Unit 4: Hanukkah and Pirsumei D’Nisa


This unit highlights the connection between the light of the hanukkiah and the metaphoric light of Judaism that was preserved at the time of the Maccabees. In doing so, it explores the importance of Pirsumei D’Nisa (the sharing of the Hanukkah lights with others), encourages students to appreciate their heritage, and empowers them to play active roles in sharing that heritage with others. As one of the most beloved and widely-celebrated holidays among Jewish children, Hanukkah provides a perfect opportunity for cultivating a positive feeling toward Jewish tradition and for engaging students in the preservation of Judaism.

Learning Experiences

Through study of “Hanerot Halalu”, a traditional Hanukkah song, students are introduced to the miracles, wonders, rescues, and wars that occurred at the time of the Maccabees. To better understand these events, students read and re-enact the story of the Maccabees, reflect upon why this story is celebrated, express thanks for the continual preservation of Judaism through the actions of the Maccabees and others, study texts that encourage them to share their Hanukkah lights with others, and experience how doing so transforms them into “Modern Maccabees.” In the process, they become experts in how to set up and light the hanukkiah and prepare for a candle-lighting hagigah where they have the opportunity to share Hanukkah traditions with family and friends.

Core Concepts

The Hanukkah lights direct us to be thankful for all that God does to ensure that the Jewish people and traditions continue from generation to generation; they also remind us that we have a role to play in preserving Judaism.

Enduring Understandings

  • The Hanukkah lights remind us to be thankful for the perpetuation of Judaism and encourage us to play an active role in promoting Jewish continuity.
  • We share the Hanukkah lights to inspire others to share and pass on Judaism.

Essential Questions

  • What can I learn from the Hanukkah lights?
  • What role can I play in the preservation of my people and traditions?

Unit Framework and Core Concepts

Lesson 1: What Do We Share With Others and Why?

We ensure that our traditions, experiences, and stories continue by sharing artifacts of our lives with others.

Lesson 2: Hanerot Halalu: Why Light These Candles?

Our Hanukkah celebration includes many elements that have been passed down to us from the time of the Maccabees: The hanukkiah is a variation of the menorah that was lit daily in the Temple, and its lights remind us of the miracles, wonders, rescues, and wars that occurred at the time of the Maccabees.

Lesson 3: Birkhot Hanukah: Words of Thanks

The Hanukkah candles remind us to show thanks and praise to God for helping to preserve Judaism at the time of the Maccabees. One way that we recognize God is by saying berakhot before lighting the hanukkiah.

Lesson 4: How Do We Share and Pass on Nes Hanukkah (may require two class periods)

On Hanukkah, one way we play a role in sharing and passing on Jewish tradition is by lighting our hanukkiot where others will see.

Lesson 5: Planning Our Hagigat Hanukkah! (Two sessions, including one at candle lighting time)

As Modern Maccabees, we play a role in sharing and passing on many Jewish customs and traditions that relate to Hanukkah and other aspects of life.

Learning 0bjectives and Performance Outcomes

Learning Objective

Performance Outcome

Students will demonstrate knowledge that:

On Hanukkah we light the hanukkiah to celebrate the Maccabees’ roles in preserving Judaism.
  • Students will retell the story of the Maccabees.
  • Students will recite and explain Hanerot Hallalu, which describes the candles as reminders of the story of Hanukkah.
The guidelines that Jewish texts set for lighting the hanukkiah are intended to increase the number of people who see the lights of the hanukkiah, in order to share the holiday with others.
  • Students will create a checklist based on Maimonides’s guidelines for where and when to light the hanukkiah.
  • Students will identify a place in the synagogue that meets Maimonides’s guidelines for where and when to light the hanukkiah.
Lighting the hanukkiah is a time for sharing and preserving Jewish tradition.
  • Students will reflect on their ability to be a Modern Maccabees who helps to preserve Jewish tradition.
  • Students will plan a Hagigat Hanukkah where they will share Hanukkah traditions with their families.
  • Students will create a hanukkiah that encapsulates what they and their families would like to preserve about Judaism.
  • Students will participate in a project that provides hanukkiot and candles to those who may not otherwise be able to partake in this tradition.

Students will express feelings of:

A desire to share the holiday of Hanukkah with others.
  • Students will plan the class’s Hagigat Hanukkah.
  • Students will provide Hanukkah resources to individuals who would not be able to obtain them on their own.

Students will be able to:

  • Model the proper way to set-up and light Hanukkah candles.
  • Recite and explain the berakhot that are said over the lighting of the hanukkiah.
  • Sing and explain Hanerot Hallalu.
  • Retell the story of the Maccabees.
  • Explain the concept of Pirsumei D’Nisa – Publicizing the story of Hanukkah.