photograph of a bin of colorful candles

How Many Candles Are Needed for Hanukkah?

Keeping your menorah lit all eight days.

You need 44 candles for every menorah you plan to light over Hanukkah. On the first night, two candles are needed, one as the shamash and one to represent the first night. On the second night, you will need three candles, then four, and so on until the eighth night on which you will need nine candles. Added together, this is a total of 44 candles:

2 + 3 + 4 + 5 + 6 +7 + 8 + 9 = 44

A traditional box of Hanukkah candles should have 44 individual candles, though sometimes they are packaged in sets of 45 in case one breaks.

Everything you need to know about lighting Hanukkah candles.

Your calculation may be different if you use the Sephardi system of menorah lighting. While Ashkenazi Jews use the shamash to light the other candles, Sephardi Jews use a separate source of fire to light all candles, including the shamash. This separate source need not be a candle. It could, for instance, be a lighter. But some Sephardi Jews use another candle to light. In this case, you would need more than 44 candles.

Is there any significance to the number 44? As it turns out, there is a Hasidic teaching from Rabbi Levi Yitzhak of Berditchev about why we light this many candles on Hanukkah:

On Hanukkah we light 36 candles, and the Service of Below arouses Above to light 36 lights, and 36 of Above with 36 of Below is 72, corresponding to the 72 Names of the Blessed One, and counting the shamash we get 44, and with corresponding 44 from Above we get 88 [פ”ח]. And the hint behind 88: “the trap (פח) broke and we were saved” (Ps. 124:7). Through the trap that was broken, the kingdom of Antiochus, we cause Below and Above to light 88 lights…

Kedushat Levi, Homilies for Hanukkah

Rabbi Levi Yitzhak of Berditchev explains that if we exclude the shamash, over the course of Hanukkah we light 36 candles here on earth. Above, in the heavens, 36 more candles are lit, bringing the total to 72, which is equivalent to the number of names for the divine. Further, he says, if we include the shamash that is lit eight times, the number of candles is 44. When we envision that 44 parallel candles are lit in the heavens, this brings the total to 88 which, in gematria (the Jewish system of assigning numerical values to letters) is equivalent to the value of the Hebrew word pach, meaning trap. This alludes to the miracle of Hanukkah, since the Maccabees broke the trap laid by King Antiochus.

Learn more about gematria.

Discover other numbers with significant meaning in Judaism.

Explore Hanukkah’s history, global traditions, food and more with My Jewish Learning’s “All About Hanukkah” email series. Sign up to take a journey through Hanukkah and go deeper into the Festival of Lights.

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