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Hanukkah Art Project
Jill Suzanne Jacobs

With your children:
Tell the Hanukkah story to your child and discuss the miracle of the oil. Ask your child, what other miracles happened in the Hanukkah story? Discuss with your child the nature and meaning of miracles. Sometimes the miracles are awesome, like the parting of the Red Sea. But, other smaller miracles happen every day: when we hug the people we love and feel good, when we eat nutritious food and grow strong, when we learn things every day. These too, are miracles, and we must open our eyes to see them. Ask your child, what other miracles happen every day?

Explain to your child that it is a custom to place the Hanukiah (special Hanukkah candelabra [or menorah] with nine candle holders) in the window or outside the front door in order to publicize ("let everyone know about") the miracle. Ask, why do you think it is importance to publicize the miracle? What other ways could we "publicize the miracle?"

One way to "publicize the miracle" is by making "Stained Glass" to hang in your window during the Hanukkah Season.

White construction paper or art paper
Large Hanukkah pictures (dreidels, menorahs), etc. You can draw these or photocopy from a coloring book
One black marker
A paintbrush
Oil (any kind will do, vegetable oil is best)
Newspaper (or some other suitable paper) to cover your table

Using a black marker, draw lines on your Hanukkah image, so that it looks like stained glass
Pour some oil into a container
Give your child the following art supplies: crayons, paintbrush, oil

Using crayons, fill in the stained glass squares with different colors
Paint over the entire sheet of paper with oil

When your piece is dry, it will be translucent, and you can hang it in your window to publicize the miracle of Hanukkah. If you want, you can also create pictures of every-day miracles (the sun rising, food on the table, love in families), and hang those in the window as well. You might even want to make a sign to add to your display that reads: "A Great Miracle Happened There" ...or "Great Miracles Are Happening Here!"

Background Information on Hanukkah:

Hanukkah is an unusual, if not downright strange, Jewish holiday. Its main ritual -- the lighting of lights in increasing number as the days grow shorter and darker -- is startlingly pagan. In fact we do know that around the time of the winter solstice a pagan ritual was held, called the Saturnelia, and the Talmud suggests that Jews participated in this holiday, to the chagrin of their Rabbinic leaders. So what is it about this holiday and its rituals that makes it so beloved, then as well as now, in Israel and North America, and indeed all over the Jewish world? And more importantly, what is the meaning of it?

From an historical perspective, Hanukkah is one of the most documented holidays of the Jewish calendar. We know from the writings of Josephus and the apochraphal works of Maccabees I and II that in the Second Century BCE a war did indeed take place between a group of Jews and the Assyrian army, and the Jews were victorious. It was not only a military victory, but a cultural one which liberated Jews from Hellenistic domination.

Today, much meaning has been made from these historical events. In Israel, Hanukkah is often a time to celebrate the military might and victories of the modern-day Israel. In North America, the cultural and religious struggles of the Hanukkahstory is often seen as a mirror image of our struggles in the present day. Just as the Jews of the Hellenistic Era struggled to balance the demands of their Jewish heritage with the lure of a powerful and enticing surrounding culture, so too do we.

The Rabbis who wrote and codified the Talmud in Sixth Century Babylon surely must have had access to these texts, just as we do today. Yet the Rabbis chose to find another meaning in the Hanukkah story: the seeing, discovering, and celebration of miracles, even in the most unlikely of places. There is much that we as parents and teachers seeking to impart a sense of Judaism and spirituality to our children can learn from this.

The Talmud asks, "What is the reason for Hanukkah?" and then answers. When the Greeks entered the Temple they defiled the oil. When the Maccabbees had defeated them, they entered the Temple to rededicate it and found only one jar of oil suitable for lighting the Temple Menorah. Although the oil was expected to last for only one day, a miracle occurred and the Menorah burned for eight days. That this miracle may or may not have occurred is less important than the message it sends: miracles can and do occur, if we open our eyes to see them.

The morning liturgy also reminds us of this, as it guides us to thank G-d for waking up, for the wonders of our bodies, and the beauty of the morning light. And so on Hanukkah, not only are we obligated to kindle lights, but we are to place them in a place where all can see, such as our front window or even outside our front door. The reason for this, is the purpose of the Hanukkah lights: the celebration and the publication of miracles. When we publicize the Hanukkah miracle we affirm our belief not only in the miracle of Hanukkah, but the every day miracles that are happening all around us, and we encourage others to do the same.

The seeking, discovering and the celebration of miracles is indeed the very essence of life. When we teach our children to see miracles that are happening all around them, we teach them to find joy and meaning in their everyday lives. And so it is that Hanukkah is a celebration of miracles and it is incumbent upon us not only to recognize the miracle, but to publicize it by placing our Hanukkiah in our window or outside our front door.

May your Hanukkah nights be filled with light, and your days filled with wonder. Happy Hanukkah!

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