The Menorah: Why Light a Menorah on Chanukah?
From MazorGuide to Jewish Holidays
By: Rivka C. Berman
For most people, the Holiday of Chanukah is associated with winter, gift giving, oily delights and candle lighting. But the Talmud – the central text of Rabbinic Judaism that deals with civil and ceremonial Jewish law and legend – corrects the misconception. In fact the true objective of the holiday is to commemorate and celebrate the miracle that occurred after the Maccabees defeated the Greek forces, reconquered Jerusalem, and reclaimed the Jewish holy temple.
The Talmud asks the question: “What is Chanukah?”
The rabbis’ answer has little to do with the battlefield victory. Rather, the rabbis focus on the miracle of the little can of oil. Indeed, according to the Talmud, Jews light the Chanukah menorah in commemoration of the miracle of light!
“When the Greeks entered the Temple courtyard they made all the oil in the Temple impure. When the kingdom of the House of Hasmoneans (that is, the Maccabees who ascended to the throne following their triumph over the Greeks) were victorious, they checked (the Sanctuary) and did not find but one container of oil with the high priest’s seal. There was enough oil for only one day. But there was a miracle and the oil lasted eight days. The following year a holiday was established for praise and recognition.” (Talmud: Shabbat 21b)
The Talmud’s emphasis on the miracle of Chanukah lays the foundation of how the holiday is celebrated. Indeed, many of the laws and rituals associated with Chanukah are drawn from the desire to publicize the miracle of light!
How to Chanukah, by Sarah Mazor and Yael Rosenberg, includes a section that expands on the Chanukah Candle Lighting ceremony and the blessings recited.
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