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By Rabbi Bryan Kinzbrunner, Campus Chaplain

rabbi-k-chanukahThe story of Hanukkah, a festive winter Jewish holiday, is the story of a miracle. Over two thousand years ago when the Maccabees were victorious in reclaiming control of Israel from the Seleucid Greeks, they returned to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem and set out to rededicate the Second Temple. However, they found a sacred space defiled by the Greeks. They went about trying to revive the Temple rituals, including the lighting of the Menorah which is the seven branch candelabra that stood at the entrance to the Temple. Pure olive oil was required in order to light the candles. The Maccabees went searching for pure olive oil and they found one small jar which was not even enough to light the menorah for one whole day. Miraculously, this little amount of oil continued to burn for eight consecutive days.

In modern Jewish practice, the tradition is to light a candelabrum that has eight lights, one each for the eight nights of Hanukkah. Starting with the first night of Hanukkah when one candle is lit, on each subsequent night one candle is added, so that by the end of the eight day holiday, the entire candelabra of eight candles are lit. The reason for this practice is to rise in holiness each day as we count the eight days of the holiday.

The world has been a dark place recently. Every day, we read of some tragedy, and some form of terror being perpetrated somewhere in the world. We feel a collective fear and we struggle with how to make sense of this constant stream of tragedy. What can we do to light up the darkness?

In many faiths, part of the rituals around death is to light a candle and allow the flame to burn brightly until it extinguishes. The light is a memorial to the deceased and is a way of returning the tiniest bit of light back into the world during the emotional darkness that comes with grief and loss.

The lights of Hanukkah do the same. On the first night, when we commemorate the initial lighting of the tiny bit of oil, it is most appropriate to begin with just a single light. Small in stature, however, that one light breaks the darkness. Each subsequent night we add one candle, which enhances the experience of light breaking through in difficult times. In these difficult times, may the lighting of the Hanukkah candles be a beacon of light for the world, a way of banishing the darkness of terror and chaos with the brightness of wholeness and happiness.

The Oscar and Ella Wilf Campus for Senior Living is comprised of Stein Assisted Living and the Jaffa Gate Memory Care Neighborhood, Stein Hospice, Wilentz Senior Residence, Wilf Transport, Wilf At Home, and The Foundation at the Wilf Campus. For more information, contact us at (732) 568-1155, [email protected] or visit us at


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