Reading with Be’chol Lashon: Hanukkah Moon

Be’chol Lashon Review

In Deborah Da Costa’s delightful book, “Hanukkah Moon, Isobel is invited to Aunt Luisa’s for Hanukkah in Mexico. Isobel’s not sure what to expect. Once there, Isobel learns that Jews from Latin America also celebrate “Januca” but with a few differences. Isobel’s days at Aunt Luisa’s are filled with fun and surprises including a dreidel piñata filled with sweets.

Isobel also celebrates the Rosh Chodesh, the new moon that appears on Hanukkah. She visits welcomes the mysterious late night luna nueva or Hanukkah moon.

“This story reflects the celebration of the new moon that occurs during Hanukkah. This custom is popular among Sephardic Jews (those whose ancestors came from Spain), who settled in Latin America.” The way Aunt Luisa celebrates the Festival of Lights unlike anyone else Isobel knows, and that this is a wonderful thing!

Hanukkah marks the anniversary of the Maccabean revolt to reclaim the temple of Jerusalem. In the famous tale, the Maccabees did not have enough oil to light the temple’s lanterns for celebration. Miraculously, the small amount of oil lasted eight full days and nights. To honor this classic story, Jews all over the world light menorahs on Hanukkah for eight consecutive nights.

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Discussion Questions

  1. How does your family celebrate Hanukkah? Is it different or similar to how Aunt Lucia celebrates Hanukkah in Mexico?
  2. What is one of your favorite Hanukkah traditions from around the world?
  3. What is Rosh Chodesh and why is it significant?

How to Play Dreidel

Playing with the dreidel is a traditional Hanukkah game played in Jewish homes all over the world and rules may vary. Here’s how to play the basic dreidel game:

  1. Any number of people can take part. Each player begins the game with an equal number of game pieces (about 10-15) such as pennies, nuts, chocolate chips, raisins, matchsticks, etc.
  2. At the beginning of each round, every participant puts one game piece into the center “pot.”
  3. Every time it’s your turn, spin the dreidel once. Depending on the side it lands on, you give or get game pieces from the pot.
    a) Nun means “nisht” or “nothing.” The player does nothing.
    b) Gimel means “gantz” or “everything.” The player gets everything in the pot.
    c) Hey means “halb” or “half.” The player gets half of the pot. (If there is an odd number of pieces in the pot, the player takes half of the total plus one).
    d) Shin (outside of Israel) means “shtel” or “put in.” Peh (in Israel) also means “put in.” The player adds a game piece to the pot.
  4. If you find that you have no game pieces left, you are either “out” or may ask a fellow player for a “loan.” When one person has won everything, that round of the game is over!
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