Tuesday, December 12, 2017

So It's Chanuka

Praised are You, Our God, Ruler of the universe, Who made us holy through Your commandments and commanded us to kindle the Hanukah lights.
-Blessing over the Chanuka candles

Put on your yarmulke
Here comes Chanukah
So much funukah
To celebrate Chanukah

-Adam Sandler

Growing up in the wilds of the Old Country, Chanuka was my favorite holiday. Freezing cold outside, toasty warm inside, we kids would watch my father light the chanukiya as close to a window sill, but still remain in the almost windowless kitchen, as he could. My parents weren't going to risk having wax drip on the wall-to-wall carpeting in the living room with the floor to ceiling windows. Ten minutes later we would be eating the latkes my mother made drowned in apple sauce. We had dreidels, and in school, we played games and sang songs and most of the regularly scheduled lessons were cancelled.

Now I live in the wilds of the Negev, and things, while mostly the same, are somewhat different. Toasty warm outside, absolutely freezing inside my house, we all gather around a slew of chanukiyot that the kids light in front of the glass door so as to publicize the miracles that occurred, and watch wax drip on the tiles of the floor, to remain there until - well - probably forever.

The kids are older now, and not all are aways at home, so lighting the chanukiyot no longer takes hours. When they are all at home, by the time the last one finishes lighting her chanukiya, the candles on the first one's chanukiya have already burnt out, leaving the youngest 'the winner' in the nightly 'see who's chanukiya lasts the longest' contest. The older ones won't let that slide, so they give her the handmade in kindergarten, wonky chanukiya made of bottle tops and pipe cleaners to light. She actually has no problem with that, except for the time the house almost burned down. But hey.

I still make latkes - only we call them levivot. And they aren't necessarily made of potatoes. There are 12 billion different recipes available today to please any palate. Livivot with apples, with cilantro and jalapeno peppers, grilled cheese livivot, and one I saw today with chocolate ice cream. (This would never have gone over in the olden days of Israel, when ice cream was completely unavailable in the winter - but I digress). And who needs apple sauce when you have orange marmalade, tahina, and smoked salmon?

So Old Country
The kids still play with dreidels, which we now call sivivonim. They aren't quite the same as the ones I had. First, there is the letter 'pei' on the Israeli sivivon, rather than the 'shin' on the Old Country dreidel, which, no matter how many years have passed or how many sivivonim I have stepped on in my bare feet, gives me a thrill and a flush of pride. But more than that, today's sivivonim certainly aren't made of clay, but rather wire, bulletsHershey Kisses, marshmallows or Lego. And they don't just spin. Oh no; they draw pictures, they play music, they make shapes, they come apart and turn into storage units for even smaller sivivonim, and ultimately, they can be eaten.



Back in the old country, sufganiyot were called 'jambusters' and were available all year, and were not particularly a Chanuka delicacy. I have only recently come to understand that jambusters were unique to my home town, and in the rest of the world, jambusters are called jelly donuts. Jambusters are far more descriptive, if you ask me. In fact, jelly donuts don't even sound that appetizing.
Sufganiyot, however, is a whole other ball game.




No longer limited to simple strawberry jelly (jam), sufganiyot come in all sizes and flavors: mint, lemon pie, olive - the sky's the limit.


And so is the calorie count. But who's counting?



Sufganiyot, along with only one seder at Pesach, is a main reason to leave the Old Country and its jambusters behind, and make Aliyah.

Because the miracles happen here.
The sivivon I just stepped on is right.







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