About Hanukkah Menorahs

Lighting the yellow Banana Menorah

What is the difference between a hanukkiah and a menorah?

While both the hanukkiah and the menorah are types of candelabrums used in Jewish culture and rituals, they have different designs and purposes.

Menorah: The Menorah, as described in the Torah, is a seven-branched candelabrum made of gold. It was used in the ancient Holy Temple in Jerusalem. The Menorah is one of the oldest symbols of the Jewish religion, and it symbolizes the burning bush as seen by Moses on Mount Sinai. The seven branches are usually of equal height and are arranged in a row.

Hanukkiah: A hanukkiah, also known as a hanukkah menorah, is a nine-branched candelabrum lit during the eight-day holiday of Hanukkah. Eight of the branches represent the eight nights of Hanukkah, and each night, a new candle is lit. The ninth branch holds the "shamash" (helper or servant) candle, which is used to light the other candles. The shamash is often located above or below the rest, or it can be set apart in some other way.

So, the main differences between a menorah and a hanukkiah are the number of branches and their usage. The Menorah has seven branches and was used in the Temple, while the hanukkiah has nine branches and is used during Hanukkah.


How do I light a Hanukkah menorah?

Lighting a Hanukkah menorah, or hanukkiah, is a special process that takes place on each of the eight nights of Hanukkah. Here are the steps:

Placement of Candles: Place the Hanukkah candles in the menorah from right to left (the same direction in which Hebrew is read). This means the first candle goes in the holder furthest to the right.

The Shamash Candle: The shamash, or "helper," candle is used to light the other candles. It has its own designated spot, often in the center or at the end of the menorah. It may be elevated above or set apart from the others. Light the shamash first.

Lighting the Candles: Light the candles from left to right (opposite of how they were placed). This means you light the newest candle first. Use the shamash to light the candles, then return it to its spot.

Reciting the Blessings: On the first night of Hanukkah, three blessings are said before lighting the candles. On the subsequent nights, only the first two blessings are recited.

After Lighting: Once the candles are lit, it's customary to spend time in close proximity to the menorah, often singing songs, playing games (like dreidel), or discussing the story and significance of Hanukkah. The candles should be left to burn out on their own, and should have enough wax or oil to burn for at least half an hour after nightfall.


What time do I light a menorah during Hanukkah?

The candles on a Hanukkah menorah, or Hanukkiah, are typically lit at nightfall. The exact time can vary depending on your geographical location and the time of year, as "nightfall" is defined as the time when stars begin to become visible in the sky.

There is also a tradition that if you cannot light at nightfall, you have until midnight to light the candles. If for some reason you cannot light the candles before midnight, you can still light them after midnight, but without reciting the blessings.

On Friday evening, however, the Hanukkah candles should be lit before the Shabbat candles, and this is often done earlier than nightfall. This is because lighting a fire is one of the activities prohibited on Shabbat, which begins at sunset on Friday and ends at nightfall on Saturday. On Saturday night, the Hanukkah candles are lit after the conclusion of Shabbat, which is marked by a separate ceremony called Havdalah.

In all cases, the candles should be left to burn for at least half an hour after it gets dark. And remember, never leave burning candles unattended.


How many candles are on a Hanukkah menorah?

A Hanukkah menorah, also known as a hanukkiah, has nine candles.

Eight of these candles represent the eight nights of Hanukkah, and a new one is lit on each night of the holiday. The ninth candle is called the "shamash," or "helper," which is used to light the other candles. The shamash is often placed in a distinct location on the menorah, such as in the center and elevated, or set apart in some other way.

So, by the last night of Hanukkah, all nine candles on the hanukkiah will be lit.

A traditional menorah, often referred to as a Temple menorah, has seven branches and thus holds seven candles or oil lamps.


Can I blow out menorah candles?

According to Jewish tradition, you should not blow out the candles on a Hanukkah menorah (also known as a hanukkiah). Instead, the candles should be left to burn out on their own.

The candles or oil lamps placed in the hanukkiah should have enough fuel to burn for at least half an hour after nightfall. During this time, the hanukkiah should not be tampered with, and the candles should not be put out prematurely.

The reason for this is tied to the purpose of the Hanukkah lights, which is not to use them for light, but to remember and publicize the miracle of the oil that lasted for eight days in the rededicated Temple in Jerusalem. This is why it's also a tradition to place the lit hanukkiah in a window or somewhere it can be seen from the outside.


What is special about the ninth menorah candle?

The ninth candle on a Hanukkah menorah, also known as a hanukkiah, is called the "shamash," which translates from Hebrew to "servant" or "helper."

Unlike the other eight candles, which are lit to commemorate the eight nights of Hanukkah, the shamash has a purely practical purpose: it is used to light the other candles. This is because there is a rule that the Hanukkah lights should not be used for any practical purpose, but only for viewing and appreciating. By having a separate candle to do the actual lighting, the sanctity of the eight Hanukkah candles is maintained.

The shamash is often placed in a distinct location on the menorah, such as in the center and elevated, or set apart in some other way, to distinguish it from the other eight candles.

So, while the eight Hanukkah candles represent the eight miraculous days that the oil in the Temple menorah lasted, the shamash does not directly symbolize a part of the Hanukkah story but serves a functional role in the lighting ceremony.


How do I get wax off of a menorah?

Getting stubborn wax off a menorah can be a delicate process. Fortunately, Banana Menorah was made for a quick clean up. Here are some of our owner’s favorite methods:

Freezing: Find a spot for your menorah in the freezer for an hour or two. The cold will cause the wax to contract, making it easier to remove. After removing the menorah from the freezer, gently pry off the wax with your fingers or a non-metallic tool, such as a plastic knife or scraper, to avoid scratching the menorah.

Hair Dryer: Another method is to use a hair dryer on a low heat setting to gently warm and soften the wax, which can then be wiped away with a soft cloth.

Toothpicks: While it may take a bit longer, there is something very relaxing about popping wax plugs out of the candle holes. Enjoy.

Remember, always be gentle when cleaning your menorah to avoid causing scratches or other damage. It's also a good idea to remove wax regularly during Hanukkah, rather than letting it build up over the eight nights.


Can I use an electric menorah?

Yes, you can use an electric menorah, also known as an electric hanukkiah, especially as a means of publicizing the miracle of Hanukkah, which is a key aspect of the tradition. Electric menorahs can be a safer alternative in environments where an open flame is not safe or not allowed, such as dormitories, apartments, hospitals, or other public places.

However, keep in mind that according to traditional Jewish law, fulfilling the mitzvah (commandment) of lighting Hanukkah candles involves lighting actual flames, which electric lights do not satisfy. The blessing traditionally recited refers to "lighting the Hanukkah light," and most authorities interpret this as requiring a wick and a fuel source, which an electric bulb does not have.

So, while an electric menorah can be used as a supplementary display, it should not replace the traditional candle or oil menorah for the nightly Hanukkah lighting ceremony if you wish to fulfill the traditional religious requirements.

As always, if you have specific questions about religious practices, it's a good idea to consult with a knowledgeable religious authority or mentor in your community.