The Hebrew word chanukah means "dedication" and marks an eight day winter celebration (from Kislev 25 - Tevet 2) that commemorates the victory of faith over the ways of speculative reason, and demonstrates the power of the miracle in the face of mere humanism. For more information about Chanukah, click here.
The tradition is that on the first night of Chanukah one flame is lit, on the second night two, and so on until the eighth night when eight flames are lit. In this way we remember the 'growth' of the miracle.
The procedures for lighting the chanukiah (Chanukah menorah) are as follows. On the first night, set the first candle in the rightmost holder (as you face the chanukiah). Next, light the shamash (servant candle), recite the Hebrew blessings, and then light the first candle using the shamash. After kindling the first candle, set the shamash in its holder. Recite the Haneirot Hallalu (see below) and begin to celebrate!
On the second night, set the candles from right to left in the chanukiah. That is, beginning at the rightmost holder, put one candle, then put another candle in the holder to its left. Next, light the shamash, recite the Hebrew blessings, and then light the candles from left to right in the chanukiah (in other words, you begin lighting the newest candle first). Recite the Haneirot Hallalu and then celebrate!This sequence continues night after night, until the eighth night, when the entire chanukiah is lit up:
Note: If a day of Chanukah occurs on a Shabbat (i.e., Friday night), you light the Chanukiah candles before lighting the Shabbat candles.
Honoring the Light of the World
Of course everything centers on our beloved Savior Yeshua - including the festival of Chanukah. Indeed, as Jewish tradition readily affirms, "All the world was created for the Messiah" (Sanhedrin 98b), and therefore during the candle lighting ceremony we first of all reaffirm the glorious truth that Yeshua is the Light of the world. Those who follow Him will never walk in the darkness because in Him is the light of life (John 8:12).
Before performing the Chanukah candle lighting ceremony, you may want to offer up a prayer of thanks and then ask everyone present to listen to the words of the Messiah:
Most followers of Yeshua do not accept rabbinical authority and therefore object that we are "commanded" to light the Chanukah candles. The following Messianic blessing may therefore be recited instead:
Blessed art thou, Lord our G-d, King of the universe, who has given to us holidays, customs, and seasons for gladness, for the glory of the Lord Yeshua our Messiah, the light of the world.
The following blessing is recited to recall the miracle of the Chanukah season. She-ashah nissim la'avoteinu means "who makes miracles for our fathers." There is some controversy whether this blessing should be recited before or after the Chanukah candles have been kindled:
Blessed art thou, Lord our God, Master of the universe, who performed miracles for our fathers in those days at this time.
After one candle has been kindled, the Hanerot Hallalu may be recited while lighting the other candles:
We kindle these lights (to commemorate) the miracles and wonders and the saving acts that You have performed for our forefathers, in those days at this time, by Your holy priests. And all throughout the eight days of Chanukah, these lights are holy, and we are not permitted to make use of them, but only to behold them, in order to offer thanks and praise to Your great Name for Your miracles, for Your wonders and for Your salvation.
Some of the sages have said the word Messiah (i.e., mashiach: מָשִׁיחַ) should be regarded as an acronym for the phrase: Madlikin (מ) Shemonah (שׁ) Yemei (י) Chanukah (ח), i.e., "we light throughout the eight days of Chanukah."During the eight days of Chanukah we kindle lights in commemoration of the "miracles, deliverance, mighty deeds salvations, wonders and solace" that our Heavenly Father performed for us "in those days, at this time" -- and this is thought to prefigure the greater deliverance to come in the power of the Messiah.
Note: On Friday night the Chanukah lights are lit before the Shabbat candles (and on Saturday night they are light during Havdalah). No practical use may be made of the Chanukah lights, such as the illumination of a room: they are sacred for the occasion.
It is an old custom to display the chanukiah where its lights will be visible from the outside. Note that if you place the chanukiah near a window, the candles should appear lit right to left from the point of view of the one seeing them from outside. Many families have multiple chanukiahs, one for each child of the household, and perhaps a larger one for the entire family.
So let us celebrate the true Light of the World, Yeshua our beloved Savior and Messiah! Let your light shine, chaverim! Let's put away the sin that so easily besets us and rededicate ourselves to our risen LORD. Chag Chanukah Sameach (חַג חֲנֻכָּה שָׂמֵחַ)!