Chanukah Values

Unit on important values related to the story of Chanukah

Unit Ages: 12-14 | 1-4 lessons


Desired Outcomes

Big Ideas

The Chanukah story includes values that are important in Jewish culture and the discussion of these values is relevant to our lives today.

Essential Questions
  • How do Jewish practices reflect Jewish values?
  • How do beliefs, ethics, or values influence different people’s behavior?
  • What factors shape our values and beliefs? How are my values and beliefs impacted by those around me?
  • The students will be familiar with several of the decrees that Antiochus ruled.
  • The students will be familiar with the Al HaNisim prayer.
  • The students will be familiar with the story of the miracle of the little jug of oil.
  • The students will know that values such as heroism, loyalty to one’ s principles, devotion to one’s unique culture, globalization and faith are present in the Chanukah story.
  • The students will be able to recognize the values embodied in the ceremonies, stories and customs of Chanukah.

Assessment Evidence

What evidence will students provide to demonstrate that they:
Know the knowledge; Can do the skills; Can respond thoughtfully to the EQs and BIs

The teacher will determine a means for assessment before beginning to teach the curriculum module.

Learning Experiences

Possible Unit Plan

We recommend that this unit be studied only after the students have studied the story of Chanukah.


Possible unit opener:

You can start off with a web chart of things associated with the word Chanukah. Have each student write down five things that they associate with Chanukah and have them take turns presenting one item from their list to the class. In the final product, circle the words related to values such as heroism, faith and unity, and ask how the different words are related to each other.


Content study:

  • Start off with the resource on Heroism, which addresses a value that is often linked with Chanukah and which we often associate with physical bravery in particular. Discuss the other types of heroism present in the Chanukah story, the other types of heroism in our own lives and when those types of heroism are expressed.
  • Alternatively, you can start off with the resource on Hellenism. This resource addresses the different approaches towards external infuences: keeping a relatively traditional sensibility which attempts to keep out external cultural influences versus cultural openness and the balance between them. It also relates to globalization, which is part of our lives whether we like it or not.
  • Continue the discussion of heroism or Hellenism with the resource on Loyalty to Our Principles, which examines the attitudes of the Maccabees in comparison with those of the Hellenists. The resource encourages us to examine when in our lives we are faced with such decisions. 


  • You can also learn more about Miracles. The story of Chanukah includes two miracles: the miracle of the victory of the few over the many and the miracle of the little jug of oil. We will relate to questions such as what a miracle is, whether miracles really exist and the relationship between relying on miracles and acting for ourselves. The values that are associated with this topic are faith, on the one hand, and personal initiative, on the other.


Unit closing/assessment:

We will look at the values in light of the customs of the holiday and examine how they are expressed in the texts that are read on Chanukah and in the customs of the holiday (Al HaNisim, HaNerot Halalu, Maoz Tzur, the blessings said when lighting the candles, etc.).