How to Light the Hanukkah Menorah

The traditional blessings and procedures for lighting the Hanukkah candles.

As with all other Jewish rituals, the lighting of Hanukkah candles goes according to a specific order and has blessings that accompany it.

On the first of Hanukkah’s eight nights, only two candles are placed in the Hanukkah menorah (also known as a hanukkiah): the shamash, or “helper” candle, which has its own designated spot (usually in the center), and another candle. Each night, another candle is added so that on the eighth and final night of Hanukkah, nine candles (the shamash plus eight others) are lit.

Since Hanukkah lasts for eight nights, the holiday will inevitably overlap with Shabbat at least once. Lighting a fire during Shabbat is forbidden according to Jewish law, so there are slight adjustments to Hanukkah candle lighting on both Friday and Saturday nights. According to Jewish law, the menorah should be lit before the Shabbat candles on Friday evening while it is still light out. As for Saturday night, the candles are lit after the sun goes down and Shabbat has ended, but there are differing opinions regarding whether the menorah should be lit before or after the havdalah rituals are completed. There is no consensus among Ashkenazi rabbis, and the most widespread Sephardic custom is to recite havdalah first.

The candles are placed in the menorah from right to left (just as Hebrew is written from right to left), but are lit from left to right. The shamash candle is always the first one lit, and is used to light the others, starting with the left-most one. (Think of it as lighting the candle representing the newest night first.)

Before lighting the candles (but after placing them in the menorah), we recite three blessings. Click here to download a printable PDF of the Hanukkah candle blessings.

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יי, אֱלוֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, אֲשֶׁר קִידְשָׁנוּ בְּמִצוֹתָיו, וְצִיוָּנוּ לְהַדְלִיק נֵר שֶׁל חַנֻכָה

Baruch atah, Adonai Eloheinu, Melech haolam, asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav v’tsivanu l’hadlik ner shel Hanukkah.

Praised are You,
Our God, Ruler of the universe,
Who made us holy through Your commandments
and commanded us
to kindle the Hanukkah lights.

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יי, אֱלוֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, שֶׁעָשָׂה נִסִּים לַאֲבוֹתֵינוּ, בַּיָּמִים הָהֵם בַּזְּמַן הַזֶּה

Baruch atah, Adonai Eloheinu, Melech haolam, she-asah nisim la’avoteinu bayamim hahem bazman hazeh.

Praised are You,
Our God, Ruler of the universe,
Who performed wondrous deeds for our ancestors
in those ancient days
at this season.

(First Night Only):

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יי, אֱלוֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, שֶׁהֶחֱיָּנוּ, וְקִיְּמָנוּ, וְהִגִּיָּענוּ לַזְּמַן הַזֶּה

Baruch atah adonai elohenu melech ha’olam, shehecheyanu, v’kiyimanu, v’higiyanu lazman hazeh

Praised are You, Our God, Ruler of the universe, Who has given us life and sustained us and enabled us to reach this season.

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