Hanukah candle lighting reason

From one to eight – Why we add one candle per night on Hankuah

How Janine Shepherd’s Amazing Recovery sheds new light on lighting the Hanukah menorah – adding one candle every night.

Ever wonder why out of all the ways to celebrate Hanukah, the Jewish tradition is lighting candles? Why do we even do Hanukah candle lighting? Even more puzzling is why do we light one candle on the first night, two on the second all the way through to eight on the eighth day, instead of lighting eight candles each night? One such explanation is in the deeper message of what candle lighting is all about. I would like to share a story about Janine Shepherd, an Australian candidate for the 1986 Olympics, who suffered a career ending injury and recovered, that captures the message. Janine was in athletic form, and a skiing candidate for the Australian Olympic team for the 1985 Olympic Games. While training with her team, she was riding for 5.5 hours in New South Wales and was hit by a truck, paralyzing her from the waist down, breaking her back and neck. The doctors told her that her chances for living a normal life, let alone walking, were slim to none. She was given a 10% chance of ever walking again. It was a devastating blow to Janine’s career and life path. She was an athlete by training, and with a broken body and limited to no movement in her legs, Janine decided through much hardship that she will carry on. She will light her first light, and make the first step to recovery. Janine’s decision that she will make a recovery was the first step on her journey to a full recovery. On one of the nights she was lying in her hospital bed in the spinal ward, one of the nurses asked her to put together straws. Not having much else to do, Janine did. She realized that if she can put straws together, then there was one glimmer of hope. One light of hope in her darkest moment. Once Janine returned home she experienced depression, as expected by her care providers, as she realized that she had reached rock bottom, sitting in her wheelchair in a full body cast. Her second decision as she was sitting in her home, was that once she had reached rock bottom, there is nowhere else but up. Janine’s second candle was now lit. Her third decision in her road to recovery was changing her path from her athletic track to another career. A plane flew over her head one day while she was sitting in her wheelchair in her home, and she told her mother: “If I can’t walk, at least I can fly!”. Janine went on to going to pilot school, barely able to lift herself up, and once accepted she became a pilot with relentless pursuit. Janine went on to be a navigator, commercial pilot and finally flight instructor, in a span of 18 months of her release from the spinal ward. You can see Janine’s incredible talk on TedxKC though this link: Janine is a perfect example of the centrality of candle lighting to Hanukah. Hanukah is a time to celebrate recovery, celebrate all of us who struggle with emerging from our dark moments. That’s why Hanukah is always in winter’s darkest season. The way to emerge from difficult situations is not to launch out of them, it is by a series of decisions we make, each one leading us a step closer to our goal. Janine’s recovery was not a one-time miraciStock_000007893374-hanukkah_12ulous recovery, it was by her determination, decision making, positive thinking and persistence to continuously move forward with her life and accepting her present state. All of us have dark moments. Hanukah comes as a reminder that in each of our dark moments there is always hope and a silver lining, but it comes gradually, one candle at a time. And at the end of the Hanukah, we will light eight beautiful candles and celebrate the road to our victory over adversity in our lives.  

Meir Paltiel
Meir Paltiel
[email protected]

Originally from Syracuse, NY, Meir received his BA in American History and Political Science from Tulane University and his MS in Resource Management from SUNY College of Environmental Science & Forestry. He arrived in Israel in 1992, served in the Nahal Infantry Unit before moving to Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu. On Kibbutz, Meir was Assistant Manager of the... Read More