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Tuesday, December 19, 2006

'The Darkest Night'

If you haven't done something special yet for Hanukkah, tonight is the night.  Invite friends over... make a party... do something special with the kids.  If you have an old copy of the Birnbaum siddur (prayerbook) around the house you can even curl up in a comfortable chair and read through a seldom-remembered 'megilah' called 'The Scroll of the Hasmoneans' (Here is a translation thanks to long-time treppenwitz reader 'Customer Servant'... and a good, in-depth explanation of its history can be found here).

So, why is this night different from all oth.... um, sorry... wrong holiday.

But seriously, tonight is different.

The fifth night of Hanukkah is called 'the darkest night', not because it falls on one of the last days of the Hebrew month of Kislev (meaning there is no moon), but because it is the only night of Hanukkah that can NEVER fall on Shabbat.

That's right, you heard me right... the way the Jewish calendar is set up, any night of Hanukkah can fall out on a Friday night except the fifth candle.   

On all other nights we eat both bread and matzo... er, sorry, did it again.  What I meant to say was that on all other nights the light of the Hanukkah candles is enhanced by the light - and kedushah (holiness) - of the Shabbat candles.  But on the fifth night the light from the Hanukiah (menorah) has to fight the darkness by itself.

That's where we come in.  A nice tradition has arisen of bringing extra light... extra celebration... extra kedushah to this night by doing something special with family and friends.

I was so moved by this tradition when I first heard about it that I decided to create a tangible reminder that I could carry around with me throughout the year.  Since I was a teenager I had wanted a signet ring but didn't like the ones with initials (and I didn't have a family crest).  So Zahava created a simple design that would always remind me that at times in my life when I am not surrounded by light and holiness... I have to provide a little of my own to help chase away the darkness.

Signet_1

May your fifth night be bright (here's a picture of the big kids lighting the fifth candle from a couple of years ago).

Ari_gili_5th_1

221_16_5_182

Posted by David Bogner on December 19, 2006 | Permalink

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wow, and how cool---we are having a party this afternoon/evening for my kids and friends! I'll be sure to pass on this tidbit of trivia! Thanks as always!

Posted by: EmahS | Dec 19, 2006 11:00:04 AM

Very nice..and very awesome ring. Our night will be spent packing...the move is only two days away!

Chag Sameach!

Posted by: Safranit | Dec 19, 2006 11:25:15 AM

Very cool. I like it. Of course the comic book geek in me keeps hearing Green Lantern say

In brightest day, in blackest night, no evil shall escape my sight!
Let those who worship evil's might, beware my power.. Green Lantern's light!"

Posted by: Jack | Dec 19, 2006 11:34:12 AM

Very nice... thanks for the info. (btw - what's a gal got to do to get a recent pic of her niece and nephews???!!!)
Happy Chanukkah.

Posted by: val | Dec 19, 2006 1:43:12 PM

EmahS... Don't thank me... I'm a giver. :-)

Safranit... Well at least as long as it takes for the candles to burn... take a break. :-)

Jack... Good to hear you had a well-rounded education. :-)

Val... Q: "what's a gal got to do to get a recent pic of her niece and nephews?" A: Get on a plane... and don't forget to pack your camera! :-)

Posted by: treppenwitz | Dec 19, 2006 1:54:19 PM

Hey! Long time no write! Am drowning in Christmas preparations! Need to buy a tree, stockings hung by the chimney with care and all that jazz...

What a beautiful tradition! I got goose bumps. But I've always loved Chanukkah, and was even invited to light one of the candles at a friend's house many years ago (she came and helped decorate the tree in return), but I don't think it was the 5th night.

and a lovely ring that Zahava designed!

PS Am scared that Jack remembers the whole Green Lantern thing...

Posted by: nrg | Dec 19, 2006 4:05:25 PM

Nice. Great concept. I will definitely talk about it around the latkes tonight.If I'd known about the fifth night concept I definitely would have written a story about it. There's always next year. By the way, being a Jersey Boy, Bruce Springsteen's Santa Claus is Coming to Town is what has always resonated for me.
Larry

Posted by: Jersey Boy | Dec 19, 2006 4:40:05 PM

very cool story. I was wondering why the brit we are going to is tonight (or at least whatever you call celebrating a new baby girl) and now I know!

Posted by: Katherine | Dec 19, 2006 5:20:53 PM

I had never heard of this custom. I always learn something when I visit your blog. I love the ring. It's very cool. The picture of your kids is very warm and beautiful. You could make your own Chanukah cards! Thanks for posting it!

Posted by: Tracey | Dec 19, 2006 5:56:55 PM

thats amazing, i didnt know that

channukah in the holy land is amazing also, i never want to leave

Posted by: sf lisa | Dec 19, 2006 7:50:27 PM

If you'd like to see the technicalities of why the fifth night cannot fall out on Shabbos, look here.

