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The Meaning of the Menorah's Light

December 12, 2019 | by Slovie Jungreis-Wolff

Four contemporary insights to illuminate our darkening world.

In a world filled with confusion, anxiety and hatred, Hanukkah gives us the gift of light. Here are four contemporary insights to the meaning of the menorah. Its light whispers to us to come close and listen to its wondrous message.

1. Search for Your Inner Fire

When the Hasmoneans defeated the Greeks, they searched the defiled Temple for pure oil sealed by the High Priest. They found only one sealed jar which would be sufficient to burn just one day. But a miracle occurred and the oil continued burning for eight days.

Why do we light our menorah for eight days? After all, the first day was not a miracle. Shouldn’t we celebrate a seven-day holiday?

The searching for that one jug of oil is a miracle in itself.

We've all experienced the feeling of fatigue, as that little voice inside our heads tells us: just give it up. It could be a life dream, a desire to do something great, to be better or live better. We may have a person in our lives who is floundering. It’s so much easier to walk away than to continue seeking and pursuing our quest for greatness.

The miracle of Hanukkah proclaims that one must never stop striving. Search for that inner fire. Don’t stop trying to find the soul that lies deep within the heart of others. Pursue goodness. It may be a struggle but don't cast away your dreams and the people you believe in. Search for the miracle and you will prevail.

2. Keep Growing

Each night of Hanukkah we first kindle the newest light from left to right, each night adding a new candle until the final evening when the entire menorah is aflame. We go up in numbers.

The increase of lights demonstrates the enormity of the miracle that increased each night.

In Judaism on a deeper level oil refers to the wisdom of the heart and mind. The Greeks defiled not only the oil but the hearts and thoughts of our nation. The Jewish people began to believe that it is Greek wisdom that holds truth.

But one pure jar remained, one remnant of truth, one spark of eternal Divine holiness that never departed. With this strength we were able to hold on to our sacred mission and grow great again. We did not lose the soul of the nation.

To be a Jew means that we keep growing, to keep studying, to keep striving to make the world a better place. How sad to coast in life, to be the same person we were 5 or 10 years ago, never developing, never transforming ourselves.

The menorah asks us to continuously challenge our minds and hearts. Add light to your life each and every day. Delve into the wisdom of Judaism. Nourish your soul so that you will flourish as a human being. Be greater.

3. Ignite the Fire within Our Children

When kindling the menorah, we need to hold the shamash, the flame, against the wick until it continues to burn on its own.

This is the mission of every parent, every adult who has a child in our lives.

The menorah is asking us to keep on kindling until the child is able to ignite the fire within his soul and stand as a proud Jew on his own. Be patient. Keep reaching out. Don’t be despondent. Every single child counts. Every person matters. Like water on a rock making a tiny splatter that eventually bores through the stone, so too, will you impact this child.

The word Hanukkah connotes ‘chinuch’- education, as well as dedication. The essence of Jewish education is the dedication of teaching Torah to the next generation. Torah is not a subject. It is a way of life. Create a home filled with the light of Shabbos candles dancing each week. Bless your children. Speak kindly. Bring joy home. Allow your children to see your love for our people and our Land of Israel. Teach children to give charity. Embody gratitude. Develop a connection with God in your life. Show the meaning of commitment to truth. Live with passion for all that you believe in.

Keep kindling. It's hard work. But the more you continue to hold your flame against the wick, the greater and more steady the flame.

4. Keep Hoping

The fact that the Jews did not despair of lighting the menorah the first day is an incredible message to us all. They knew that there was obviously not enough oil and none for the morrow. They could not possibly fulfill the Torah’s commandment to light a perpetual lamp.

And still, they refused to give up hope for tomorrow.

It is this hope that allows our nation to survive. If generations past would have had a looking glass into the future of the Jewish people they would cry out in anguished despair. Look what we see! Our Temple in Jerusalem destroyed, we were taken by chains to exile. Sold into slavery. Inquisitions. Burned at the stake for holding onto our faith. Pogroms. Crusades. Rounded into cattle cars and thrown into the burning ovens. Surrounded by enemies who threaten to throw us into the sea and wipe out the State of Israel. Terrorist attacks. Underground tunnels filled with deadly weapons. The lies of BDS. Racist attacks in Europe and the United States. Venomous hatred rearing its ugly head across college campuses. Even murder in synagogues.

Can it be that the nation of Israel still stands strong holding onto the faith of our fathers?


We have never lost our will to survive as Jews. We have tenaciously held onto our hope and belief that Am Yisroel Chai – the people of Israel lives.

This Hanukkah take a moment and contemplate the lesson of the flames.


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