The traditional menorah that was made according to the pattern given to Moses by God had seven lamps – three lamps on each side of the central flame. This was the lamp stand that stood first in the tabernacle and then later in Solomon’s Temple. The continually burning light was a symbol of the presence of God among His people.
But Chanukah is celebrated with the hanukkiah, a menorah with nine lights. There are four on each side of the central light. This special menorah is used to mark the eight days that the oil should have only lasted one day miraculously continued to burn while the Temple was being cleanse and the consecrated oil prepared.
The central candle is call the shammash, which is the Hebrew word for servant. Each night, that candle is lit first. On the first night, the shammash is used to light the first candle, the one on the right. (The Hebrew written language reads from right to left.) Each night the servant candle lights one additional candle, until by the final night, the entire hanukkiah is lit.
All of the candles that are lit should be allowed to burn each night until they go out on their own rather than being extinguished.
Considering Chanukah as the Festival of Lights, we see another picture of Yeshua. The Bible describes Yeshua as the Light of the world (John 8:12). Yeshua also said that he came “not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). So in the Chanukah tradition, we see another picture of the Messiah. Yeshua is the servant of God who brings light to the darkness.
He lights our lives, just as we light the candles. And only with His light shining through us can we obey His instruction that we are to be the “light of the world” (Matthew 5:4). Yeshua means salvation of God. And we must allow His light to shine in and through us so that the world can see His light in the darkness.
Excerpted from Chanukah: Feast of Dedication, copyright © 2007 by Jonathan Bernis.