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By: Ellen Kamaras

Hanukah will be here before you know it. Have you started to
plan the festivities?

Over the years, Hanukah has become more about the presents, gelt, and sufganiot and less about the miracles that inspired it.

Let’s journey back to the roots of Hanukah and remember the true meaning of the holiday in the process. Commemorating it properly will add even more spark to the Hanukah to come!

As parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles, can we endeavor to make a shift in our thinking? A shift in which we forget about gift buying, cooking, and baking and focus more on educating, enlightening, engaging, and empowering our children through the story of Hanukah? Let’s capitalize on the victory of light over darkness and good versus evil. Let’s celebrate the reclaiming of the Bet Hamikdash and publicize Hashem’s greatness. Let’s inspire others with by doing this purely le’shem shamayim.

EDUCATEDo you know why we play dreidel on Hanukah? I honestly didn’t remember the reason myself. As it turns out, back then, because studying Torah was forbidden, students would pull out dreidels when Greek soldiers would charge in on them. They made believe they were playing an innocent gambling game with these dreidels, thereby tricking the soldiers.

Here’s another one. Do you know why we give money to children on Hanukah? It’s to encourage them to study Torah. After all, “Hanukah” is derived from the Hebrew word for education – chinuch.

Hanukah is a fabulous time to have fun with our children while also teaching them about the Hag. To ensure education is taking place, my husband hosts a challenging trivia contest for my nieces and nephews at our family Hanukah bash.

ENLIGHTEN The beautiful themes of Judaism – as it extends to the other Hagim are very present in Hanukah. Take the light of our individual spark, for example.

We recently celebrated Rosh Hashanah, a holiday about new beginnings and the renewal of our spirit. Jews believe that there is a spark that resides in each and every one of us. The Zohar describes this spark as our soul, which is our special essence that we receive from Hashem. The Maccabees displayed that wonderful spark when they believed in Hashem and defeated a mighty enemy.

Hakarat Hatov or gratitude is another message to enlighten your children with during Hanukah. Sara Debbie Gutfreund, a family therapist in Jerusalem says, “Hanukah is a special time for us to say thank you for all the little and big miracles in our lives. When we look into the beautiful, pure flames of the candles we remember that no day is just another day. There are blessings around all of us every moment, just waiting for us to notice them.” What a wonderful lesson to share and reinforce with our children and with each other! Start the conversation by asking your children how many miracles and blessings they can identify.

Hanukah also provides a great opportunity to teach children the midda ofhesed. Ask your children what they’d like to do to bring light and joy to those less fortunate than them. Do they want to visit a nursing home and help the residents light candles? Maybe they’re inclined to go through their toys, clothes, and games and donate what they’re not using?

ENGAGEEngage your children’s imaginations by re-enacting scenes from the Hanukah story. The Maccabbes entering the Bet Hamikdash and lighting the menorah with the jar of oil they found could be just one example. Engage your children’s pride by participating with them in the mitzvah of Pirsum Hanes. Allow them to brainstorm with you about ways to publicize the Hanukah miracles and inspire others. The younger children don’t need to be left out! Encourage them to engage each of their senses in preparing for the hag.

EMPOWERHold a family meeting in which you plan the family Hanukah party together. Involving your children in this process builds their self-esteem, gets them invested in the hag and shifts their focus away from gifts and towards the true meaning of Hanukah. It also teaches them about responsibility, teamwork, and conflict-resolution.

Wishing you all a joyful Hanukah as you strive to get back to the basics! Please don’t hesitate to share your Hanukah celebration ideas with me.

Ellen Kamaras, CPA/MBA, is an International Coach Federation Associate Certified Coach. Her coaching specialties include life, career and dating coaching. Ellen also supports individuals redefine who they want to be
as their circumstances change, whether it’s due to layoff, empty nesting,
loss of a spouse, divorce, change due to illness or retirement.
Ellen can be contacted at