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Hanukiah – Hanukkah Menorah

The Hanukiah is a Jewish ritual object, built like a menorah, in which the Hanukkah lights are lit. In the Diaspora, the name commonly used is “Hanukkah menorah” or just “menorah;” the Hebrew name “Hanukiah” only came into use at the end of the nineteenth century, introduced by Hemda, wife of Eliezer Ben Yehuda.

 

The Meaning of the Hanukiah

 

The custom of lighting the candles or oil-lamps in the Hanukiah was introduced as a symbol to remember the event of the renewal of lighting the menorah in the Temple by the Hasmoneans in the year 2 B.C.E., after they succeeded in recapturing the Temple from the hands of the Greek occupiers.

 

The Hanukiah has eight branches for eight candles or oil-lamps, and an extra branch for the “Shamash” – the candle used to light the other lights. The accepted reason for the number of branches is that they symbolize the eight days of the miracle. Another reason is also given: when the Hasmoneans entered the Temple, they improvised eight skewers with which they lit the lights.

 

It is possible that the reason that the Hanukiah has eight branches – and not seven, as in the Temple menorah – is the argument brought in the Talmud, on the question if it is permissible to make a menorah similar to the Temple menorah, or not. On a kosher Hanukiah, all eight candles must be in a straight line, of one height, and with equal spaces, and the shamash must be separated from the other branches.

 

In the Hanukiah we light eight lights in memory of the victory of the Maccabees over the Greeks. It is a mitzva to advertise the miracle in public, so the Hanukiah is placed on a window ledge or at the entrance, so it will be seen from outside, or in the house next to the entrance, on the left as you go in. The time of lighting is from the stars’ appearance until there are no longer people in the streets.

In Israel, in pre-schools, the children make simple Hanukiot which they can use during the festival.

 

What is a kosher Hanukiah?

The Hanukiah is just a technical solution for lighting the Hanukkah lights and is not important in and of itself. One can light the candles without a Hanukiah, for example, to stick the candles on a flat surface or on a window ledge, or to use wide-mouthed glass bottles filled with oil, to insert a wick (with floater) and light. However, a Hanukiah is preferable in order to add adornment and honor the mitzva. Thus it does not matter what material the Hanukiah is made from, as long as the Hanukkah lamps are not to close to each other, so that they will not look like one large torch, for then, the obligation of the mitzva is not fulfilled. There should be a space of 2 cm. (I inch) between each candle or oil cup.

A Hanukiah whose branches are not in a straight line should not be used. The “shamash” should be separated from the Hanukkah candles, either placed above them, or on the side, in order that it be known that it is not counted with the number of Hanukkah lights of the evening.

 

What candles should be lit?

On Hanukkah any sort of candle may be lit. People who want to be meticulous with the mitzva use olive oil. Olive oil gives a special light and reminds us of the miracle of the oil. Care should be taken to have enough oil in the cups to burn for at least a half-hour, and preferably, 50 minutes.

 

Who needs to light Hanukkah lights?

Everyone in the household may light his / her own lights in his / her Hanukiah. Some married women have the custom to rely on their husband’s lighting, but in many households the children each light their own Hanukiah.

 

Where do we place the Hanukiah?

At any entrance in the house or the window ledge. The Hanukiah can be placed on a chair, stool, or table by the entrance opposite the mezuza. If you want to place the Hanukiah on the window ledge, you should check that it can be seen from the street.

 

When do we light?

It is preferable to light at sunset (in Israel, this year, around 4.38 p.m.).

 

How many candles do we light?

 

On the first evening we light one candle plus the “shamash.” On the second evening we light two candles plus the “shamash.” On the third evening, we light three candles plus the “shamash” and so forth, until on the eighth evening we light eight candles plus the “shamash.”

 

From which candle do we start?

 

The first light is set on the right side of the Hanukiah. The second light is set next to it. The third light is set next to it, and so forth. But the lighting always starts with the new light. We start lighting from the left and continue lighting from left to right. The light at the furthest right will always be the last lit.

 

How do we light on Friday evening?

 

On Friday evening Hanukkah lights are lit before Shabbat. First, the Hanukkah lights are lit, and then the Shabbat candles. Since on Friday, the Hanukkah lights are lit earlier than usual, the candles should be bigger in order in order for them to last at least 70 minutes. (It is also nice to see them burning during the Shabbat meal.)

 

How do we light on Motze Shabbat?

 

We light only after Shabbat has ended. First, Havdalah is said, and afterwards the Hanukkah candles are lit.

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