Forgotten Judaica


Hanukah, or Chanukah, is the Jewish festival that celebrates the faith and devotion of Jewish people over eight special days. The legend goes that the Jewish people revolted against the Seleucid monarchy which dictated that Judaism was against the law and that all of those people who rebelled and continued their religious practices were to be punished. The Jews then united forces and stood up together to defend their beliefs and their right to an autonomous religious existence and won their independence. Now modern Jews light a menorah in a special way to remember the struggle of the Jews and to be grateful for our religion - but also so as to celebrate the special significance of the menorah candle holder which reminds us of a miraculous story.

The menorah itself has eight arms or candle holders, as well as an additional ninth candle holder which is called a Shamash. The number is significant because the victorious Jews only had enough pure olive oil to light a candle for one day of Chanukah, but this tiny amount of oil managed to last for eight whole nights to provide them with the required amount of light for the ritual. This miracle is still celebrated today as we light the Shamash first, and then use the Shamash to light one of the eight different candles on the menorah on every day of Chanukah. The first day you add a single candle and light it with the Shamash, on the second day you have two lit, and so forth until the last day when all of the eight candles and the Shamash are lit.

Chanukah is now considered the celebration of the miracle of the oil that lasted long enough for the Jews to celebrate their holy festival, and now is termed 'the festival of lights'. The Jews praise God for his assistance in restoring their right to their faith and for the oil that lasted long enough for them to complete the rituals of the Chanukah festival. It is important to remember when you are using your menorah for the first time that you add a new candle onto the menorah every day from right to left, and then when you light the candles you light them from left to right thereby paying honor to the newer candles first.

The story of Chanukah is related in the book of the Maccabbees which is not considered holy scripture, which is why Chanukah is not a typically very 'religious' festival. It is, however, a festival of great importance and enjoyment, and creates a beautiful setting in our homes as the candles burn out in their special menorah setting. There are many different menorahs available that feature a range of different designs - some are embellished with beautiful engraving or scripture and some are innovatively based on the idea of orality and tradition. Choose a menorah that best symbolizes your devotion and dedication as a Jew and take part in the festival of lights that lasts for eight wonderful days.