Here are eight questions to kindle your enthusiasm about Chanukah music. Within the answers below you'll find YouTube links to performances of the various songs.
1. The Chanukah song Ma’oz Tzur is based on a poem that commemorates Chanukah and which two other Jewish holidays?
a. Passover and Purim
b. Shabbat and Passover
c. Tu B’Shvat and Passover
d. Shabbat and Yom Kippur
2. What is the real translation of Ma’oz tzur y’shuati?
a. Rock of ages
b. Rock of my soul
c. Mighty rock of my salvation
d. Rock on
3. In what language was the Chanukah candle-counting song Ocho Kandelikas written?
4. Which of these American Jewish songwriters wrote the comical song Chanukah in Santa Monica?
a. Bob Dylan
b. Alan Sherman
c. Tom Lehrer
d. Irving Berlin
5. Which classical composer wrote the oratorio Judas Maccabeus based on the Chanukah story?
a. Johann Sebastian Bach
b. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
c. Ludwig van Beethoven
d. George Frederick Handel
6. Which songwriter composed the Chanukah social action song Light One Candle, now sung in synagogues and schools throughout America?
a. Dave Guard of The Kingston Trio
b. John Lennon of The Beatles
c. Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul, and Mary
d. Cass Elliot of The Mamas and the Papas
7. In the original Yiddish version of I Have a Little Dreidel (I Am a Little Dreidel), what substance was the dreidel made of?
8. Which of these songs has had 65,000+ hits on YouTube?
a. Light These Lights (Debbie Friedman)
b. Chanukah Blessings (Traditional)
c. Pass the Candle from Left to Right (Michelle Citrin)
d. How Do You Spell Chanukah? (Michael Isaacson)
Chanukah Music Quiz Answers
1. A. Passover and Purim, as well as Chanukah, appear in the liturgical poem Ma’oz Tzur by the 13th- and 14th-century German poet Mordecai ben Yitzchak Halevi. It contains six stanzas—the first expressing Israel’s messianic hopes for the reestablishment of ancient Temple worship; the subsequent ones praising God for delivering the Jews from the Egyptian bondage, from the Babylonian exile, from Haman’s plot, and from the Seleucid Greek threat; and the concluding verse pleading for Israel’s speedy redemption. Passover is referenced in verse three (“cheil Par’o v’chol zar’o yardu k’even bim’tzulah”—“Pharaoh’s army and all his seed went down like a stone into the deep”) and Purim in verse four (“Agagi ben Ham’data”—“the Agagite, son of Hammedatha,” which refers to Haman). Source: Jewish Heritage Online
2. C. The actual translation of Ma’oz Tzur is “Mighty rock of my salvation.” "Rock of ages" is a paraphrase to better fit the music. Source: Jewish Heritage Online
3. C. Ladino. Flory Jagoda, the composer of Ocho Kandelikas, was born in Bosnia and immigrated to the U.S. She works to preserve the memory of her former community through Ladino songs. Source: Library of Congress Speakers’ Biographies online
4. C. Tom Lehrer wrote Chanukah in Santa Monica for a 1990 broadcast of Garrison Keillor’s “The American Radio Company” (now “A Prairie Home Companion”) to remedy the scarcity of Chanukah songs. Sources: CrazyCollege.org and Outre Magazine (interviews with Tom Lehrer)
5. D. In 1746, George Frederick Handel composed Judas Maccabaeus based on a libretto written by Thomas Morell to compliment the victorious Prince William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland, upon his return from the Battle of Culloden. Source: New Groves Dictionary of Music
6. C. In 1983, Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul, and Mary wrote Light One Candle as “a call for peace and reconciliation,” Yarrow says. Source: Children’s Education Fund
7. A. In the Yiddish version of this song, I Am a Little Dreidel, the dreidel is made of bly, meaning lead, and in the English version it is made of clay. Whereas the song’s meaning is largely the same in both versions, in English the singer sings about a dreidel, whereas in Yiddish the singer is the dreidel. Source: Jewish Holidays in Song by Velvel Pasternak
8. C. Michelle Citrin’s Pass the Candle from Left to Right has had 65,000+ hits on YouTube. She also wrote a Passover song that went viral on YouTube: 20 Things To Do With Matzah. To view some of the other songs: Light These Lights and How Do You Spell Chanukah? Source: YouTube.com
Jayson Rodovsky is editor and Rachel Wetstein is research librarian and editorial assistant of Transcontinental Music (a division of URJ Books and Music), the leading publisher of Jewish choral music, with a catalog of 1000+ titles. Learn more about Transcontinental Music's offerings.