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How to Light the Hanukkah Menorah

Instructions for Lighting Your Hanukkah Menorah

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Woman lighting Menorah, mid section, close-up
Nancy R. Cohen/Photodisc/Getty Images

Lighting the Hanukkah menorah (also called a Hanukkiyah) is the most important part of celebrating the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah. The menorah reminds us of the miracle of the Hanukkah lights, when only one day worth of oil burned for eight days after the Maccabees reclaimed the holy Temple.

Below are instructions for lighting the menorah during the holiday of Hanukkah. In order to do the lighting ceremony you will need:

  • A Hanukkah menorah (Hanukkiyah)
  • Candles that will fit in your menorah’s candle slots
  • Matches

Lighting the Menorah on the First Night of Hanukkah

On the first night of Hanukkah and on all other nights during the holiday, the middle candle (called a shamash) is lit first. The shamash does not count as one of the Hanukkah candles, but is used to light all the other candles. You can learn more about this tradition in: What Is a Hanukkiyah?

Families usually light their Hanukkah menorah directly or soon after nightfall. If Hanukkah begins on Shabbat, the Hanukkiyah should be lit just before sundown.

Place a candle in the rightmost position on your menorah. Now hold the shamash and recite the following blessings:

Baruch Atah Adonai Eloheinu Melech HaOlam, asher kidshanu b’mitzvotav v’tzivanu l’hadlik ner shel Hanukkah.

Blessed are You, O Lord Our God, Ruler of the Universe, Who has sanctified us with Your commandments and commanded us to kindle the lights of Hanukkah.

Baruch Atah Adonai Eloheinu Melech HaOlam, she’asah nisim l’avoteinu, b’yamim haheim bazman hazeh.

Blessed are You, O Lord our God, Ruler of the Universe, Who made miracles for our forefathers in those days at this time.

Baruch Atah Adonai Eloheinu Melech HaOlam, shehekheyanu, v’kiyamanu vehegianu lazman hazeh.

Blessed are You, O Lord Our God, Ruler of the Universe, Who has kept us alive, sustained us and brought us to this season.

Note that you can see Sephardic/Modern Israeli versions of these blessings in: Hanukkah Candle Lighting Blessings.

After these blessings are said the shamash is lit and the first Hanukkah candle (the one you placed in the rightmost position of your menorah) is kindled using the flame from the shamash. Place the shamash in its place on your menorah. (Usually there will be a special spot for it in the middle of your menorah.)

Lighting the Menorah on All Other Nights of Hanukkah

During all other nights of Hanukkah begin by placing your candles in your menorah from right to left. Not counting the shamash, the number of Hanukkah candles in your menorah should match the night of Hanukkah. For instance, if it is the 5th night of Hanukkah you would place 5 Hanukkah candles in your menorah.

Light the shamash first, then kindle the remaining candles from left to right. This is the reverse order of how the candles were placed in your Hanukkiyah, so the last candle you put in the menorah should be lit first. Learn more about this custom of lighting from left to right in: What Is a Hanukkiyah?

As you light the candles recite the following two blessings:

Baruch Atah Adonai Eloheinu Melech HaOlam, asher kidshanu b’mitzvotav v’tzivanu l’hadlik ner shel Hanukkah.

Blessed are You, O Lord Our God, Ruler of the Universe, Who has sanctified us with Your commandments and commanded us to kindle the lights of Hanukkah.

Baruch Atah Adonai Eloheinu Melech HaOlam, she’asah nisim l’avoteinu, b’yamim haheim bazman hazeh.

Blessed are You, O Lord our God, Ruler of the Universe, Who made miracles for our forefathers in those days at this time.

After the candles are lit place the shamash in its place on your menorah.

Singing Songs and Playing Dreidel After Lighting the Menorah

Many families like to sing Hanukkah songs after lighting their menorah. You can find many Hanukkah songs along with their lyrics and sample melodies in: Favorite Hanukkah Songs.

Another favorite tradition is playing the dreidel game after lighting the Hanukkah candles. You can learn more about the dreidel and how to play this game in: How to Play the Dreidel Game.

References: "Celebrate! The Complete Jewish Holidays Handbook" by Lesli Koppelman Ross. Jason Aronson, Inc.: Northvale, 1994.

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