December 4, 2019
by Tzvi Schnee
As Thanksgiving recedes into the near distant past of yesterdays, I look ahead towards Chanukah, the Festival of Lights. Not the glittering lights seen so often around this time of the year on houses and trees. Rather, the light of candles on a Chanukiah, an eight-candled menorah, lit during the eight days of Chanukah. The holiday commemorates the rededication of the second Temple, after it had been ransacked by the Syrians in 165 B.C.E.
Each day of the eight days of Chanukah, a candle is lit, successively, so that on the first day – one candle is lit, then two candles on the eve of the second day, and so on. Yet, if you look at a menorah designed for Chanukah, there are nine candle holders. (Unless the menorah uses oil with tiny wicks, then there are nine repositories for the oil). The reason for a total of nine, is to have a place, usually in the center of the menorah, for the shamash (servant) candle, that is used to light all of the other candles. This candle is lit first; then, it shares its light with the other candles.
The tradition is reminiscent of the pasuk (verse), “In Thy light do we see light” (Psalm 36:10, JPS 1917 Tanach). H’Shem is the source of life, that bestows light upon us; we are connected, even dependent upon Him for every breathe we take. “For Thou dost light my lamp; the L-RD my G-d doth lighten my darkness” (Psalm 18:29, JPS). At the darkest time of the year, may we hope to be enlightened by H’Shem, by way of His emes (truth), and chesed (mercy), two key components of Chanukah; for His truth led us in the darkness against our enemies; and, through His mercy the few were able to defeat the many.