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.