Posted by: Avromi | Dec 19, 2006 9:42:26 PM

NRG,

Don't ever challenge me to a game of Trivial Pursuit. ;)

Posted by: Jack | Dec 19, 2006 10:04:05 PM

I think I have heard this before but I didn't remember it til I read this post. What a nice tradition and ring!

Posted by: Essie | Dec 19, 2006 11:38:12 PM

This is a great lead-in to something I planned to post tonight - thanks!

Posted by: Elie | Dec 19, 2006 11:39:45 PM

A friend of mine wrote this up:

Notes:

1. Malei + Leap Year = Day this year equals day next year
K’sdran + Leap Year = 6 days later next year
Chaser + Leap Year = 5 days later next year

2. Malei = 5 days later next year
K’sdran = 4 days later next year
Chaser = 3 days later next year

3. We prefer a year to be K’sidran over Malei so we don’t push off Yom Tovim the next year.
4. The following are the number of days between Rosh Hashana and 29 Kislev:

Chaser or K’sidran = 88
Malei = 89

5. Each day is assigned a number as follows:

Sun=1, M=2, Tu=3, W=4, Th=5, F=6, Sa=7

6. Rosh Hashana can be the following: 2,3,5,7
Hoshana Raba can be the following: 1,2,4,6
Yom Kippur can NOT be 1,6

7. In a Malei year, there are 90 days between 29 Kislev this year, and Hoshana Raba the next year.

8. In a Malei Leap Year, there are 120 days between 29 Kislev and Rosh Hashana.

Cases:

Case #1: Any Chaser or K’sidran year

There are 88 days between Rosh Hashana and 29 Kislev. If 29 Kislev is Shabbat, then Rosh Hashana would have been Wednesday. ( 88 days divided by 7 leaves 4 days left over. 7,6,5,4 shows Rosh Hashana lands on Wednesday) If Rosh Hashana falls on Wednesday then 10 days later would land Yom Kippur on Friday. Since Yom Kippur can’t fall on Friday, then the 5th night of Chanukah can’t be on Shabbat.

Case#2: Regular Malei year

We noted above that in a Malei year, there are 90 days between 29 Kislev and Rosh Hashana the next year. If we divide 90 ( the total number of days) by 7 ( number of days in a week) we end up with a remainder of 6. This means that which ever day of the week 29 Kislev is this year, the rosh Hashana will be six days of the week later. If 29 Kislev is Shabbat, then Rosh Hashana would be Friday, and this would make Hoshana Raba fall on Shabbat. Since Hoshana Raba can’t fall on Shabbat, then 29 Kislev also can’t fall on Shabbat.

Case#3: Leap Year

A leap year has three possible amounts of days 383, 384, 385. If the year has 383 or 384 (K’sidran or chaser) then we apply case #1, and 29 Kislev can’t be on Shabbat. The last case is when we have a Malei leap year. Initially, this would allow us to have 29 Kislev be on Shabbat. Then Rosh Hashana would be on Tuesday ( There are 120 days between 29 Kislev and Rosh Hashana in this case). The problem lies in the fact that if we made the year K’sidran, then Rosh Hashana would fall on Monday, also an acceptable day of the week. According to Rambam, we want Rosh Hashana to fall on the earliest day possible, therefore we make the year K’Sidran, and not Malei.

Posted by: Avromi | Dec 19, 2006 11:50:22 PM

Nice ring!

Although I see that the reasons for the "Darkest Night" are purely technical, the way you wrote that "light from the Hanukiah (menorah) has to fight the darkness by itself", has given me food for some untechnical musings. It's a very poetic idea, and I wonder if there's anything more written about it... Symbolism?

Posted by: Irina | Dec 20, 2006 4:46:28 AM

Thanks for giving me a great little "vort" to tell over at a small family gathering tonight!

Posted by: RaggedyMom | Dec 20, 2006 4:51:24 AM

there are some mistakes in the technicalities - i will send you revised version when it is ready.

Posted by: Avromi | Dec 20, 2006 5:47:44 AM

Avromi lost me around point #1 ... in a dark mood now... ;_;

All kidding aside, that's a cool fact about Hannukah. I ended up spending a nice evening with my family by coincidence, even better to find out that it was the perfect night to do so.

Happy Hannukah!

Posted by: Chantyshira | Dec 20, 2006 6:21:36 AM

The candles on the menorah that your daughter is lighting are the same candles we are using this year. I think they come from Sfat?

Posted by: Fern | Dec 20, 2006 8:03:44 AM

David -

I hate to break this to you, but there's another, not so positive connotation to the fifth night.

From this article:

http://www.forward.com/articles/shelumiel-%E2%80%94-the-first-schlemiel/

"How the term schlemiel entered Yiddish as an insult is the subject of some speculation. One suggestion relates to the arcane permutations of the Hebrew calendar. On Hanukkah a different section of Numbers 7 is recited daily, recounting the gifts of the tribal chieftains who each brought a daily offering at the dedication of the Tabernacle (mishkan). On the first day of Hanukkah, the first chieftain’s name appears at the beginning, on the second day the second chieftain’s name, and so on. (On the eighth day, the gifts of chieftains 8-12 are read.)

