The Museum of

       Shabbat and the Jewish Holidays




Chanukah Lamp (Menorah)

Chanukah Lamp (Menorah). Austro-Hungarian Empire. 19th century.
Silver with gold wash.
B'nai B'rith Klutznick National Jewish Museum, gift of Joseph B. and Olyn Horwitz.
Photo 1998 Universe Publishing and B'nai B'rith Klutznick National Jewish Museum.


The Festival of Lights

Chanukah (also spelled Hanukkah) is known as the Festival of Lights. It is an eight-day Jewish holiday commemorating the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem at the time of the Maccabean Revolt of the 2nd century B.C.E. Chanukah is observed for eight nights, starting on the twenty-fifth day of Kislev according to the Hebrew calendar, and may occur from late November to late December on the Gregorian calendar.

The festival is observed by the kindling of the lights of a special candelabrum, the nine-branched menorah, one light on each night of the holiday, progressing  to eight on the final night. An extra light called a shamash is also lit each night, and is given a distinct location, usually higher or lower than the others. The purpose of the extra light is to adhere to the prohibition specified in the Talmud against using the Chanukah lights for anything other than publicizing and meditating on the Hannukah story. The shamash is used to light the other lights. As such, if one were to read from the lights--something prohibited--then it's not clear whether the light one's reading from was the Chanukah lights or the shamash light. So the shamash acts as a safeguard from accidental transgression. next ►►

--text adapted from Wikipedia.


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