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What’s the difference between a menorah and a chanukiah?

Denver menorah history Mizel Museum

Photo by Aaron Ontiveroz of The Denver Post

Chanukah begins tomorrow, December 12, 2017, in the Gregorian calendar. Researching my article on Chanukah lights for The Denver Post, I interviewed a rabbi and a professor of Jewish studies. I visited a Jewish cultural center. And I looked at menorahs of all sizes, shapes, materials and moods.

Even though I went on assignment to Israel in 1994, I didn’t know the difference between a menorah and a chanukiah. The temple menorah has seven branches, as instructed in the Bible’s Book of Exodus. The Chanukah menorah has nine branches: eight to represent the eight nights of miraculous oil and one “servant” candle to light the others.

The rabbi noted that the symbol of light is common to many faiths.

“The really interesting religious dimension is that Chanukah, Diwali [the Hindu festival of light], Christmas, and Kwanza [the African-American celebration that incorporates candle-lighting] all come at the darkest time of the year. Our religious impulse is to bring light,” said Rabbi Eliot Baskin of Denver’s Jewish Family Service.

“The torch held by the lady in New York harbor represents the liberty of religious freedom. And that’s what makes America so great. This Chanukah, as we recall the rededication of the temple, we rededicate ourselves to religious freedom for all.”

Happy Chanukah to all Jewish people, and may all people of goodwill stand in the light.

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