One of the great Jewish debates is the proper way to light a menorah. Some insist you load the candles from right to left and light left to right. It seems simple enough. But is it my right, or is it from the other side of the menorah? And what happens if my shamash is all the way to one side? What do I do if I don’t have any candles at all? What if I’m using wicks and oil?
There’s no one way to light a menorah.
According to our sage Hillel, we add a light for each night and light the newest light first. Since Hebrew goes from right to left, it’s only natural for the first night to be furthest to the right. That would be fine, except many Jews, especially Sephardic Jews, like our friends at Or v’Shalom, have customarily used oil for their Chanukah menorah. In that case, there’s no way we can light each candle with the shamash. According to Sephardic custom, the shamash is lit last, and the newest light is lit first.
Too often, we get wrapped up in being exact in our rituals that we lose sight of the beauty behind them. Chanukah is one of those times. We’re lighting candles. This isn’t reciting Kol Nidre on Yom Kippur. Both are equally beautiful, but only one requires intense concentration and execution—hint: it’s not the candles.
We’re already well into Chanukah and as we light the remaining candles (or wicks) of our Chanukah menorah, let’s enjoy the beauty of these flames and what they stand for: the miracle that a small group of Jews could stand up to an empire and fight for their right to be Jewish.
Chag Urim Sameach,
May you have a happy holiday of lights