Hanukah is the holiday of light. We light the candles gradually from one to eight, and the growing light symbolizes the victory of light over darkness. This ceremony corresponds with ancient rites that were celebrated on December 21st, the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year. The Sages connect between light, fire, blessing and creativity:
R. Levi said in the name of the son of Nezirah : That light functioned thirty-six hours, twelve on the eve of the Sabbath [i.e. Friday], twelve during the night of the Sabbath, and twelve on the Sabbath [day]. When the sun sank at the termination of the Sabbath, darkness began to set in. Adam was terrified, [thinking,] Surely indeed the darkness shall bruise [E.V. ‘envelop’] me (Ps. cxxxix, 11): shall he of whom it was written, He shall bruise thy head (Gen. in, 15) now come to attack me! What did the Lord do for him? He made him find two flints which he struck against each other; light came forth and he uttered a blessing over it
When man ate from the Tree of Knowledge he knew the power of life, and also became aware of the finite nature of life. With the first experience of darkness, man fears the unknown. At this point, man is given the ability to create fire and light.
By striking the two flints together man moves from ignorance and fear, symbolized by darkness, to knowledge and potential creativity, symbolized by fire and light.
Feature Photo: Jan Cossiers, Prometheus (1637)