Some claim that the word Chanuka comes from two words: Chanu (camped, parked), and Ka (kaf-he; twenty-five). After their cha’na’yah (camping), the Macabees made an encampment (ma’cha’neh) with their army in the new Temple. They did this on the date of kah (kaf-he) during the month Cheshvan (the 25th in the month of Cheshvan in the Jewish calendar). From here we learn a new word in Hebrew: Ma’cha’neh, which means an encampment, and can be used to describe a military base as well. The Macabees camped (chanu) their army at the site of the new Temple, and built their encampment (ma’cha’neh) there.
Another explanation comes from the fact that this was the event when the First Temple was inaugurated (chu’nach). But what does the word la’chnoch (to inaugurate) mean andwhere does it come from?
Indeed, it may sound surprising, but the word la’chnoch actually comes from the word le’chanech, which means to educate. Just as we would educate a young child through an investment of time and energy, we would commemorate our time and effort through the inauguration of a new home. This is how the Macabees commemorated the Chanuka (inauguration) of the Temple.
Chanukais also known asChag HaUrim (The Festival of Lights)
This is a good opportunity to learn the word na’or (enlightened) which has at its root the word or (light). An enlightened person is one who is educated, is wise in the ways of the world, and is no longer in darkness. A person such as this is considered to be filled with light, enlightened with knowledge. We all strive to educate (lehanech) and enlighten ourselves.
At last we come to our favorite treat, the sufgania. Interestingly, in the United States people eat doughnuts throughout the whole year, whereas in Israel they are usually reserved for Chanuka.
So why do we call this fried piece of dough a sufgania?
The reason is because the sufgania is s’fuga (soaked; feminine) in cooking oil. The miracle at the Temple occurred because the oil kept on burning, thereby explaining the custom of eating oil-soaked foods. Your dietician might be opposed to this practice, but it sure is tasty!
From this connection, we can now better understand the word s’fog (a sponge). A sufgania absorbs the oil like a sponge absorbs water.
Let us use the words sufgania and s’fog to learn yet another word: Sponga (mopping). This word is Hebrew slang for mopping the floor and derives from the English word ‘sponge’. Of course, we do a sponga to soak up liquids that have been spilled.
The word Chanuka comes from the word cha’na’yah, or from the word ma’cha’neh. Another source is the word le’chanech.
The word na’or, meaning enlightened and educated has at its root the word or (light).
The word sufgania comes from the word lisfog (to soak), because it soaks up the oil. Remember the words s’fog, which soaks up water, and the word sponga, which means mopping water. On second thought, forget about the word sponga, this is a holiday for celebrating, not for household chores!