Thoughts on Kindling the Chanukah Lights

Traditional Chanukah lights have three elements: oil, wick and fire. The fire ignites the wick, and the oil (or, today, the wax candle) provides fuel for a continuous flame.

To succeed in any endeavor, we need the same three elements: The creative spark (the flame) must be given form (the wick), and the form must be given sustenance (the oil or wax).

The Hebrew words for flame, wick and oil are נר  (ner), פתיל (petil) and שמן  (shemen).
Taken together, the first letters of each word—נ  (nun), פ  (phey) and ש  (shin)—form the Hebrew word נפש  (nefesh), or soul.

A candle is a symbol of the soul. As we kindle the Chanukah lights, let us pay attention to each element—the creative spark of the flame, the wick that gives form to the flame and the oil that keeps the flame alive.

May the light of our souls increase and may we bring that light to our learning, our relationships and our communities.


Rabbi Ehrenkrantz is President of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College.

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