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About Dov Gartenberg

Rabbi Dov Gartenberg is the Convener and Director of Panim Hadashot-New Faces.

8 Questions and 8 Dipping’s of the Hanukkah Seder by Rabbi Dov Gartenberg

A Hanukkah Oil Lamp Menorah Suspended in the Air in Jerusalem


1st Dipping:

What was the miracle of Hanukah? A Debate within Judaism

A piece of winter bread dipped in extra virgin olive oil

Effect: Tasting olive oil, the central food of Hanukkah

2nd Dipping

How was Hanukah a war of cultures?

A piece of Greek pita dipped in almond oil.

Effect: A culinary mixing of cultures

3rd Dipping

What was the cause of the Jewish revolt against Antiochus?

A piece of flatbread cracker or lavash dipped burnt almond oil

Effect: The searing taste of persecution.

4th Dipping

Why did some Jews choose to die for God?

A piece of rosemary bread dipped in a mixed oil with chives, roasted onions, sage leaves.

Effect: An initial pleasant taste with a distinct and long lasting aftertaste.

5th Dipping

Why did other Jews choose the path of resistance over martyrdom?

A piece of dark rye dipped in a mixed oil of cardamom and sumac oil

Effect: A sour taste

6th Dipping

Theme: Were the Maccabees heroes or zealots?

A piece of roasted garlic bread dipped in a mixed oil with cinnamon, cumin, fresh green chiles

Effect: Delayed burn from the chiles.

7th Dipping

What is the Historical Legacy of Hanukah?

A piece of Challah dipped in the mixed oil of bitter lemon with rose water.

Effect: Scent is good. Not as bitter

8th Dipping

Theme: What are the Modern Lessons Hanukah for Our Times?

A piece of sweet, fruity bread dipped in a fruity extra virgin olive oil.

Effect: A rich fruity taste


A Modern Travelers Hanukkah Menorah with an Ancient Feel


The Questions posed are in this series of blog posts are part of Rabbi Gartenberg's Hanukkah Seder. For a copy, write to him at

Question for the 8th Night:  What is the historical legacy of Hanukkah?

Dipping for the 8th Question: Dip a piece of sweet, fruity bread into a fruity extra virgin olive oil.

Effect: A very rich and fruity taste suggesting Hanukkah's rich and contemporary legacy.

Text for Discussion 

"In this time, too, many universal cultures - Marxism and Communism, triumphalist Christianity (and Islam) certain forms of liberalism and radicalism, fascism, even monolithic Americanism have demanded that Jews dissolve and become part of humankind. All these philosophies have claimed that Jews can depend on their principles and structures to provide for Jewish rights.

The Maccabee revolution made clear that a universalism that denies the rights of the particular to exist is inherently totalitarian and will end up oppressing people in the name of one humanity. Universalism must surrender its overweening demands and accept the universalism of pluralism. Only when the world admits that oneness comes out of particular existences, linked through overarching unities, will it escape the inner dynamics of conformity that lead to repression and cruelty."

Rabbi Irving Greenberg

Commentary for Discussion

Instead of "universalism", read "white supremacists".  This text, written over twenty years ago, did not foresee the dramatic culture clash between the white supremacists and minority cultures? Does the story of Hanukkah give us more insight into how to create a pluralist and tolerant culture in America and beyond?   Another provocative question is how to understand Hanukkah in Israel, the third Jewish commonwealth? How does the majority Jewish Israeli culture treat minorities and other particular cultures?



The Questions posed are in this series of blog posts are part of Rabbi Gartenberg's Hanukkah Seder. For a copy, write to him at

Question for the 7th Night:  What is the historical legacy of Hanukkah?

Dipping for the 7th Question: Dip a piece of challah into mixed oil of bitter lemon and rosewater.

Effect   An sweet scent that tempers a bitter taste.

Text for Discussion 

Paraphrase of Babylonian Talmud Gittin 56a

"Jerusalem was under siege by the Romans prior to 70CE, @200 years alter the revolt of the Maccabees. The Biryoni (the zealot gangs) were then in the city.

