One should use a beautiful Chanukah menorah in order to show honor for the special holiday, commemorating a great miracle.
Chanukah, an eight-day holiday, begins on the 25th day of the Hebrew month of Kislev. It commemorates the victory of the Maccabees over the Greeks who ruled much of the Land of Israel, banned the Jewish religion on pain of death, and defiled the Holy Temple.
When the Maccabees entered the Temple, they sought to light the menorah, but found only one jar of oil that had not been defiled by the Greeks. Although it contained enough oil to burn for only one day, a miracle occurred, and the oil lasted eight days. The Maccabees restored religious freedom, and peace reigned in the land for about 200 years.
Candles are lit on each night of Chanukah, and special prayers are recited thanking God for the miracles the people experienced. No fasting or eulogizing is allowed, and the eight days have a festive nature to them, although work is permitted as usual (unlike Shabbat and other holy days).
It is preferable to light the Chanukah menorah with olive oil in order to more closely resemble the miracle, although wax candles are completely acceptable. The candles must burn for at least 30 minutes after dark. As such, when the candles are lit early – such as on Friday afternoon before sunset, (as they must be lit before Shabbat begins) – one must ensure that the candles wil burn for at least about an hour and a half.
It is customary to use an extra candle to light the Chanukah candles. This candle is called the Shamash. It is positioned above or beside the candles.
The Chanukah candles are holy; one may make no use of them whatsoever other than to look at them and contemplate the miracles that God performed. The Shamash, however, is not holy, and one may use it for mundane purposes.
On the first night of Chanukah, one candle is lit, and on each successive night another one is added until the eighth night, when all the candles are burning. On the first night, the right-most candle is lit. On the second night, a candle is added, so that now the two right-most candles are lit. On the third night, a third candle is added, and so on. The new candle is always lit first. Three blessings are recited on the first night of Chanukah, and two blessing every night thereafter.
One should use a beautiful Chanukah menorah in order to show honor for the mitzvah (commandment).
After the candles are lit, it is customary to sing Haneirot Halalu and Maoz Tzur, songs about Chanukah. One should try to remain in the vicinity of the candles while they are burning. Giving the children Chanukah donuts and dreidels is a good way to get them to stay!
By: Rabbi Ari Enkin, rabbinic director, United with Israel
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