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Eight Ideas for Khanike Gelt

Lawrence Bush
December 8, 2016

by Lawrence Bush


KHANIKE GELT (gifts of money) has roots in days of Jewish poverty, when children rarely had a penny of their own. In contemporary times of Jewish prosperity, perhaps it is the whole family’s turn to give gelt. Here are some suggestions for Khanike-season giving.

FIRST CANDLE: The “Miracle of Oil” -- one day’s worth burning for eight days -- is a wonderful metaphor for how resources can be stretched and shared for the benefit of all. Have a discussion about your community -- and give gelt to a low-income community development project.

SECOND CANDLE: Women are said to have played a special role in resisting the Hellenists, so women are traditionally excused from work while the candles are burning. Dedicate this night to a discussion of women, work, and family -- and give gelt to a feminist cause.

THIRD CANDLE: Khanike foods are poor people’s foods -- fried potatoes (latkes, Ashkenazic) and fried dough (sufganiyot, Sephardic). Give gelt to a hunger relief project.

FOURTH CANDLE: Khanike was truly a minor holiday until the late 19th century, when Jewish radicals and Zionists began promoting its militant ideals. Talk about the meaning of Jewish security today -- and give gelt to an Israeli peace organization.

FIFTH CANDLE: The menorah is to be publicly displayed in a window or doorway. Discuss the realities of pride and persecution for Jews, LGBTQ people, and other minority groups -- and give gelt to a civil rights organization.

SIXTH CANDLE: Khanike coincides with the darkest time of the year (in the northern hemisphere) and has roots in ancient winter solstice festivals. Devote a discussion to issues of ecological renewal -- and give gelt to an environmental organization.

SEVENTH CANDLE: Khanike is briefly debated in the Talmud: Shammai urges lighting the candles in diminishing order, while Hillel urges increasing the light each night. Discuss the role of interpretation, creativity, and pluralism in Jewish life -- and give gelt to a Jewish cultural organization.

EIGHTH CANDLE: Khanike commemorates the victory over Greek Syrian oppressors who banned religious expression. Discuss the meaning of ethnic and religious freedom in the world today -- and give gelt to a human rights or civil liberties group.

Lawrence Bush edits Jewish Currents and is co-author of Jews, Money and Social Responsibility.

​​​​Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.