Hanukkah, or the Festival of Lights, is an eight-day celebration commemorating a miracle from the time of the Maccabees. During the holiday, a nine-candle menorah is lit each night in Jewish homes all over the world. But why light these candles? What is their significance? Today we’ll explore the answer to these questions.
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The Significance of Light
Light is a central symbol in Judaism, representing knowledge, understanding, and truth. On Hanukkah, light is especially poignant — it stands for the miraculous victory of the Maccabees and the continuous strength of the Jewish faith. The nine flames on the menorah also symbolize the nine expressions of divine beneficence mentioned in the Prayer for Lighting the Candles.
Symbols of Miracles
According to tradition, the Maccabees valiantly fought off the their oppressors and recaptured the Temple in Jerusalem. In finding only a single cruse of pure oil capable of burning for one night, the people were heartsick — until God performed a miracle and the oil burned for an astounding eight days.
Lighting the Candles
To commemorate this miracle, an extra candle is added to the Hanukkah menorah each night, beginning with the shamash (or “helper”) candle. The shamash is used to light the other candles — light always being used to disperse darkness — and the flames are then used to bless a prayer of thanksgiving. While some families pour oil in the menorah most utilize modern-day paraphernalia to light the Hanukkah candles, as it is forbidden to make a “bonfire” indoors.
The Significance of Oil
Oil is an important symbol in the celebration of Hanukkah — it is why the holiday is also called the “festival of lights.” In addition to bearing witness to the miracle of the oil lasting eight nights, it carries a deeper spiritual message — a reminder of God’s willingness to intervene in human affairs.
On the first evening of Hanukkah, Orthodox Jews share a special delight: the recitation of Erev Shabbat blessings, followed by a communal feast, even though the holiday itself is unrelated to Shabbat. The observance highlights the presence of God in the mundane and sets a tone of pure joy and celebration.
Hanukkah is an important reminder of miracles great and small — from the brave Maccabees and their triumph and the single cruse of oil lasting for eight nights, to the dedication of the faithful who practice their faith each day in the face of adversity. As we light the candles in our menorah each day of Hanukkah, we witness the power of the collective and the courage of the divine; of our own potential for transcending darkness and emerging into a world of hope and light.
- Why Do You Light Hanukkah Candles From Right To Left?
- Why Do They Light Candles On Hanukkah?
- What Do You Say When You Light The Hanukkah Candles?
- Why Do We Light 8 Candles On Hanukkah?
- In What Order Do You Light The Hanukkah Candles?
- What Direction Do You Light Hanukkah Candles?
- Which Side Do You Light Hanukkah Candles?
- In What Direction Do You Light The Hanukkah Candles?
- What Candles Do You Light On Hanukkah?
- When Do You Light Candles For Hanukkah?
- Which Candles Do You Light First Shabbat Or Hanukkah?
- What Order Do You Light The Hanukkah Candles?
- Which Order Do You Light Hanukkah Candles?
- What Time Do You Light The Candles For Hanukkah?
- How Do You Light The Candles For Hanukkah?
Last update 2023-11-22. Price and product availability may change.