The Rabbis said to them: Let us go out and make peace with them [the Romans], They would not let them leave but on the contrary said, Let us go out and fight Romans.

The Rabbis said: You will not succeed. The Biryoni then rose up and burnt the stores of wheat and barley so that a famine ensued. 

Abba Sikra the head of the Biryoni in Jerusalem was the son of the sister of Rabban Yochanan b. Zakkai.  Rabban Yochanan sent to him saying, 'Come to visit me privately.'  When he came he said to him, 'How long are you going to carry on in this way and kill all the people of Jerusalem with starvation? 'He replied: 'What can I do? If I say a word to my men, they will kill me.' He said: 'Devise some plan for me to escape. Perhaps I shall be able to save a little.' He said to him: 'Pretend to be ill, and let everyone come to inquire about you, Bring something evil smelling and put it by you so that they will say you are dead. Then let your disciples put you in a bier with some stones so that the sentries shall not notice that you are still light, since they know that a living being is lighter than a corpse.' He did so, and. R. Eliezer went under the bier from one side and R. Joshua from the other. When they reached the door, some men wanted to put a lance through the bier. He said to them: 'Shall [the Romans] say. They have pierced their Master?' They wanted to give it a push. He said to them: 'Shall they say that they pushed their Master?' They opened a town gate for him and he got out."

Commentary for Discussion

Imagine that all the historic figures carried in their memory the success of the Maccabean revolt. How might that have shaped their view of the resistance to the Romans and the Roman army 200 years later?  Yochanan's decision to abandon Jerusalem was one of the most important decisions of Jewish history?  What does this story reveal about the legacy of Hanukkah?

The Questions posed are part of Rabbi Gartenberg's Hanukkah Seder. For a copy, write to him at

Dipping for the 6th Question: Dip roasted. garlic bread in a special mixed oil of with cinnamon, cumin, Fresh green chile.

Effect   An initial sweet and savory taste followed by the chile's delayed burn.

Text for Discussion 

"In those days [of religious persecution by King Antiochus], a priest named Mattathias moved from Jerusalem with his five sons and settled in Modiin.  When he saw the blasphemous things that were going on in Judea and Jerusalem, he said with a heavy sigh, "Why was I born to witness the ruin of my people and the ruin of the Holy City and to sit by while it is being given up to its enemies, and its Temple to aliens?" Mattathias and his sons tore their clothes in mourning.

Later, the king's officers who were forcing the people to give up their religion, came to the town of Modiin, to make them offer an idolatrous sacrifice. When many Jews, among them Mattathias and his sons, gathered together, the king's messengers said to Mattathias:

"You are a leading man, great and distinguished in this town, surrounded with sons and brothers; now be the first to come forward and carry out the king's command as all the peoples, all the men of Judea, and those who are left in Jerusalem have done. Then you and your sons will be counted among the Friends of the King and will receive silver, gold and many royal commissions."

Then Mattathias answered and said in a loud voice: "Even if all the peoples in the king's dominions listen to him and forsake each of them the religion of their ancestors, I and my children and my siblings will live in accordance with the covenant of our ancestors. God forbid that we should abandon the Torah and the mitzvot. We will not listen to the message of the king, nor depart from our religion to the right hand or to the left."

When Mattathias finished speaking, a Jew went up before everyone's eyes to offer the pagan sacrifice on the altar in Modiin as the king commanded. Mattathias saw him and was filled with righteous anger. Shaking with emotion and unable to contain his anger, Mattathias ran up and slaughtered him upon the altar.

At the same time Mattathias killed the king's officer who was trying to compel them to sacrifice, and tore down the altar.  Then Mattathias cried out in a loud voice in the town, "Let everybody who is zealous for the Torah and stands by the Covenant  (Brit) follow me."

And he and his sons fled to the mountains and left all they possessed in the town."

