Hanukkah is an eight-day Jewish holiday that commemorates a victory of the Maccabees over the Hellenists and the rededication of the Second Temple, which had been desecrated by the Syrians. One of the most popular Hanukkah customs involves the lighting of the menorah – the ancient nine-branched candelabra. How many candles should be used when lighting a Hanukkah menorah?
A traditional Hanukkah menorah has nine branches, with eight branches for each night of the holiday and an extra, taller branch, known as the shamash (literally, “servant”), which is used to kindle the other candles. On each night, one additional candle is lit until all eight branches are lit. On the last night, all nine candles are lit.
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The Meaning Behind the Menorah
The menorah is a powerful symbol that is said to signify the miracle of Hanukkah. According to legend, after reclaiming the Holy Temple, the Maccabees found only enough oil to light the candelabrum for a single day. Yet the oil miraculously lasted for eight days and nights – long enough for the Maccabees to prepare and consecrate new oil. Thus, the menorah is lit for 8 days in commemoration of this miracle.
The Blessing of the Menorah
The lighting of the menorah is an opportunity to fulfill the Jewish commandment of hiddur mitzvah, which is the practice of beautifying a mitzvah (commandment). It is a time of celebration when the family comes together to recite the blessings and sing Chanukah songs.
The Placement of the Menorah
The menorah should be positioned in the doorway of the house or in a central window that is visible from the outside, in order to share the joy of the holiday with passersby.
Rules of Lighting the Menorah
- Light left to right: The candles should be added from left to right, so that the newest candle is placed farthest to the right.
- Light highest to lowest: The Shamash, the ninth candle, should always be placed in a higher position than the other eight.
- Be careful not to extinguish: Once the menorah is lit, it should not be extinguished until the first night (or following night if lit after dark) has passed.
- Don’t move the Menorah: The Hanukkah menorah should not be moved once it has been lit, until all eight nights of Hanukkah are over.
To conclude, Hanukkah candles are lit in a special order, and the number of candles used varies depending on the night of the holiday. The menorah is a powerful symbol that represents the miracle of Hanukkah and the joy of the holiday. Lighting the menorah is an opportunity to commemorate the holiday with family and friends, and to celebrate another year of Jewish tradition.
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Last update 2023-11-26. Price and product availability may change.