The Hanukkah festival has been celebrated for centuries and it is an important part of the Jewish faith. One of the most popular components of the celebration is the lighting of the menorah, or eight-branched candelabrum, and the question of how many candles need to be lit often arises. The answer to this question is determined by several factors, all of which will be discussed in detail below.
The Nine-Branch Menorah
The menorah, as it stands today, has nine branches. Eight of these are dedicated to the eight days of Hanukkah. The ninth branch, the shamash, is a servant candle. This candle is used to light all the other candles. According to Jewish law, it is traditionally placed in either the highest or middle of the eight branches. However, some households prefer to put it on the side.
How Many Lights?
The exact number of lights depends on the particular day of Hanukkah. On the first night, a single candle should be lit. On each night after that, another candle should be added, until all eight candles are lit up on the final night. However, some households prefer to light eight candles on the first night and reduce the light each night afterwards, until the shamash is the only candle left lit on the last night. This is often seen as a symbolic way of dimming the lights of Hanukkah.
Apart from the exact number of lights, traditional Hanukkah lamps will also differ in the way they are lit. In modern practice, the shamash is lit first and then used to light all the other candles. The shamash is then extinguished and the newly lit candles must remain burning until they burn out completely.
Once the Hanukkah lights are ready, a blessing is said while all the candles are lit. For the first night, the full “Hanerot Halalu” blessing is recited, followed by the She-he-cheyanu blessing on the second night. From the third night onwards, only the She-he-cheyanu blessing is recited.
In its most simple form, the Hanerot Halalu blessing is a statement of thankfulness. It celebrates the miracle of Hanukkah, whereby a single cruse of oil was enough to light the menorah for a whole week. The She-he-cheyanu blessing, meanwhile, is an expression of gratitude for reaching another milestone in life.
So in summary, the answer to the question of how many candles should be lit on Hanukkah is dependent on the particular day. On the first night, one candle should be lit and on each night thereafter another candle should be added. The shamash should be lit first and used to light all the other candles. For the first night, the full Hanerot Halalu blessing is said before the candles are lit and on the second night the She-he-cheyanu blessing is said. On each night after that, only the She-he-cheyanu blessing is said.
Hanukkah is a joyous celebration and it can be an unforgettable experience to light the Hanukkah lights. May all enjoy a happy and healthy Hanukkah!
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Last update 2023-11-22. Price and product availability may change.