How Do You Light the Menorah?

How many Menorahs?

Every household needs at least one Menorah. However, the more candles we light, the better! In fact, the ancient rabbis teach us that we add to the mitzvah (commandment) by lighting multiple Menorahs. It is a wonderful tradition for each child to have his or her own Menorah, a family heirloom, a new purchase — or homemade.

Who lights the candles?

In some families, it is traditionally the father who lights the Menorah. In others, it is the mother or the children.

The Talmud actually teaches that the mitzvah (commandment) is enhanced when more members of a family participate in the mitzvah of lighting the Menorah (Shabbat 21:B). Hanukkah thus provides us with an opportunity for an inclusive celebration with the lighting of the Menorah.

How to light the Menorah?


The candles are placed in the menorah from right to left (as you face the menorah). When you light the candles, the Shamash is the first candle to be lit. It is used to light the other candles. The other candles should not be lit directly with the match. The other candles are then lit on each night, from left to right (as you face the Menorah).

On the first night, you place a candle on the far right of the menorah. You light the shamash and then use the shamash to light the remaining candle.

On the second night, you place a candle on the far right, and then you place a second candle to the left of the right-most candle. When you light the candles, you light the shamash and then use the shamash to light the left-most candle first and then the second one to the right.

On the third night, you place a candle on the far right, and then you place a second candle to the left of the right-most candle, you place a third candle to the left of the second candle.

When you light the candles, you light the shamash and then use the shamash to light the left-most candle first and then the second one to the right, and finally the third candle to the far right. And so on for each of the eight nights.

The last night is most magical because you enjoy the illumination of all of the candles.

The reason for this order is because the House of Hillel believed that the splendor of the holiday should expand each night by lighting more candles until you ultimately light all eight night candles on the final night.

On the Friday night of Hanukkah, it is customary to light the Hanukkah candles before the Shabbat candles. This is because lighting the Shabbat candles signifies the beginning of the “Day of Rest” on which one does not traditionally kindle a fire.

Where to place the Menorah?

It is customary to place the Menorah in the window to proudly and publicly celebrate the miracle of Hanukkah.

There is an interesting discussion in the Talmud about displaying the lit Menorah just as the people are finished shopping in the marketplace (Shabbat 21b) in order to publicize the celebration of Hanukkah as fully as possible.

There is also a beautiful contemporary book called The Christmas Menorah, which tells the true story of the entire Town of Billings, Montana displaying Menorahs in their own windows, Jews and non-Jews alike, in a show of solidarity for a Jewish family whose house was attacked in a hate crime. This book is a wonderful story of love and community for younger children.

How to Recite the Hanukkah Blessings?

First Blessing
Baruch ata Adonai,
Eloheinu melech ha-olam,
Asher kidshanu
B’mitzvotav
V’tzivanu,
L’hadlik ner shel Hanukkah
Blessed are You Adonai,
Our God, Ruler of the World,
Who made us holy
Through your commandments
And commanded us
To light the Hanukkah Light.

Second Blessing
Baruch ata Adonai
Eloheinu melech ha-olam,
Sheh-asah nissim
La’avoteinu
Bayamim ha-heim
Ba-z’man ha-zeh
Blessed are You Adonai,
Our God, Ruler of the World,
Who made miracles possible
for our ancestors
in those days
at this same season.

Third Blessing – for the First Night Only
Baruch ata Adonai,
Eloheinu melech ha-olam,
She-heh-chi-yanu,
V’ki-y’manu,
V’higiyanu,
La-z’man ha-zeh

Blessed are You Adonai,
Our God, Ruler of the World,
Who has kept us alive
And enabled us
To reach
This season of life

Further reading:

“The Hanukkah Menorah or Hanukkiah is a nine-branched candelabrum lit during the holiday. On each night of Hanukkah we light new candle or wick. The ninth one, called the Shamash (“helper” or “servant”), is used to light all the other candles or oil lamps. To be kosher, the Shamash must be placed on a different level than the eight other candles.

Since Hanukkah is a holiday celebrated in the home, lighting the Menorah gives each family the ability to bring the holiness of the holiday, and of the ancient Temple re-dedicated by the Maccabees, into their own home. We like to have each child participate in creating the miracle of Hanukkah by lighting his or her own Menorah in the house (technically a Hanukkiah), or by having the chance to light a candle. With each succeeding night, we magnify the blessings of the holiday. Lighting the Menorah is truly a re-dedication of one’s commitment to faith and family.

Related Posts

Hanukkah Discussion Questions 1.  Hanukkah is a holiday of re-dedication, a festival celebrating the re-establishment of the holy Temple in Jerusalem by the Maccabees. Is there s...
Passover Discussion Questions We hope that these questions will stimulate a meaningful discussion at your Seder. Q1: What are you a slave to today? Why? Passover is the story o...
Why We Light the Menorah The tradition of the Menorah dates back to the story of Exodus (Exodus: Chapter 25). God commanded the Israelites to light the Menorah in the portable...
How to Play Dreidel? The Dreidel (or spinning top) is one of the most joyous parts of Hanukkah celebrations. And the whole family can play together, no experience necessar...
The History & Meaning of the Menorah On each night of Hanukkah, we light a new candle on the Menorah. Where did the tradition of the Menorah begin? After leaving slavery in Egypt for t...