By Rabbi Aaron Benson
Hanukkah candles need to burn for at least thirty minutes. The Jewish holiday, Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, involves lighting a candle for each of the holidays eight nights.
Of course the candles can burn longer than that, but the ancient sages determined such a length of time would be enough to make the lighting significant and yet not overly costly at a time when candles would have been more expensive and essential than today.
The lights remind us of a miracle performed for the ancient Jews. Having thrown off the yoke of foreign rule, they came to rededicate the despoiled Temple in Jerusalem. There they found only enough oil to light the Temple menorah for a day, but the oil miraculously last eight days. During that time the Jews were able to prepare more oil.
Yet we light for only thirty minutes. We illuminate the long winter night for the briefest of intervals. It seems inadequate but we not only do it once, but over and over for more than a week. And this is enough to celebrate a holiday about miracles.
Sometimes in life we may only be able to “light up the dark” temporarily to help that friend or family member or ourselves just a little. Should we refrain from doing so just because we can’t fix it all? Certainly not! Over and over we must keep doing what we can, even if it might be just a little, to bring some good, to cause a miracle to take place.
During the thirty minutes the Hanukkah candles burn each night, and during all this winter season, let us do our part, whether large or small, to aid those lost in the night and light the way for them.
The author is the rabbi of North Shore Jewish Center in Port Jefferson Station.