Everything You Need to Know About Lighting the Menorah for Hanukkah

young jewish boy lighting the menorah for hanukkah

In Jewish tradition, few items are as precious or symbolic as the menorah. This traditional multi-branched candelabra has been a vital part of the Jewish faith since modern times and remains an essential part of Hanukkah celebrations to this day. During the eight-day Hanukkah festival, an eight-branched menorah modeled after the Temple menorah is used in rites. Whether you’re new to the Jewish faith or need a refresher on how the menorah should be lit for Hanukkah, we’ve got what you need to know.

What is the menorah?

A menorah is a candelabra with eight candles and an additional single one set apart used for lighting the others. This extra spot is known as the shamash, or helper candle. A menorah is used on the eight nights of Hanukkah, with one new candle lit each night, in honor of the rededication of the Temple. For many Jewish families, the menorah is a sacred object given a place of honor not just during the festival, but all year round.

How is the menorah lit for Hanukkah?

On the first night of Hanukkah, it’s tradition to place two candles in the menorah. These include the shamash and the first candle designed to symbolize the first night of the festival. The first night’s candle is traditionally placed in the spot furthest to the right, with each successive night’s candle set next to it. Candles are placed from right to left in honor of the way Hebrew is written from right to left.

Hanukkah candles should be lit after sundown when it’s dark outside. There is a caveat to this tradition, however. Considering Hanukkah lasts for eight days, it overlaps with Shabbat at least once, when lighting a fire is expressly forbidden. When this happens, the menorah should be lit before the Shabbat candles on Friday evening, while it is still light outside. On Saturday night, the candles should be lit after the sun goes down and Shabbat has ended. On the final night of the Hanukkah festival, all nine candles will be lit.

Hanukkah blessings

Hanukkah blessings are an important part of the festival, as well as the menorah lighting itself. It is traditional to recite three blessings on the first night and two on each night after for the duration of the festival.

Blessing #1

“Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments, and commanded us to kindle the Hanukkah light.”

Blessing #2

“Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, who performed wondrous deeds for our forefathers in those days, at this season.”

Blessing #3 (First night only)

“Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, who has granted us life, sustained us, and enabled us to reach this occasion.”

Get Hanukkah supplies from Sarah’s Tent

There are many other ways to celebrate Hanukkah. In addition to the essential rituals of the festival, many families opt to consume traditional foods such as delicious, savory latkes, or to open gifts, surrounded by family and friends. From songs to gifts, Hanukkah is an opportunity to honor the past as well as celebrate the future. However you choose to celebrate Hanukkah, allow the warmth and light of the menorah to guide your experience and embrace the tradition of this beloved festival.For all your Hanukkah needs, including candy and sweets, household essentials, and fresh fruits and vegetables, visit Sarah’s Tent. Our Skokie grocery store has everything you need for the “Festival of Lights.” Reach out to us to learn more about our products and to schedule grocery delivery services.


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