Hanukkah 2020

Hanukkah begins this coming Thursday evening. This is certainly a different year than what we’re used to. Here in Southern California we are going on lock-down again tonight – mandatory ‘stay at home’ orders, many more businesses closed, and we are being asked to not engage or interact with others who are not part of our own households. So much for holiday celebrations!!

As difficult as the social isolation has been and the tremendous strain on families unable to work, go to school and do so much of what we are used to doing, we are thankful for health, the incredible efforts of our medical personnel, emergency and city infrastructure employees who keep our cities functioning, the essential workers who make sure we can get what we need for ourselves and others, and friends, community leaders and clergy who have moved our communal life online and are doing what they can to keep us connected to one another.

It’s been a difficult year. Had anyone told us last year at this time that our entire way of life would be upended and the health of the entire world would be in peril…..we would have been incredulous. And now, after this tumultuous time, perhaps a vaccine is in sight. Perhaps there is a chance that we can leave our homes again soon and be together. Perhaps…..

This is, after all, the season of miracles.

Hanukkah celebrates the re-dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem after the Jewish victory over the Greeks in 165 BCE. The true miracle is that the Jews prevailed, the few against the many – and our Torah, our values and our essence of being as a people has survived, and BeH, will continue to not only survive but thrive, forever.

A favorite story is the Miracle of the Oil. The Jews went to reclaim and restore the Temple in Jerusalem after it had been defiled and left in ruins by the Greeks. There was only enough oil left to rekindle the candelabra for one day, though it was to burn throughout the night each and every night. It would be several days before more oil could be obtained. By virtue of a Miracle, the oil burned for 8 days and nights, until more oil became available. 

To commemorate the Miracle, we prepare foods cooked in oil for the holiday of Hanukkah. Favorites are latkes (potato pancakes), sufganiyot (filled donuts), and in our family, burmuelos (fried dough).

Growing up, I had never had latkes. Our Hannukah treat was always burmuelos – light, fried dough pillows bathed in a light, sweet syrup that is absolutely divine! (often compared to a New Orleans’ beignet, or a Greek loukoumades)

Made from a yeast dough, it takes some time for the dough to rise and be ready to fry. My mom will make the dough ahead of time and after dinner, drop the dough by spoonfuls into hot oil, watch them puff and turn a golden brown as she prepares the honey syrup. Once the burmuelos are ready, she will bathe them in syrup and we’ll eat them, warm and fresh! Divine, indeed!

Below is the recipe. Give them a try…..and enjoy!

My Mom uses the recipe from the cookbook, “Comé Con Gana,” compiled by the Sisterhood of Congregation Or Ve Shalom in Atlanta, GA.

1 tsp yeast
1/2 C and 1 1/2 C warm water
pinch of salt
3 C flour
1 egg
oil (for frying)

Soften yeast in 1/2 cup warm water. In mixing bowl add dry ingredients. Add yeast mixture, egg and remaining warm water. MIx well. Allow to rise in covered bowl in warm place for 2 hours. 

Fill a quart pot with 3 inches of cooking oil. Allow to get very hot. 

Drop a teaspoon of soft dough into the hot oil. Then another…… continue. 

Remove with slotted spoon when golden brown. Bathe in syrup.


1 C sugar
3 Tblsps honey
1/2 C water

Boil together until sticky. Pour over burmuelos.

The Pandemic will end, BeH. Gam Zeh Ya’avor……This, too, shall pass. May we all be together with our families and friends soon, celebrating the many incredible moments of life. Let’s plan on it!!

~Bendichas Manos