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Monday, Kislev 18, 5780 / December 16, 2019


The holiday of Chanukah will begin in one week, Sunday night, December 22, when we kindle the first Chanukah light. Each subsequent night of Chanukah we add an additional candle. On the eighth and last night of Chanukah, eight candles will be lit.


The reason for celebrating the holiday by the lighting of the candles is to commemorate the miracle of the lights in the Holy Temple, when a small amount of oil, barely enough to burn one day, miraculously lasted eight days.


The mitzvah can be performed with the lighting of candles, just as with the Shabbat candles. However, many insist on using olive oil for the Chanukah lights.


Q. Why is there a preference to performing this mitzvah with olive oil?


A.  In the Beth Hamikdash (Holy Temple) only pure olive oil was permitted to be used for the lighting of the Menorah.  Because the Chanukah lights commemorate the miracle of the menorah in the Holy Temple, it is preferable to use olive oil to perform this mitzvah. 


Q.  The mitzvah is to light the Chanukah candles at home each night of Chanukah. Why are the Chanukah candles also lit in the synagogue?


A.  There are a few reasons:  1) After the destruction of the Temple, our synagogues are called a Miniature Holy Temple. Thus, we light the candles each day in the synagogue, which represents the Holy Temple.


2)  Not everyone lives in a place where they have the ability to light the candles, especially, during the time when Jews were persecuted and were afraid to light at home because of their gentile neighbors. Thus, the rabbis instituted the custom to light the Chanukah menorah in the synagogue. Today, thank G-d, we don’t have this restriction, yet, a custom instituted by the sages stays forever.


Q. What was the reason that only olive oil was used for the menorah in the Holy Temple?


A.   Our sages explain that the Jewish people are compared to the olive.  Just like the olive produces its fine oil and illuminating lights after being squeezed and pressed, so too, the people of Israel have produced their greatest scholars and performed great accomplishments under the pressures of exile. 


The Chanukah candles remind us that just like the oil of the olive is produced through squeezing and pressing of the olives, so it is also with the Jewish people.  It is the challenging situations which so often brought out the best in us and revealed capabilities we never knew we possessed!