1st Candle of Hanukkah at the Western Wall - Video and Photos
Chief Rabbis of Israel, Rabbi Shlomo Amar and Rabbi Yonah Metzger and Education Minister Gideon Saar attended the Western Wall lighting of the menorah on the first night of Hanukkah.
Courtesy of Naftali Charlap - Kuvien Images
A Short Synopsis of Hanukkah Laws (for a detailed article on Hanukkah laws by Rabbi Eliezer Melamed, click here)
Hanukkah, meaning dedication, is an eight day holiday honoring the rededication of the Holy Temple by the Hasmoneans, the priestly family to which the Maccabees belonged, at the end of a victorious, but bitter, war for religious liberty against the Greek Empire.
It is celebrated in gratitude to G-d for two miracles that occurred in the year 165 B.C.E. (the second Temple period) : one, the victory of the few against the mighty - the Maccabean fighters over the Greeks and Hellenists, who banned normative Judaism - and two, in order to remember how the one vial of olive oil that the Jews found when they wished to rededicate the defiled Holy Temple and light its golden menorah once again lasted for eight days, until new oil could be processed.
A nine branched menorah, called a hanukkiya in Hebrew to differentiate it from the seven branched Holy Temple candelabrum, is lit each night of the holiday, at sundown or when the stars come out. (Hanukkah lights may be lit later on if necessary, until "there is no one walking about in the marketplace" according to Jewish law).
One candle is lit the first night and another is added each night, until a total of eight are lit on the last night. The lights are placed from right to left, but the one in the new spot is lit first.
Two blessings are said each night while a third, said on the first night of all holidays, is added on the first night. The "Hanerot halalu" ["These candles that we are lighting..", ed.] poem is said as the candles are being lit and the rousing Maoz Tzur [Rock of Ages, ed] hymn is sung after the lighting.
Any oil or candle may be used, with olive oil considered the most special choice, as long as the lights burn for at least half an hour after sundown. This means that on Friday, there must be enough oil or large enough candles for that to occur, as they must be lit before the Sabbath candles while it is still daylight. On Saturday night, they are lit after the Havdalah [separation from the Sabbath, ed.] prayer.
Since the lights may only be used to publicize the miracles, they are lit by an extra candle called the "shamash" [worker, ed.] which is left burning so that if their light is used by mistake, it can be said to be from that candle. That is why Hanukkah menorahs have nine candle holders instead of eight, with the shamash placed differently.
The Hanukkah menorah should be placed in a window or doorway where passersby will see it and remember the miracles.
Special verses thanking G-d for the miracles and telling the story are added to the Grace after Meals and the Silent Prayer. The Torah is read and Hallel, the prayer of praise to G-d, is said each day.