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Monday, Kislev 11, 5782 / November 15, 2021


We are two weeks away from Chanukah.  Being an eight day holiday, Chanukah begins and ends on the same day of the week.  This year, we light the first Chanukah candle Sunday night, November 28; and the eighth candle is lit Sunday night, December 5.


Q.   Why is the holiday called, “Chanukah”?


A.  There are many reasons for the name Chanukah.  Here are two:


1)  “Chanukah” means “dedication.”  When the Macabees reclaimed the Holy Temple from the Greeks, who defiled everything in the Temple, they had to “re-dedicate” the Temple to its former state of purity.  Thus, the holiday is called Chanukah, for then the Holy Temple was re-dedicated.


2)  On the “25th” day of Kislev the Jewish fighters were finally able to “rest” from their battles.  “Chanukah” can be divided into two Hebrew words: “Chanu” (rest) – “Kah” (numerical value of 25).  The name Chanukah alludes to the fact that, “They rested on the 25th."  Chanukah begins on the 25th day of the month of Kislev.


Q. In the prayer recited after the lighting of the Chanukah candles we say, "During all eight days of Chanukah these lights are sacred, and we are not permitted to make use of them".  What is the reason that we are not permitted to have any personal use of the Chanukah lights?


A.  The Chanukah candles commemorate the lights of the menorah in the Beth Hamikdash (Holy Temple).  One was prohibited to have any personal use of the holy objects of the Beth Hamikdash.  Being that the Chanukah candles represent the lights of the Beth Hamikdash we are not to derive any personal benefit from them either.


Q.  Why do many prefer to use olive oil and wicks instead of candles for the Chanukah lights?


A.  Olive oil was used to light the menorah in the Holy Temple.  Since the original miracle of Chanukah involved olive oil, using olive oil to light the menorah commemorates the miracle more accurately.


Also, our sages compare the Jewish people to an olive. Just as the olive reveals its treasure, its oil, through being pressed, so too, the Jewish people have produced the greatest scholars during our years of exile and oppression.


The Midrash tells us that the Jewish people are compared to oil for another reason too. While liquids mix with each other, oil, when mixed with other liquids, will eventually separate and float to the top.  Although many nations tried to oppress and assimilate us over the past 2000 years, yet, the Jewish nation has endured and retained its unique identity and have in the end come up to the top.