|On December 22nd / 25 Kislev, when the sun disappears from the horizon, we will light the first of eight lights on our chanukiah to celebrate Chanukah.
The chanukiah is the name of the special menorah designed especially for Chanukah. The 7 branched menorah is the ancient Jewish symbol of the one that stood in the Beit HaMikdash in Jerusalem. Seven is the mystical Jewish number that represents the 7 days of creation, perfection and wholeness, whereas the 8 branched chanukiah represents something that is beyond nature…transcendent and spiritual. Given the spiritual darkness of the world, we need to be engaged in bringing more light into it.
So, what can we learn from the branches of this menorah?
Maimonides, a scholar of the 12th century, taught that the branches of the menorah represent the different disciplines of learning – mathematics, science, philosophy, literature, and natural sciences, but that all are influenced by the shamash, or taller candle that represents the learning that we gain by studying Torah. For Maimonides, Chanukah was about education, something that we learn through the Hebrew –chinukh (from the same root as Chanukah) means education.
Another way is to reflect on the values that the 8 branches can represent and the ways that we can bring light (min-orah) into the world. Education we take in, but values are foundational beliefs that we live in the world. So, what can our 8 branches of the chanukiah represent?