Excerpted from the Book of Maccabees

Commentary to Catalyze Discussion

The question we pose is difficult, because from childhood we have been taught about the heroics of the Maccabees. Their revolt against the extreme laws of Antiochus led to a military victory and to the establishment of the short lived second common wealth of the Jewish people in the land of Israel. The place and legacy of the Maccabees, also known as the Hasmoneans, is very complicated and yields no easy answer.  What is the role of violent resistance during periods of persecution?  Did the zeal of the Maccabees create new problems for the Jews?  Why did the rabbis not highlight the martial skill and heroism of the Maccabees in the ancient rabbinic sources?

On the fifth night of Hanukkah we pose this question: Why did the Jews reject passive resistance against Antiochus?

We pose and discuss this question as we dip a piece of dark rye bread into Cardamon and Sumac Flavored Oil.

"[Due to the persecution] many seekers for justice went down into the wilderness to settle with their children, their wives and their cattle, because their hardships had become so severe. News reached the king's agents and the Greek forces that were in Jerusalem that people who had disregarded the king's order had gone down to the hiding places in the wilderness. The soldiers pursued them in force, overtook them, pitched their camp opposite [the mountain caves where they hid] and prepared to attack them on Shabbat.

The Greeks said to the Jews, "Enough! Come out and do as the king commands, and you will live." The refugees replied, "We will not come out nor do as the king commands and break the Sabbath."

Then the Greeks hastened to attack them, while the Jews made no response; they did not throw a stone at them nor block up their hiding places, for they said, "Let us all die guiltless. We call heaven and earth to witness that you destroy us unlawfully. [But we will not violate the laws of Shabbat by conducting war on this holy day]."

So the Greeks attacked them on the Shabbat, and the Jews died with their children and their cattle - a thousand people.

When Mattathias and his friends learned of [the massacre], they grieved bitterly and said to one another: "If we all do as our brothers have done and refuse to fight [on Shabbat] against the pagans, for our lives and for what we believe is right, they will very soon wipe us off the face of the earth." On that day they reached this decision: "If anyone attacks us on Shabbat, let us fight against them and not all die, as our brothers died in the hiding places." " I Maccabees 2:29-41

This famous passage reveals a significant evolution of Jewish law which became a principle of Jewish self-defense that is operative in Israel and in the Jewish world today. This text raises a lot of questions. How was Shabbat practiced in antiquity? It is hard to fathom that the Greeks were the first to detect this "Jewish vulnerability." Were there other instances when Jews were attacked on the Shabbat? Why did some Jews choose martyrdom and other Jews choose to violently resist, even breaking the Sabbath to do so?

Why did some Jews choose to die for God?

The Maccabean revolt is the first appearance of martyrdom in the history of religion. The most vivid story of Martyrdom we tell below.  As we explore this question at the Hanukkah Seder, we dip rosemary bread into an oil mixed with chives, roasted onion, and sage.

The two texts I below are separated by over a thousand years. The earlier one is an accounting of a famous story in the Book of Maccabees about a sage, Elazar, who matyrs himself before Antioches.  The second is from the great rabbi, Maimonides written to the Jews of Morocco called Igeret Hashmad, The Epistle on Martyrdom.

As you read and discuss these two texts, explore the meaning of matyrdom?  When does the tradition insist that we should give up our lives and when does it coach compromise.? How do you judge the situation of Elazar.  In retrospect, is his martyrdom necessary and justified?  Is there a criteria for Jewish martyrdom in our times?

The Martyrdom of the Jews Against Antioches, IV Maccabees 5 and 6: Period of Time: @170 BCE

Elazar was one of the leading scribes a man of advanced age and fine appearance [with a silver gray beard]. When ordered to eat pork, he refused.

When Antiochus saw Elazar's public refusal, he spoke to him persuasively: "Before I commence inflicting torture upon you, graybeard, I would give you this counsel: eat of the pig's flesh and save yourself. I respect your age and your gray head; but I cannot think you a philosopher when you have so long been an elder and still cling to the religion of the Jews. Why are you disgusted by eating the excellent meat of this animal?"

Elazar responded coolly and defiantly:

"We, Antiochus, who out of conviction lead our lives in accordance with the divine Law believe no constraint more compelling than our own willing obedience to the Torah; and therefore under no circumstance do we deem it right to violate the it. We do not regard the eating of unclean flesh a small offense.

