Hanukkah is an eight day Jewish festival which celebrates the rededication of the temple in Jerusalem during the Maccabean Revolt in the 2nd century BCE. A primary element of the celebration is the lighting of the Menorah, a nine-branched candelabra that sits at the center of the festivities. Following the lighting of this ceremonial candelabrum, each night of Hanukkah an increasing number of lights are lit, beginning and ending with a blessing. But what does each candle actually mean?
The first night of Hanukkah only includes one lit candle, called the شَامِيَة shamayim, or “servant.” This candle, placed on the far right of the menorah, is the helper of the other eight lights. It is usually used to light the other eight candles, and can be lit using either a long match, or a preexisting candle. The first night’s blessing expressed on such an occasion is the first line of the traditional prayer, “Baruch ata Adonai Eloheinu melech ha-olam, asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav v’tzivanu l’hadlik ner shel Hanukkah.”
The other eight candles of the menorah – two for each night– represent the wine-filled cruse of oil that lasted eight days during the rededication of the temple. The colors of the candles are typically white and blue although this is a matter of personal preference. According to ancient Jewish texts, blue is the color of the divine spirit’s presence, and is often used to represent the miraculous way in which the שמן המשחה, the holy anointing oil, lasted for eight days. Each night, the most recently lit candles represent the two miracle stories that happened on that day.
The ninth candle, called the שِם־נֵר shamash, completes the Menorah and serves a spiritual purpose. It is the candle that lights all the other candles, echoing how God is the prime universal source of light, but also how each individual soul has their own spark of God’s supernal light that illuminates the world in its own special way.
The Menorah is lit for every night of Hanukkah, and with each day that passes, an additional candle is ceremoniously lit. The increasing number of candles symbolizes the increasing faith and joy associated with the festival, as the nights of Hanukkah progress. Each night, believers are to give thanks to God for the miracles he caused to prevail during Hanukkah.
In conclusion, each candle of the traditional Hanukkah Menorah holds a special significance to the believers of the Jewish faith. Every light represents an individual and unique form of spiritual awakening that is meant to prevail throughout the 8-day festival of celebration. Through each candle, a deep and intrinsic connection is made with God’s divine grace that is meant to help sustain us during times of difficulty.
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Last update 2023-11-27. Price and product availability may change.