The Joy of Latkes

Posted on Dec 5, 2017 in Rabbi's Messages

Hmmmmm, there’s something about the aroma wafting through the room as latkes are frying in oil.  The rich fragrance brings with it a warmth and reminder of a good meal to come. For Ashkenazi Jews (those of East European descent), we eat potato pancakes called latkes during the 8 nights of Hanukkah.  Sephardic Jews, on the other hand, eat jelly filled doughnuts called sufganiot.  Eating foods with oil may not be the healthiest of dietary choices and yet they remind us of the miracles of Hanukkah.

After the Maccabees’ victory over the Seleucids (Syrian-Greeks), they recovered our holy Temple in Jerusalem. Much to their horror, they found the altar and sacred vessels broken, garbage strewn over the floors, and pagan idols within its precincts. Cleaning up the Temple carefully, the warriors found a small cruse of oil that was only enough to illuminate the darkness for one day. Working by the light of this oil, our people joyfully discovered that it continued to burn not just for one day, or two, or three but for 8 days! The greater miracle, of course, was the defeat of an army more powerful and numerous than our rag tag Maccabees.

Oil and light continue to be our way of celebrating Hanukkah. Light is a symbol of hope even in the darkest nights of the year. It reminds us that the weak can overcome the mighty and that we as Jews have survived and flourished for thousands of years. We will proudly light our menorahs beginning on Tuesday evening, December 12 and continue to add one candle till the eight lights of the menorah brighten our homes. Some people put a menorah or an electric one in the window to joyfully publicize this wonderful holiday.

One of my favorite latke recipes comes from the LA times kitchen called, “Winter Sunshine Latkes.” The recipe calls for equal parts of sweet potato, potato, parsnip, and carrot and combines them with eggs, baking powder, flour, and fresh herbs. It’s healthier and more flavorful than the usual potato recipe. If you are interested, try this link: http://www.latimes.com/la-fohanukkahrec9a-2009dec09,0,7395088.story

In the meantime, we hope to see you at our Hanukkah party on Friday night, December 15. Appetizers and wine begin at 5:00 p.m., followed by dinner at 6:00, and then a musical worship experience at 7:30 p.m. featuring our adult and children’s choirs and a dramatic telling of the Hanukkah story that describes how our people stood up as one to fight for Torah, independence, and the future of our children.

I want to wish you and your families a joyful and meaningful Hanukkah.