G-d, what sustains us in life on a daily basis.  From the time we sit up in bed in the morning giving thanks for awaking from sleep, until we say the last Shema of the day, everything we do is guided by Torah, Tefillah (prayers,) and Tzedakah (charity.)   Every activity of the day is interlaced with brachos (blessings) and prayers.  It is a good way to live.

Obviously there are many more things for which we can give thanks.  This list is a start for me.  I am sure your list will look different.  Don’t limit yourselves to just ten items…I did due to space limitations. It is good to pause from time to time for no other reason than to count our blessings and to say “thank you” to the Giver of all. Maybe you would like to make your own list, or share some of your blessings in the comments.  For those of you starting a new year, may this year bring hope and healing, prosperity and contentment, and may you walk the Derek/pathway with G-d as your guide.