Vox Tablet

Forget Spelling It: Most of Us Have No Idea What This Holiday Is Even About

Tablet friends and family help us puzzle out Hanukkah’s origin story—and explain why we don’t celebrate a ninth day of oil

December 15, 2014
(Photo Illustration: Tablet Magazine; Main photo: Flickr/Andrzej Szymański)

(Photo Illustration: Tablet Magazine; Main photo: Flickr/Andrzej Szymański)

When some of the Tablet staff started talking about Hanukkah, it became apparent how little we could assert about the holiday’s particulars. Some knew it involved violence. Others that there was eight days’ worth of oil to light a menorah. Still others that the word “Hanukkah” means dedication. But how did those elements fit together in an origin story?

To find out, we asked Tablet readers and friends to send in their take of the Hanukkah story. Many people obliged us—you can find a terrific mash-up of their answers here:

And we had winners! Joanna Brichetto sent us the best response, though Henry Alford gets a shout-out for humor; David Tuchman for poetic invention; and Miriam Newman for being so knowledgeable at the tender age of 8. (These four winning entries are available for listening below.)

Then, we sought out an expert, Alfred Ivry, a professor of Jewish philosophy and father of Vox Tablet host Sara Ivry, to help clear up collective confusion.

Vox Tablet is Tablet Magazine’s weekly podcast, hosted by Sara Ivry and produced by Julie Subrin. You can listen to individual episodes here or subscribe on iTunes.

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