When I was a kid, Chanukah was always the holiday I looked forward to the most. I mean, what is there not to like about receiving gifts for eight nights? I used to make a list for my parents and write down every new toy I wanted. I remember the excitement of being handed the box and shaking it to see if I could figure out what was inside based on what sound it made. As I get older, I realize that this is not the sole purpose of Chanukah. The meaning behind why we celebrate goes much deeper than just handing out gifts and eating latkes.
We all remember from elementary school the basic story of Chanukah. We learned about the Greeks and the destruction of the Holy Temple. We read about how the Jews found the little jug of oil that miraculously kept the menorah lit for eight whole days. To commemorate the menorah staying lit, we light our very own.
Now, let’s get into the deeper part. What is so special about the light from the menorah? Many Jewish women light candles every week for Shabbat and many men also do so every Saturday night for Havdalah. The light from the menorah is different—we use one candle (shammash) to light all the others. This small action represents what the Jewish people are all about, performing and mitzvot. Much like how a flame from one candle can light eight other candles without losing any strength, one small positive action can affect others.
In the famous story of Chanukah, the weak and outnumbered Maccabim miraculously win the war against the Greeks. Although the eight nights represent the eight days the menorah stayed lit, I believe we have eight days because it takes that amount of time to truly appreciate what Hashem did for our ancestors. Even today, when countless violent acts have been taken against the Jewish people—such as the recent tragedy in Pittsburgh, Jews recover and think about how Hashem helped us back then and how He continues to help us through our struggles.
During the Chanukah season, Jews traditionally light the menorah by a window, indicating to the neighborhood and everybody passing by that we are celebrating Chanukah. This light shows that nothing can dim our spirits or faith; we are proud to be Jewish no matter what obstacles we face
Looking further into the background and reasoning of how and why we celebrate Chanukah can change the way we view the holiday and make us love it for more than just the delicious jelly doughnuts.
Molly Feder is a junior at Hebrew Academy of the Five Towns and Rockaway. She is a Staff Writer for Fresh Ink for Teens.