The eight days of Chanukah 5784 begin with the lighting of the first candle on Thursday evening, Dec. 7.
Chanukah, the Festival of Lights is a celebration of the victory of the Maccabees and the rededication of the Jerusalem Temple. It also commemorates the miracle of the oil that burned for eight days.
The kindling of the lights is the most significant ceremony of the Festival.
• The Chanukiah candles should be kindled after nightfall. The Chanukiah should be placed near the window for public view.
• On Friday night the Chanukiah candles are kindled BEFORE nightfall and BEFORE the Sabbath candles. On Saturday night, they are kindled AFTER the conclusion of Shabbat.
• On the first night, place one candle in the Chanukiah at the extreme right. Light the Shamash and recite the blessing. With the Shamash, light the candle in the Chanukiah. Add one candle each night of the holiday. The candles in the Chanukiah are placed from right to left, and are kindled from left to right.
Chanukah Candle Blessings
(recited after the Shamash is lit, but before the other candles are kindled)
Baruch Ata Adonai Eloheynu Melech Ha’olam, asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav, vitzivanu l’hadlik nayr shel Chanukah.
Blessed are You, Adonai our Gd, who has sanctified us with Your commandments and commanded us to kindle the light of Chanukah.
Baruch Ata Adonai Eloheynu Melech Ha’olam, she’asa ni’sim la’avotaynu ba’ya’mim ha’haym ba’zman ha-zeh.
Blessed are You, Adonai our Gd, who performed miracles for our ancestors in days of old in this time of the year.
On the first night only:
Baruch Ata Adonai Eloheynu Melech Ha’olam, she-he-che-ya-nu, v’ki-y’manu-nu, v’hi-gi-a-nu la’zman ha-zeh.
Blessed are You, Adonai our Gd, who has kept us alive, sustained us and permitted us to celebrate this season.
Potato latkes are a favorite Chanukah food among Jews throughout the world, but in Israel, doughnuts are equally popular. Both, being deep-fried, are symbolic of the cruse of oil which miraculously burned for eight days.
In Eastern Europe a tradition developed for families to assemble on the fifth night of Chanukah, at which time gelt (money) was distributed to the children. In more recent times, the custom has developed of giving children gifts in addition to or in place of gelt.
The dreidel is a four-sided top with one Hebrew letter on each side. These stand for the Hebrew words, “A Great Miracle Happened There”. The game is played by spinning the dreidel and seeing which letter is face up when it stops.
Card playing on Chanukah is a tradition that began in the Middle Ages among older yeshiva students. It was, and remains, an expression of the joy of the holiday and respite from study and hard work. The tradition continues to this day.