You mock at our philosophy. Yet it teaches us self-control, so that we rule over all pleasures and desires; and it trains us in courage, so that we willingly endure any difficulty. I shall not violate the sacred oaths of my ancestors who swore to observe the Torah, not even if you cut my eyes out and burn my insides. I am neither so decrepit, nor so ignoble, that reason should lose the vigor of youth in the cause of religion. So make ready your torturer's wheel, fan your fires to a fiercer heat. You shall not defile the sacred lips of my old age. Pure shall my [deceased] ancestors welcome me [after death]"

The king ordered the torture to begin in order to break Elazar's will. With his head raised high to heaven, the old man suffered a fierce whipping; he was flowing with blood, and his sides were lacerated. He fell to the ground when his body was no longer able to endure the torment; but he kept his reason erect and unbent. Whenever he fell, one of the savage guards kicked him in the side to make him get up. Elazar endured the pain, despised the compulsion, prevailed over the torments, and like a noble athlete under blows, outstripped his torturers. with his face bathed in sweat and his panting breath coming hard, his stoutness of heart won the admiration even of his torturers....

Those who were in charge of that unlawful sacrificial meal, because of their longstanding acquaintance with Elazar, took him aside. Privately they urged him to provide his own meat, which he could properly eat, and pretend that he was eating the meat of the sacrifice, as the king had ordered. By doing this he might escape the death penalty, and on account of his lifelong friendship with them, be kindly treated. But Elazar refused.

"It does not become our time of life to pretend, and so lead many young people to suppose that Elazar, when ninety years old, has gone over to foreign worship, lest they be led astray through me. If I pretend (to eat pork) for the sake of this short and insignificant life, I will defile and disgrace my old age. For even if for the present, I escape human punishment, whether I live or die I shall not escape the hands of the Almighty. Therefore by giving up my life now, I will prove myself worthy of my advanced years, and leave to the young a noble example of how to die willingly and nobly for the sacred and holy laws.

Contrast the above to this famous text on matyrdom in Jewish tradition written in the 12th century. 

A Description of a passage from Maimonides Epistle on Matyrdom by Shmuel Aryeh Kaltoft

The first theme, the class of laws related to the time of forced conversions, is split up in three classes:
1. Laws concerning idolatry, incest, and bloodshed. 2. Forced transgressions based on the oppressor's benefit. 3. Forced transgressions forced by the oppressor to make the Jew sin, with no benefit for the oppressor.

1: If one is forced to break any of the commandments related to idolatry, incest, or bloodshed, he is to accept death rather than transgress. There are no exceptions to this ruling.

2: All other commandments that the Jew is forced to transgress, and it is for the benefit for the oppressor, the Jew is to transgress and not chose death.

3: All other commandments that the Jews is forced to transgress, and there is no benefit whatsoever for the oppressor, the Jew should always accept death if it is in public. If it is in private he is allowed to transgress if it is not in a time of persecution, but if it is in a time of persecution, he must accept death.

What Was the Cause of the Jewish Revolt Against Antiochus?

At the Hanukkah Seder we dip Lavash into burnt Almond Oil upon asking this question and the presentation of this ancient text.

"Moreover, King Antiochus wrote to his whole kingdom, that all should be one people. And everyone should leave his laws; so all the heathen agreed according to the commandment of the king.  Yea, many also of the Israelites consented to his religion, and sacrificed unto idols, and profaned the Sabbath. For the king had sent letters by messengers unto Jerusalem and the cities of Judah that they should follow the strange laws of the land. And he forbid burnt offerings, and sacrifice, and drink offerings, in the Temple; and ordered that they should profane the Sabbaths and Festivals, pollute the sanctuary and holy people, set up altars, and groves, and chapels of idols, and sacrifice swine's flesh, and unclean beasts. He ordered hat the Jews  should also leave the children uncircumcised, and make their souls abominable with all manner of uncleanness and profanation."

