Hanukkah is an eight-day Jewish festival of lights celebrated to commemorate the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem. The holiday is celebrated with the kindling of the menorah, a nine-branched candelabra, with one candle lit each night. On the central candle, also known as the shamash, we light eight candles during Hanukkah. This raises the question: How many candles are lit on the menorah during Hanukkah?
The significance of the Hanukkah candles is twofold: on the one side we are celebrating the miracle of the Maccabees sustained by a single cruse of oil for almost an entire week, and on the other side it is a way to enrich our experience during these eight days of Hanukkah. Since ancient times, Jews light candles as a way of adding light and peace to their homes in times of celebration.
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Why Light One Candle Per Day?
The lighting of the Hanukkah candles on each night of the festival is a reminder of the Hanukkah miracle. Each additional candle lit each night is a symbol of the miracle that occurred. According to tradition, each night of Hanukkah one candle is lit, in order to commemorate the miracle of oil lasting for eight days. The candles are lit to remind us of the lights that went up in the Temple in Jerusalem, when Mattathias Maccabee and the Hasmoneans fought back against their oppressors.
Kabbalistic Significance of the Eight Lights
The Kabbalists taught that the Hanukkah lights actually relate to the cosmic War of Gog and Magog. According to Kabbalah, the eight lights represent the cosmic battle between Gog and Magog, symbolizing the light of good prevailing over the darkness of evil. In this interpretation, each of the candles represent a power of spiritual redemption known as the redemption of the sefirot.
The Hanukkah Menorah
In Jewish tradition, the Hanukkah menorah is a special candelabrum with eight branches and one additional space to hold the light of the shamash, the helper candle. The menorah is arranged in a specific manner: Starting with the closest branch to the shamash and going away from the shamash, the number of candles increase one each night until the seventh night when all eight branches are lit.
The Hanukkah menorah is lit in order to commemorate the miracle of the Maccabees and their triumph over oppression. Judaism associates this story with the essence of religious freedom, and the lights of the menorah serve as a reminder of the miracle of human will and resilience.
Candle Counting Order on Hanukkah
The proper order for counting the candles on the Hanukkah menorah is:
- Night One: One candle (the Shamash)
- Night Two: Two candles (the Shamash plus one more)
- Night Three: Three candles (the Shamash plus two more)
- Night Four: Four candles (the Shamash plus three more)
- Night Five: Five candles (the Shamash plus four more)
- Night Six: Six candles (the Shamash plus five more)
- Night Seven: Seven candles (the Shamash plus six more)
- Night Eight: Eight candles (the Shamash plus seven more)
In sum, the Hanukkah menorah is lit each night of the holiday with one additional candle until all eight branches are lit. The lights of the menorah remind us of the importance of religious freedom and serve as a testament to the power of human resilience. It is both a deeply spiritual ritual and a way to enrich and enhance the Hanukkah celebration.
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Last update 2023-11-27. Price and product availability may change.