When you light the menorah, recite
two blessings (three on the first night,
to include the She-hecheyanu). As you
light the candles, recite Ha-Neirot ha-
lalu ("These lights"). After lighting,
many sing the traditional hymn, Maoz
Tzur ("Mighty Rock").
Chanukah candles may not be used
for any purpose other than looking at
them. So it's not proper to use their
light to read, light a cigarette or other
To avoid using the Chanukah
lights, it's customary to include an
extra, ninth light, called the shamash
(or service light), so that if we acci-
dentally use the Chanukah lights,
we can rely on the shamash as the
source of light.
Most Chanukah menorahs have
a holder for the shamash, which is
placed higher or lower than the other
candles. The shamash is lit first and
is then used to light the Chanukah
Each day during Chanukah, the
morning prayer service includes the
recitation of the Hallel prayer. Torah
portions from Numbers chapter 7,
describing how the Jewish people
dedicated the tabernacle and altar in
the wilderness after the exodus from
Egypt, also are read.
In the morning, afternoon and eve-
ning services, insert the paragraph of
Al Ha-Nisim ("For the miracles") into
the Sh'moneh Esrei (Amidah) prayer
and include it with birkat ha-mazon
(grace after meals). Do not recite the
Tachanun penitential prayer.
Chanukah is the only Jewish
holiday that coincides with Rosh
Chodesh (the celebration of a new
month), which in this case is the
month of Tevet. On that day, an extra
Torah portion is read.
In many congregations it is cus-
tomary in the morning service to
recite Psalm 30: Mizmor shir cha-
nukat ha-bayit le-David ("A psalm
for the dedication of the Temple,
by David"). On Shabbat, a special
Haftorah, describing a heavenly
golden menorah, is read.
While the Chanukah candles are
burning, household chores are not
And who hasn't sung the song
about the little dreidel made of clay?
The dreidel is a spinning game using
a top with four Hebrew letters: nun,
gimel, hei (pei in Israel), and shin.
The letters stand for the first words
in the Hebrew phrase, Nes gadol haya
po (in Israel: "A great miracle hap-
pened here").or outside of Israel, Nes
gadol haya sham ("A great miracle
happened there"). Children play for
candy, nuts or pennies, taking from
or adding to the pot depending on
which letter the dreidel lands.
To commemorate the miracle of
the oil, it's traditional to eat foods
cooked in oil. Most Jews whose
ancestors came from central or
eastern Europe eat potato pancakes
known in Yiddish as latkes. Why
potato? In the winter months, pota-
toes kept well and were plentiful and
Jews from different countries have
their own latke traditions: Polish Jews
like them sprinkled with sugar and
served with tea, Russian Jews make
them with onions and dollop them
with sour cream, German Jews like
them with applesauce. Mediterranean
Jews prepare doughnuts, known in
Hebrew as sufganiot which, in Israel,
are filled with jelly.
The story of Judith and
Holophernes also is associated with
Chanukah. Judith was a beautiful
Jewish widow (some regard her as
the sister of Judah Maccabee) who
goes into an army camp about to
invade the land of Israel and ingrati-
ates herself with the commanding
She gives him milk to drink, which
makes him sleepy. After he is sound
asleep, Judith cuts off his head, his
army disperses and Israel is saved.
For this reason, some eat dairy foods
In the United States, some Jews
exchange presents on the holiday
— but this is a custom copied from
Christmas and has nothing to do
with the Chanukah narrative.
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(Though if this is impossible, simply
place the menorah in a convenient
place in your home.)
According to tradition, each mem-
ber of the household has his or her
own menorah, but many families use
only one menorah.
The candles should burn for at
least 30 minutes. On Friday night,
the menorah is lit before the Shabbat
candles, and they must burn for at
least 30 minutes after Shabbat has
Menorahs come in all styles and
sizes, and while no rule governs
what a menorah should look like,
the rabbis emphasized that it should
be designed in such a way that an
observer can easily tell which day
of Chanukah it is by glancing at the
candles — which is why traditional
menorahs have candle holders in a
straight line. If someone cannot find
or afford a standard menorah, he or
she can place candles in individual
cups in a row.
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