Twelfth-Century Jewish philosopher Maimonides once wrote that Jews should have a menorah for each night of the eight days of Hanukkah, the Jewish festival of light, which begins on the 25th of Kislev on the Hebrew calendar. Beholding the beauty of these religious candelabras, and you can see why.

Perhaps the most beautiful and timeless symbol of Hanukkah, the menorah is the nine-branched candelabrum used on the holiday as a symbol that commemorates everlasting light.
The miracle of light celebrated with menorahs at Hanukkah dates back to 164 B.C.E. when the Jews defeated the oppressive Hellenist Syrians. As they reclaimed their Temples and lit the candelabras for prayer, their supply of oil ran out after just one day. And yet the candles continued to burn – for a full eight days.

Menorahs must be one of the most aesthetically-pleasing examples of religious Judaica. Usually crafted in silver or brass, they shine brilliantly, illuminating their symbolism with stunning authority. Menorahs are often ornately carved with religious and decorative symbols, giving them added luster and beauty.

Although I am not Jewish, I own a small menorah that I found in Montreal. It was clearly a child’s, measuring only five inches high with a lovely coating of wax residue along the candle holders’ rims. It is fashioned in old brass and was not expensive, yet I dream of the child who once owned this menorah – likely during the 1960s, if the man who sold it to me was accurate in his assessment of its age – and wonder where that child is today. I wonder what he or she felt when lighting the candles and what dreams passed through the soul while staring at the mesmerizing light. It is truly one of my most cherished antique finds.

Menorahs made today are outstandingly modern, many of the gold and silver varieties fetching thousands of dollars. My personal favourites are still the classical varieties – symmetrical and tall with outreaching branches like a tree of light.

Below are several examples from a Judaica shop in the United States called Silver Heaven. To my taste, this is the place to find some of the most striking and well-crafted examples of new menorahs.

Hanukkah is celebrated for eight days and nights, starting on the 25th of Kislev on the Hebrew calendar (which is November-December on the Gregorian calendar). In Hebrew, the word "Hanukkah" means "dedication."

The holiday commemorates the rededication of the holy Temple in Jerusalem after the Jews' 165 B.C.E. victory over the Hellenist Syrians. Antiochus, the Greek King of Syria, outlawed Jewish rituals and ordered the Jews to worship Greek gods.

In 164 B.C.E. the Jews' holy Temple was seized and dedicated to the worship of Zeus.

Some Jews were afraid of the Greek soldiers and obeyed them, but most were angry and decided to fight back.

The fighting began in Modiin, a village not far from Jerusalem. A Greek officer and soldiers assembled the villagers, asking them to bow to an idol and eat the flesh of a pig, activities forbidden to Jews. The officer asked Mattathias, a Jewish High Priest, to take part in the ceremony. He refused, and another villager stepped forward and offered to do it instead. Mattathias became outraged, took out his sword and killed the man, then killed the officer. His five sons and the other villagers then attacked and killed the soldiers. Mattathias' family went into hiding in the nearby mountains, where many other Jews who wanted to fight the Greeks joined them. They attacked the Greek soldiers whenever possible.

Judah Maccabee and his soldiers went to the holy Temple, and were saddened that many things were missing or broken, including the golden menorah. They cleaned and repaired the Temple, and when they were finished, they decided to have a big dedication ceremony. For the celebration, the Maccabees wanted to light the menorah. They looked everywhere for oil, and found a small flask that contained only enough oil to light the menorah for one day. Miraculously, the oil lasted for eight days. This gave them enough time to obtain new oil to keep the menorah lit. Today Jews celebrate Hanukkah for eight days by lighting candles in a menorah every night, thus commemorating the eight-day miracle.

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