The Jewish festival of Chanuka will take place this year the evenings of December 20th through the afternoon of the 28th. It is both the celebration of the defeat of the Greek armies in Jerusalem in the second century BCE and a commemoration of the miraculous burning of oil candles in the Temple in Jerusalem which should have lasted less than a day, but lasted eight days.
A large part of the celebration is the lighting of a candle in the eight-branched candelabrum known as a "menorah." An additional candle is lit each of the eight nights of the holiday. Today, many people use either synthetic or natural wax candles. But if the original event occurred with olive oil candles, why use wax? In fact, it seems many people have forgotten that olive oil even burns.
However, as Rabbi Shlomie Chein of Santa Cruz, CA points out, "According to Jewish law, the preferred fuel for kindling the menorah is of course olive oil, since the miracle originally occurred in the holy Temple with olive oil." In other words, wax candles are good, but olive oil is better. And, as it turns out, olive oil is also greener.
Unlike many of the synthetics used to produce solid candles, olive oil is renewable, sustainable and clean. With what other type of fuel source do you feel good about eating the leftovers? Like most DIY endeavors, designing your own olive oil menorah is very satisfying and enjoyable.
The laws regarding the menorah are very flexible, unlike many other Jewish laws. "People actually get creative with how they build their menorahs. It's very beautiful that people can commemorate the miracle and at the same time have their own personal expression with their own creativity," says Rabbi Chein. However, there are numerous details that anyone starting out with olive oil should be aware of. I've been using olive oil for Chanuka since about 2004, and from my experience I present this DIY guide to Chanuka oil menorahs.
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