In thinking about Kislev, I went right to the dreidel and the Hanukkiah. I decided that if I had to pick one, it’s the Hanukkiah (but I may explore the other dreidels later in the month!) The Hanukkiah is the nine-branched menorah that we light on Hanukkah. Even though we generally just call it a menorah, not all menorahs are for Hanukkah! The menorah, which is an ancient symbol of the Jewish people is actually seven branched.
If the menorah is considered “the most central role of all the sacred vessels, for it is the symbol of light,” and a symbol of spiritual illumination — then it’s safe to assume that this is also the role the Hanukkiah plays.
Hanukkah is a strange holiday because it’s not only post-biblical, but also two holidays smooshed together. I guess we have a lot of holidays that are two smushed together, though.
Most commonly Hanukkah is the holiday that celebrates the victory of the Maccabbees over the Greeks, and the “miracle of the oil.” But that’s not the only story associated with Hanukkah and most likely not the actual origin of the holiday.
Its origin is most likely Winter Solstice (Tekufat Tevet) holiday, that acknowledges the darkness of the year and returning of the light. That’s actually found in ancient midrash, it’s not just some modern “new agey” thing. It’s even one of the stories I included in the Hanukkah Haggadah!
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Adapted from a post originally written for Peeling a Pomegranate, 2011