Hanukkah is a Jewish holiday that is celebrated annually for eight days in commemoration of a miraculous victory by the Maccabees over the oppressive Seleucid empire. Every night on Hanukkah, a menorah (candelabra) is lit in order to remember this event. One of the most common Hanukkah traditions is to light a candelabra with nine candles, which has lead believers to further explore the symbolism behind the number of lights that are lit on the menorah.
The lighting of the nine candles on a Hanukkah menorah is known as a ‘hanukiyah’. There are a total of nine candles due to a specific religious symbolism. The largest candle, known as the ‘shamash’ or ‘servant’, is placed in the middle and lit first. The purpose of the shamash candle is to then light the other eight smaller candles which are arranged in a straight line and encircle the servant flame during the ceremony.
The eight flames on a Hanukkah menorah signify different things, including:
The first day of Hanukkah usually begins on the 25th day of the Hebrew month of Kislev. On the first night, only one candle is lit alongside the servant flame to signify the first day of Hanukkah. It is the only candle that is lit on the first day and it is supposed to symbolize faith and hope.
Days Two To Seven
The other candles are lit from right to left, each representing one of the seven remaining nights of Hanukkah. Lighting a candle each night of Hanukkah symbolizes renewal and represents the days of light in the Maccabee’s story. During this time, they found enough oil to relight the temple’s Eternal Flame for one day. Miraculously, the oil lasted for eight days and nights.
The eighth day of Hanukkah represents Yod-Hey-Vav-Hey, which is the four-letter name of God. All of the flames – the shamash and the eight smaller flames – are lit on this day to signify the miracle of the menorah.
In conclusion, the lighting of nine candles on a Hanukkah menorah is a visible testament to the amazing deliverance of the Jewish people against the oppressive forces of the Seleucids. It serves not only as a reminder of this victory, but also of the miracles and spiritual guidance the Jews received as they strived to defend their faith and culture against persecution. Although Hanukkah is celebrated differently in modern times, with food, music, inspiration, and gifts, the nine candles remind us of the strength and courage of those who defended the Jews against tyranny and ensured their survival.
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Last update 2023-11-26. Price and product availability may change.