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    36 lights

    Apart from the shammash, altogether 36 lights are kindled during Chanukah. The number 36 is well-known in Jewish life. It is twice chai, and the number of hidden tzaddikim in every generation.

    According to the Midrash, 36 hours is the time that Adam was able to enjoy the light created on the first day – 12 hours on the day he was created (Friday), 12 on his first evening, and 12 on the first Shabbat until he sinned. The sin dimmed the primal light and nothing was ever so bright thereafter. Not until the righteous reach olam ha-ba will they enjoy the full light of creation.

    In a sense Chanukah symbolises the two types of light – the lesser light of our earthly existence and the brighter light of the future. Earthly history, when the philosophies of the time have challenged the purity of Jewish ideals, has often worked against the Divine light and reduced its brightness.

    Just as the assimilatory hellenistic ideology made inroads into Jewish belief and ethics, so did many later philosophies attempt to draw Jews into compromising their Jewish identity. Often they thought that becoming more like the outside world would bring them social acceptability, but it did not curb antisemitism and there were still things the world did not like about Jews. (Jews were too capitalistic or too communistic, too self-confident or too parasitical).

    Fortunately, most Jews decided that Judaism was worth preserving, and the yearning for the primal flame was never quenched.

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