How to light the menorah


Getty Images/iStockphoto

Jordan Palmer, Chief Digital Content Officer

Do you know how to light the menorah?  Do you know the story of Hanukkah? If you do, than consider this a refresher. If you don’t, read on.

The word Hanukkah is actually Hebrew for “dedication,” and known as the Festival of Lights.

It commemorates the victory of the Maccabees over the Syrian Greek army, and the subsequent miracle of rededicating the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and restoring its menorah, or lamp.

The miracle of Hanukkah is that only one vial of oil was found with just enough oil to illuminate the Temple lamp for one day, and yet it lasted for eight full days. Lighting the Hanukkah menorah commemorates this miracle.

The J advertisement

But, even after 52 Hanukkah’s I suddenly wondered, “have we been lighting our menorah correctly?” Thankfully yes, but it was nice to get a refresher.  And, after perusing multiple expert sites, no one explains the proper lighting of a menorah any simpler than the good folks at the Jewish Alliance of Rhode Island.

5 Easy Steps


Step 1: Know Your Timing You’re supposed to light the menorah just after dark each night of Hanukkah. (However, many families wait until everyone is home together, and light it then.) On Fridays, the menorah is lit before dark to avoid lighting on Shabbat.

Step 2: Find Its Spot The menorah is meant to spread light to others and is traditionally placed in a window, on a table or outside your door. (Just make sure it is far from active kids and flammable materials.)

Step 3: Light the Shamash The candle that is raised or in the center of the menorah is the shamash (helper candle). It’s the one you use to light the other candles. Light it first. (Don’t use any of the other candles to light the others.)

Step 4: Say the Hanukkah Blessing You recite the Hanukkah blessing now, once the shamash is lit but before you light any other candles.

Step 5: Light Right to Left, but Left to Right There are eight candles to light. On the first night of Hanukkah, place a candle in the holder on the far right, and light it with the shamash. Then put the shamash back in its spot (leaving it lit). On the second night, light the candle second from the right, then the candle on the far right, and replace the lit shamash. You’ll repeat this pattern for each night of Hanukkah, always lighting the newest candle first. On the eighth night, you’ll be lighting all of the candles, starting at the far left.