Lighting the Hanukkah candles is a popular ritual for Jews around the world. As part of the eight-day Jewish Festival of Lights, families come together to kindle an extra candle each night on the menorah, representing the courage and perseverance of the Maccabees in reclaiming the Temple of Jerusalem. While the basic steps of lighting the menorah are fairly straightforward, knowing which direction to light the candles is an important part of the ritual.
First of all, understand that each night a different candle should be lit each night beginning on the 25th night of Kislev. A total of eight candles should be lit beginning from right to left – even if you live in a left-handed country like the US – and adding one candle from left to right for each of the eight nights of Hanukkah. Note that the first candle to be lit for each night of Hanukkah (theShamash) is does not count as one of the eight. Rather, it is the candle that is used to kindle the others. The correct direction in which to light the Hanukkah candles is from the right to the left.
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Why Right to Left?
The importance of the direction of the lights is a significant part of the ritual. Historically, Hebrew is written and read from right to left, so kindling the lights in this direction is part of the spirit and tradition of a traditional Hanukkah celebration, and helps to link it to its ancient origin. It is a way to show respect and gratitude for one’s ancestors who celebrated Hanukkah in the same way for centuries.
How to Light
When it comes to the actual act of lighting the menorah, the first thing to do is to ensure the candles are all in the correct position and the Shamash (or helper candle used for lighting the others) is in its separate place, usually higher up than the other candles. Place the box of matches or lighter next to it and begin the kindling of the lights.
Light the Shamash
The first step is to light the Shamash, and should be done with special care and attention. Hold it in a way so that it is easy to light, while also making sure it is firmly secured in place. Once it is lit, you can then use the Shamash to light the other candles.
Light the Other Candles
Traditionally, the Hanukkah lights are lit from right to left and from the outside in. This means that the first candle to be lit is the one that is on the far right side, and it should be lit using the Shamash. Then, the next candle to the left should be lit using the first, and so on until all of the candles have been lit.
Kindling Procedure on Each Day
In the same way that the first night of Hanukkah has a particular process for lighting the menorah, every succeeding night has its own kindling procedure as well. On each night, the newest candle – the one that was added that night – should be the first one lit from the Shamash, and the rest should be lit in the same order as described above.
Lighting the Hanukkah candles is an important ritual for Jews around the world. Knowing the correct way to light the menorah is essential for celebrating the holiday with respect and tradition. To ensure a successful ceremony, remember to always light the candles in the traditional direction – from right to left – and to light the newer candles from the Shamash first. Following these guidelines will help make Hanukkah even more meaningful and enjoyable for everyone.
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Last update 2023-11-27. Price and product availability may change.