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Hanukkah Lamp

Hanukkah Lamp

Miracle

Lyn Godley (American, b. 1956)
Blandon, Pennsylvania, United States, 2004
  • Light boxes and power source; Light sources: flicker bulbs, backlit sculpted vinyl, electroluminescent panels, fiber optics, electroluminescent wire, vinyl overlay diffuser panels, LED lights, backlit digital imagery, light bulbs, and rope lighting
  • Installation approximately: 72 x 156 in. (182.9 x 396.2 cm)
  • The Jewish Museum, New York
  • Jewish Museum Centennial Commission; Purchase: Nancy and Jeffrey Lane and Cheryl and Michael Minikes Gift in honor of Phyllis Mack, 2005-1a-j
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Hanukkah Lamp

Miracle

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Miracle

Although Hanukkah is not the holiest or most ancient of Jewish holidays, it has become one of the most widely celebrated. Hanukkah literally means "dedication," and the festival celebrates the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem in 164 BCE, following the Jewish victory over the Syrian army. According to accounts in the Talmud and Books of Maccabees, the Syrian king Antiochus had forbidden Jews in the Land of Israel to practice their religion. In response, a small band of Jews, led by Judah "the Maccabee" ("the Hammer"), rose up against the Syrian army. Two miracles occurred. The Jewish rebels defeated the mighty Syrian forces, and a small bit of oil burned in the rededicated Temple for eight days--giving the Jews time to find more pure oil to keep the eternal flame lit.

Candle-lighting remains the primary ritual associated with Hanukkah. One flame is lit on the first night of the holiday, and an additional candle (or oil container) is added each night until eight lights are burning in the Hanukkah lamp. Generally, an additional 'helper' flame, called the shamash, is lit on each night as well. Hanukkah lamps are not meant to provide light for utilitarian purposes but rather to make public the miracles of Hanukkah. Other Hanukkah traditions include playing the dreidl game (a betting game played with a spinning top), eating foods cooked in oil (such as potato pancakes and jelly doughnuts) as a reminder of the miracle of oil, and giving coins (or in recent years, other kinds of gifts) to children.