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Menorah History

The menorah is the official symbol of the Jewish nation
  The Menorah signifies the Feast of Lights which commemorates the miracle of the oil in which one day’s supply lasted eight days. Before Hanukkah begins, the Menorah is taken out as well as nine tapered candles. The ninth candle is normally set apart from the rest as it is a Shamash or master light used to ignite the other eight.

Simulating the miracle of the oil, it is recommended to use olive oil to light the candles. In addition, it is customary for the candles to burn for 30 minutes after they are lit at sundown and always in the presence of everyone in the home. However, there is one exception. The Menorah must be lit before sundown on a Friday afternoon.

Starting from the right, the first candle is inserted into the Menorah and lit with the use of the Shamash or ninth candle. After the Shamash candle is lit, the first two blessings are recited before the first Hanukkah candle is lit. In addition to the two blessings, there is a third which is only recited on the first night.

Similarly, on the second night, place two candles in the Menorah at the far right. Repeat the first two blessings after lighting the Shamash candle and then light the Hanukkah candles using the Shamash candle. Light the left-most candle first and then light in order, from left to right. This procedure is followed for each subsequent night of Hanukkah.

The Menorah is usually lit outside your home, to the left of your front door before entering. The Menorah can be placed in the window facing the front of the house. A third option is to light the Menorah on the dining room table, which is the center of activity as all family members gather for the celebration.

The tradition of lighting the Menorah is a custom in which Jews not only remember the victory over Antiochus and his suppression over the Jews but their restoration of the Holy Temple and the oil that burned for eight days, even though there was only enough oil for one.

Tips for Setting Up the Menorah

There are many traditions which are followed during the period of Hanukkah. The setting up of the Menorah is no exception. Here are some tips on where the Menorah should be placed.

Traditionally, the Menorah should be set outside the front door of your home facing the street. In addition, it should be placed to the left of the doorframe or the entrance to your home. However, if you do not have a Mezuzah at your entrance door, then the Menorah should be placed to the right of the doorframe.

Note, however, there are two customs for apartment dwellers. The first indicates that the Menorah should be lit in the communal area or by the door of the apartment building. The second custom indicates the Menorah should be lit inside the home at the right side of the window facing the street. If that is not possible, then placing it in the center of your table will suffice. The idea is that the Menorah should be seen by the public or by neighbors who pass by your door or building.

This then brings up the question: “Well if I live in an apartment building, and everyone lights a Menorah outside the building, how will anyone know who lit the Menorah? The answer is a simple one. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that the Menorah is placed in as many locations as possible.

What if there are several people who live in one home and wish to set up their Menorahs in a window? The answer is that as long as the Menorahs are spaced apart, that is, anyone passing by can see the lit candles, it is perfectly acceptable to place Menorahs in a window.

The Menorah is symbolic of the miracle of the oil. When Maccabee became victorious over the Greek ruler Antiochus, he not only restored the Holy Temple which was ruined in the war, but with one day’s ration of oil he was only able to light the Menorah for one day. To his amazement, the Menorah stayed lit for eight days. Thus, the eight candles of light on the Menorah are a reminder to all who observe Hanukkah that the Festival of Lights reflects a miracle which occurred in the first temple.

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