The Empty Menorah

December 23, 2011 by Rabbi Michoel Gourarie
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The festival of Chanukah began Tuesday evening…writes Rabbi Michoel Gourarie.

Rabbi Michol Gourarie photo: Henry Benjamin

The highlight of these eight days is the mitzvah of kindling the Chanukah candles every evening. Traditionally this mitzvah is fulfilled by placing the candles in a Menorah of eight holders. But in the first few days the Menorah always seems very empty and incomplete. Wouldn’t it be more logical to kindle these flames in single candlesticks, adding one each night?
The Menorah brings together two perspectives – the focus on the present and the aspirations for the future. Successful growth – whether spiritual, intellectual or emotional – must always combine two very different approaches. On the one hand we should always appreciate the infinite potential of our soul and the unlimited capacity to grow into something completely different than we are now. True growth is not just a small token improvement, but rather a fundamental dramatic change of mindset, attitude, and emotional responses. On the other hand we cannot implement this change in one go. While the ultimate goal is drastic change it has to be accomplished by taking one step at a time.
This is lesson of the Chanukah Menorah. We light one small flame at a time, representing small and responsible steps. At the same time we stare at the empty candle holders, reminding ourselves of the greater goal. We light the first, second and third flame one at a time, but aspire to ultimately fill and kindle all of the candle holders.
As we kindle candles this Chanukah, let us be proud of the steps we have taken, while at the same time looking forward to filling and kindling the empty holders.


2 Responses to “The Empty Menorah”
  1. Emes says:


    Sorry to disappoint you, but the Chanukah candles and their meaning – as so eloquently explained by Rabbi Gourarie – have absolutely nothing to do with Christianity, nor do they have parallels in Christianity.

    Fundamentally, Chanukah commemorates the battle against the assimilationist ethic of Jewish hellenists and their Syrian-Greek supporters (which predates the life of Jesus and Christianity by hundreds of years).

    To endeavour to compare Jewish festivals with Christian practices is historically inaccurate, as well as insulting to the unique aspects of both Jewish and Christian ritual.

  2. Lynne Newington says:

    A little like the Advent candle guess, with only five candles, lit once a week until Christmas Day. The first being purple, the Candle of Hope, connected to the Patriarchs, Abraham, the Old Testament Ancestors of Jesus.

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