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Menorah versus Chanukiah
I must admit that it is somewhat confusing to explain the difference between the seven branches and nine branches candelabras. While most people often refer to both as Menorahs the purpose of each one is different. Bezalel was commissioned to build a seven branch menorah. It symbolizes the burning bush as seen by Moses on Mount Sinai and the seven days of the week. The Menorah was used in the Temple and is described in great detail in the Torah: Exodus 25:31-40. Later this symbol was used as the emblem of the state of Israel. Thus we should only use the name Menorah for a seven branched candelabrum. The candelabrum being used for Chanukah, however, contains nine branches and was created to celebrate the victory over the Greek army. Only after a long war the Macabees succeeded to enter the Sanctuary where they found only one jar of ritually pure oil that was sufficient to burn only for one day; but they lit the lights of the Menorah from it for eight days, till they pressed olives and extracted additional pure oil. Hence eight branches and one more used as Shamash – to light the other eight. Today, after the word Menorah has been used for millennia for both lamps: the Menorah as well as the Chanukah lamp, there exists a mix up. I prefer the term Chanukah menorah, or the Hebrew word, Chanukiah to describe the nine branched one.
Chanukah candle lighting and traditions
Lighting the candles in the Chanukah Menorah serves to remind us of the miracle of the lights of the Temple Menorah, when only one day worth of oil burned for eight days after the Maccabees reclaimed the holy Temple. It is a custom to light the Chanukah candles after nightfall, when stars appear in the sky. It is also a beautiful tradition that after candle-lighting the Menorah will then be placed on the windowsill of a home or left of the doorpost, thereby showing the light for everyone to see. The Festival of Lights is celebrated every night of Chanukah when the members of the family will gather and light the candles while reciting the blessing. It is a tradition in many homes that each member lights his or her own Menorah and recites the blessings. On the first night of Hanukkah and on all other nights during the holiday, one candle, the Shamash translated Server, is placed either on the end or in the middle and is usually higher than the rest of the candles, is lit first. This Shamash does not count as one of the Hanukkah candles, but is serves to light all the other candles. We always begin by placing the candles from right to left. The number of Hanukkah candles Lit every night match the night of Hanukkah as each night we place and light one more candle in the Menorah from one not counting the Shamash to eight on the last night. Please note that because of the law prohibiting the lighting of a fire on Shabbat, Chanukah candles have to be lighted before the Shabbat candles on Friday night, and the candles in the Chanukah Menorah are lit only after the Havdalah ceremony on Saturday night. Below are the blessing recited when lighting the Chanukah candles: Blessed are You, Lord our G-d, King of the universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments, and commanded us to kindle the Chanukah light. Blessed are You, Lord our G-d, King of the universe, who performed miracles for our forefathers in those days, at this time. Only on the first night when the menorah is kindled for the first time we add a third blessing; Blessed are You, Lord our G-d, King of the universe, who has granted us life, sustained us, and enabled us to reach this occasion. After lighting the candles everyone starts to sing Chanukah songs are recited, fried foods that remind us of the significance of oil on this Festival of lights are eaten, and Dreidels are played with. Another tradition is handing children Chanukah geld, Chanukah –money on each night of the Holiday.