The exception is the Sabbath during Hanukkah, when the Torah portion is that of the regular weekly cycle and the added maftir reading from a second scroll is the Hanukkah reading beginning with the daily chieftain. Only one day of Hanukkah’s eight never falls on a Sabbath: the fifth day. And which chieftain therefore never stars on the Sabbath, when the synagogue is far better attended than on a midwinter weekday morning? Why, Shelumiel ben Tsurishaddai, of course. Who else?"

So while it's nice to give the day some extra light and holiness, I hope no one ever sees your ring and thinks you're a schlemiel ...

Posted by: Dave (Balashon) | Dec 20, 2006 8:40:19 AM

Bogner, as always, illuminating the darkest corners of our lives... Fifth Night has always been the one night the boys can expect more than chocolate gelt during Chanukah, and that Avi can expect BOTH homemade latkes and sufganiot. All of the instruments come out; and we try to remember together all the words to all the Chanukah songs for which we know the chords. Everybody gets to spin Ema's entire collection of silver dreidels, one purchased for each Chanukah of our marriage. A special family night, filled with light, joy, gladness and honor, so may it be for... Oops! Fell into that whole "wrong holiday" thing...

Posted by: rutimizrachi | Dec 20, 2006 2:21:14 PM

Here is the revised edition by my friend Josh Rush.

Notes:

1. Malei + Leap Year = Day this year equals day next year
K’sidran + Leap Year = 6 days later next year
Chaser + Leap Year = 5 days later next year

2. Malei = 5 days later next year
K’sdran = 4 days later next year
Chaser = 3 days later next year

3. We prefer a year to be K’sidran over Malei so we don’t push off Yom Tovim the next year.

4. The following are the number of days between Rosh Hashana and 29 Kislev:

Chaser or K’sidran = 88
Malei = 89

5. Each day is assigned a number as follows:

Sun=1, M=2, Tu=3, W=4, Th=5, F=6, Sa=7

6. Rosh Hashana can be the following: 2,3,5,7
Hoshana Raba can be the following: 1,2,4,6
Yom Kippur can NOT be 1, 6

7. In a Malei year, there are 287 days between 29 Kislev this year, and Hoshana Raba the next year.

8. In a Malei Leap Year, there are 297 days between 29 Kislev and Rosh Hashana of the next year.

Cases:

Case #1: Any Chaser or K’sidran year

There are 88 days between Rosh Hashana and 29 Kislev. If 29 Kislev is Shabbat, then Rosh Hashana would have been Wednesday. (88 days divided by 7 leaves 4 days left over. 7,6,5,4 shows Rosh Hashana lands on Wednesday) If Rosh Hashana falls on Wednesday then 10 days later would land Yom Kippur on Friday. Since Yom Kippur can’t fall on Friday, then the 5th night of Chanukah can’t be on Shabbat.

Case#2: Regular Malei year

We noted above that in a Malei year, there are 287 days between 29 Kislev and Hoshana Raba the next year. If we divide 287 (the total number of days) by 7 (number of days in a week) we end up with a remainder of 0. This means that which ever day of the week 29 Kislev is this year Hoshana Raba will fall on that day next year. Since Hoshana Raba can’t fall on Shabbat, then 29 Kislev also can’t fall on Shabbat.

Case#3: Leap Year

A leap year has three possible amounts of days 383, 384, 385. If the year has 383 or 384 (K’sidran or chaser) then we apply case #1, and 29 Kislev can’t be on Shabbat. The last case is when we have a Malei leap year with 385 days. Initially, this would allow us to have 29 Kislev be on Shabbat and Rosh Hashana of the following year would fall on a Tuesday (there are 297 days between 29 Kislev and Rosh Hashana of the following year. 297 divided by 7 leaves three days left over, which would land Rosh Hashana on Tuesday). The problem lies in the fact that if we made the year K’sidran,(384 days dived by 7 leaves 2 days left over) then Rosh Hashana would fall on Monday, also an acceptable day of the week. Rambam brings down that we always try to keep the calendar K’sidran when possible. Additionally, Rambam notes that by keeping the calendar Malei, we would be pushing off Rosh Hashana an extra day, which is not desirable.

Posted by: Avromi | Dec 20, 2006 2:33:20 PM

Hi David AKA Trep,

Happy Channukah!

All the best to you and yours!

Despite my votes, you didn't win the Web Awards... good luck next year!

Shalom,
Maksim-Smelchak.

P.S.
Enjoying my gifted socks in a 'noggin way!

Posted by: Maksim-Smelchak | Dec 20, 2006 8:07:18 PM

Happy Chrismukkah :-) To you and yours.

Chag Sameach!

Posted by: Rami | Dec 21, 2006 10:10:02 AM

What's the deal with the Chanukiah on your signet ring? It seems to be filled from the wrong direction....not right to left?

...loved the article.

Chag Sameach,
Robby

Posted by: Robby Cicco | Dec 9, 2007 12:18:58 AM

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