Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2011

The Hanukkah Menorah

Lighting a special, nine-branched candelabrum is the main ritual on Hanukkah. Most people — including Jews — incorrectly refer to this as a menorah, when in fact the correct name for the candleholder is Hanukkiah or Hanukkah menorah. A menorah, which has only seven candleholders, was the lamp used in the ancient holy temple in Jerusalem — now a symbol of Judaism and an emblem of Israel. A Hanukkiah, however, has nine candlesticks — one for each night of Hanukkah and an extra one to light the others. According to strict Jewish law, a Hanukkiah should have eight candleholders of the same height and a ninth branch that is set higher than the rest. Olive oil was traditionally used to light the Hannukiah, later replaced by candles that are inserted incrementally each night from right to left, but lit from left to right. Since 1998, the world's largest Hanukkiah — a 32-ft.-high, gold-colored steel structure — can be found during the Festival of Lights in New York City's Central Park.