Lighting the Menorah

The Chanukah Menorah is perhaps one of the most popular Jewish symbols you’ll come across. It is a candelabrum with a spiritual value and a very sacred material in the Jewish faith. A typical Menorah is made up of 9 extensions whose edges are lit up with the aid of candles or oil.

This simply means that the extensions of the Menorah serve as holders for the lighting fuel, which is either a pack of candles or oil. The Menorah is available in different design and colour depending on your preference; it is important, though, that you purchase one that respectfully upholds the principle of Hanukkah.

What is the Shamash?

The Shamash is a special candle that serves the purpose of kindling the lights of the Menorah. Traditionally, most Jews make use of a beeswax candle as the Shamash. This rule is, however, not set in stone and is always open to modification.

Though the primary function of the Shamash is to light all the candles on the Menorah, it is never extinguished after the menorah has been lit. It is, however, placed near the Menorah in case any of the candles on the Menorah blows out.

Since it is forbidden to use the Menorah lights for any other practical thing, having the Shamash lights nearby is quite valuable.

Who is Allowed to Light the Menorah?

Anyone can light the Menorah as there is no doctrine that specifically says who should do it. In typical Jewish families, the head of the family often lights the Menorah during Hanukkah as everyone else listens to the prayers and blessings.

It is, however, not out of place for a child in the household to light the Menorah, and it is in fact, often recommended to foster the Jewish culture.

Regardless of who lights the Menorah, every member of the family should be present when it is being done.

Where Can the Menorah be Lit?

You can light the Menorah at home; if you’re travelling out, though, you should light it wherever you’ll spend the night.  If you’ll be visiting a Jewish family during Hanukkah, it is not necessary for you to light your own Menorah as long as you contribute a significant expense to the Menorah of your host.

For those living in dormitories etc., it is okay to light the Menorah in your personal space as long as it doesn’t intrude the space of your non-Jewish roommate.

When Should the Menorah be Lit?

The Chanukah Menorah should be lit every night of the sacred holiday. Some sections of the Jewish community, however, kindle their lights immediately after sunset. Regardless of the doctrine you follow, your lights must stay on for at least 30 minutes after nightfall.

Also, the Chanukah lights must be lit before sunset on Friday nights and after nightfall on Saturday nights.

Ultimately, it is advisable to kindle the Menorah at the earliest time possible. The only reason you should hold off putting on the lights is to wait for the arrival of family members.

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