By: Rivka C. Berman, Contributor
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· Menorah Preparation
· Order of Lighting Candles
· Blessing the Chanukah Lights
One of the most famous disputes between the students of Mishnaic sages Hillel and Shammai examined the customary number of lights to be lit each Chanukah night. The students of Shammai thought it best to light all eight candles at the outset and to subtract one each successive night. This would parallel the offerings brought on Sukkot which begin at 70 on the first day and dwindle each following day. The students of Hillel explained the hope that "we should ascend in holiness and not down" as the reason why it would be preferable to add a candle each night of Chanukah. (Shabbat 21b)
Hillel's academy won the debate and his is the practice followed to this day. As candles are added every night of Chanukah the amount of radiated light increases each night, mirroring a commitment to bring an ever-growing amount of spiritual light into the world.
NIGHT ONE: On the first night, the right-most candleholder or oil holder is filled with the fuel: a candle or oil. A shamash, service candle, is lit. All three blessings are said. (See the blessing text) Then the shamash candle is used to light the Chanukiah's candle.
NIGHT TWO, and SO ON: Once again, the right most candle/dollop of oil is put into the candleholder or oil receptacle. Then the second candle is put in next to the first. Then a shamash, service candle, is lit. Two blessings are said (skip the first-night-only Shehecheyanu blessing).
Order of Lighting Candles
Ahh, now which candle is lit first? Here's some halachic background to explain the logic behind the lighting order. The rabbis who established the blessing criteria consistently took care to avoid mentioning God's name without cause. There would be no reason to repeat the Chanukah blessing every night of the holiday if there wasn't something novel that merited the invocation of God's name.
This is one reason why the candle that represents the current night of Chanukah is lit first. It is over this new amount of light that the blessing is being said.
A mnemonic device to remember the order: Refill candles starting from the right. Light the candles starting from the left.
Baruch Atah Ado-nai Eloheinu Melech Ha-Olam Asher Kidshanu B'mitzvotav V'tzivanu L'hadlik Ner Shel Hanukah.
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