"To the end they might forget the law, and change all the ordinances (of the Torah). And whosoever would not do according to the commandment of the king, he said, he should die. In the selfsame manner wrote he to his whole kingdom, and appointed overseers over all the people, commanding the cities of Judah to sacrifice, city by city. Then many of the people were gathered unto there ceremonies, to wit every one that forsook the law; and so they committed evils in the land. And these proclamations drove the Israelites into secret places, even wheresoever they could flee for succor." From First Maccabees 41-53.

Antiochus was so heavy handed that his rulings produced an unintended and exaggerated reaction: The Jews resisted the extreme rulings he imposed on them. The first response is to flee to secret places, away from the authority of the Seleucid rulers. This type of overt oppression is actually very rare in Jewish history. But they are so traumatic, these times are remembered through new festivals and fast days that arose to commemorate them.  Can you think of the times in Jewish history that a ruler tried to extinguish the Jewish way of life and the Jews themselves? How are they commemorated in the Jewish calendar?

Hanukkah Lights
Dear Friends,
As you gather for the first night of Hanukkah, I want to send to you a question and text for discussion with family, friends and guests. Each night of Hanukkah I will send you a distinct question and text for your discussion. These questions and texts form the content the Hanukkah Seder we are sharing with the public on Friday night (see below).
First question on the first night of Hanukkah.
What Was the Miracle of Hanukkah?
Here are two different depictions of the miracle of Hanukkah from different ancient texts.
The First Depiction
"And they kept the 8 days (of the new festival) with gladness, as in the festival of Sukkot, remembering that not long before they had observed the festival of Sukkot as they wandered in the mountains and dens like beasts. (Now, back in Jerusalem) they bore branches, and fair boughs, and palms also, and sang psalms unto God who had given them success in cleansing his place (the Temple). They ordained also by a common statute and decree, that every year those 8 days should be kept by the whole nation of the Jews." (2 Maccabees 10:6-8, a ancient work that was not included in the Jewish Bible).
The Second Depiction
The 25th of Kislev is the first day of Hanukkah. For 8 days mourning is forbidden. Why? When the Greeks entered the Temple, they defiled all the oils that were there. When the House of the Hasmoneans (the Maccabees) prevailed and won a victory over them, they searched and found only one cruse [of oil] with the seal of the High Priest that was not defiled. It had only [enough oil] to burn for one day. A miracle happened , and there was light from it for 8 days. In the following year they established 8 festival days." (Babylonian Talmud, Megillat Taanit 9)
These two depictions reveal a dispute about the origins of Hanukkah. Was it a belated celebration of the festival of Sukkot that celebrated the re dedication (Hanukat Habayit) of the Temple in Jerusalem, or was it the miracle of the cruze of oil that lasted 8 days. The later rabbis were very ambivalent about the Hasmoneans because they became oppressors of the emerging Jewish movement led by "the rabbis". In other words these texts reveal an ambivalence about the meaning of Hanukkah. Do we emphasize it as a military victory or a religious miracle?
Happy Hanukkah,
Rabbi Dov Gartenberg
Convener and Director of Panim Hadashot

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What is a Hanukkah Seder?
A Seder, think Passover Seder, is a ritually ordered feast that features symbolic foods, dramatic rituals, sensory stimulation, and a collection of provocative texts that engenders questions, conversation, and insight. Judaism features not only the Passover Seder, but other Sedarim (plural) that create rich spiritual experiences around a shared meal.
Rabbi Dov Gartenberg built on this ancient Jewish tradition to create an original Hanukkah Seder. The Seder is organized around eight questions tied to ancient texts connected to the festival. Each question also features a dipping of a piece of different artisan breads into distinctly flavored olive or other oils to create a rich sensory experience of Hanukkah.
The ritual flow of the seder offers an opportunity to participants to experience a more subtle story about the historical/religious festival we call Hanukkah. This multidimensional Hanukkah Seder transports us deep into Jewish history and imagination, creating a unique adult experience of Hanukkah that will open up its meaning and dilemmas for us today.
When: Friday, 12/7/18
Where: WeWork Lincoln Square (pictured above)
How Much: $18 per person to preregister. Preregistration is required to be able to attend.
Who: This is a community event of Panim Hadashot-New Faces

To learn more and to preregister for the Hanukkah Seder, Click HERE