The Hebrew word hanukkah means "dedication," and refers to the rededication of the second temple to the service of God during the successful revolt of the Maccabees against the Seleucid rulers of Syria in the second century BCE.
As you’ve undoubtedly heard, the Jewish calendar and the secular calendar offer a strange convergence in the United States this year as Hanukkah and Thanksgiving coincide. The Jewish media has been full of humorous articles about combined menus (like this one from Jewish cooking expert Tina Wasserman) featuring foods like latkes with cranberry sauce, and the term “Thanksgivukkah” has been coined to describe the merged holiday.
When the Rabbis divided the Torah into its 54 parashiyot (portions), they generally arranged for each portion to begin with a unique or otherwise significant word that would in some way summarize major themes of the entire section.
When someone asked a friend of mine what his daughter enjoys most about living in Israel, he explained that she loves the way the country’s secular rhythms synch seamlessly with religious time in a way that doesn’t happen in North America. By way of example, he described Shabbat and holidays as characterized by closed shops, quiet streets, and low-key television programming.