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rabbi 05 smallsf badge lgRabbi Joel Landau  ( has been the Rabbi of Adath Israel since May 2013. He was ordained by the Chief Rabbinate in Jerusalem and has served previously as a congregational Rabbi in Charleston, South Carolina and Irvine, California. A full biography of Rabbi Landau is available here.


Since Chanukah begins this coming Sunday night, I thought you might want to brush up on the hows and whys of lighting your menorah. The following can be found in the Orthodox Union’s Practical Halacha for Chanukah Guide


The reason for lighting Chanukah candles is to publicize the Chanukah miracle (pirsumei nisa).

Menorah Shape

All eight candle holders of a menorah must be on the same level. The menorah itself may be curved horizontally.
The shamash must be slightly raised or lowered or to the side of the menorah or in the center, as long as it clearly is not part of the other eight candles.

How Many Candles to Light

The basic requirement is for one candle to be lit per house per night. The extra candles (matching the number of days in Chanukah) and having every person light their own menorah is an enhancement and a custom. Only one “service candle” (shamash) is needed for any number of candles in the same area.

Who Should Light

Anyone in the household who has reached bar or bat mitzvah age can light Chanukah candles even if there are no other people around. If there are other people asleep in the house who have not fulfilled the mitzvah of lighting Chanukah candles, you should wake them so they can see the candles. 

Where To Light

Candles are to be lit in one’s home unless you are not in the city in which you live. The candles may be placed anywhere you are staying. Outside of Eretz Yisrael, it is customary to place them by a window, ideally facing the street.

Note: Even though the menorah is for publicizing the miracle, Chazal set the observance to take place in each person’s home (and not in groups at one home with several families together).

When To Light

The candles should be lit right after dark (except on Fridays).

Note: Candles may be lit as much as 1 ¼ hours before dark (not 1 ¼ hours before sunset!) but the ideal and proper time is after dark.

How Long Candles Must Burn

The candles must burn for at least 30 minutes after dark.

Relighting Candle That Burned Out

A candle (or candles) that is expected to burn for at least 30 minutes does not need to be replaced or relit, even if it burns out in less than 30 minutes.

Relighting Candle that Blew Out

Candles that blew out after having burned for less than 30 minutes after dark do not need to be relit if they had been lit in a place where they would not be expected to have blown out. If they were lit in a windy or drafty place, you must relight them in a different place and say the blessings again.

Using the Candlelight

One may not use light from Chanukah candles for any purpose (not to read by them; not to light other candles from them, except from the shamash).

How To Light

Light Left to Right; Add Right to Left

Light Chanukah candles from left to right, as you face it, not as it will be seen from outside the window. Add the new candle from right to left.  For example, on the first night, put the candle on the extreme right of the menorah.

Setting up and lighting the candles:

  • Set up the candles starting from the right side of the menorah.
  • Light the shamash candle and hold it while you say the blessings:
    • Lehadlik ner shel Chanuka.
    • She’asa nisim l’avoteinu ba’yamim ha’heim ba’zman ha’zeh.
    • (And on the first night, add) Shehecheyanu.
  • Light the left-most candle first and proceed to the next candle on the right, and so on.
  • Once you have lit the first candle each night, say ha’neirot hallalu.

Note: Once the menorah has been lit, you may not turn or move it, even to the window.

Note: Saying Ma’oz Tzur is a widespread custom but is not required.

Lighting on Friday

Shabbat candles are lit after Chanukah candles and at least one Chanukah candle must burn until at least 30 minutes after dark.

If a man forgets to light the Chanukah candles, he may still light them until sunset. But since women start Shabbat when they light the Shabbat candles, they may not light Chanukah candles after lighting Shabbat candles.

SheHecheyanu on Later Days

Shehecheyanu is said the first time you light Chanukah candles each year:

  • Even if your first time is the second or subsequent nights.
  • Even if someone lit for you the previous night.