How to light the chanukiah

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While it is the custom in many households, especially where there are children, for each person to have his or her own menorah, only one is required for each household.

The traditional menorah, called a chanukiah, is designed so that all the candles are in a straight, level row, so it is reminiscent of the original seven-branched menorah that stood in Beit Mikdash, the Temple in Jerusalem.

Contemporary designs often have different levels, but as long as the shamash is differentiated by being either higher or lower than the rest, they are acceptable. The shamash has been added as a ninth candle since it is forbidden to use any of the festival's eight lights to light the other candles.

The chanukiah is placed at an outside window in order to publicize the miracle of the festival. The rabbis added, however, that at any time and place where there was danger, such as curtains that could ignite, the chanukiah could be placed elsewhere in the room. The candles should be large enough to burn for half an hour and should be lit as soon as possible after the stars come out each evening.

Tonight, on the first night of Chanukah, standard Shabbat candles can be used in the menorah to insure that they burn into the night. And the Chanukah candles should be lit before the Shabbat candles, for once the Shabbat candles are lit, it is forbidden to kindle any fire, even for Chanukah.

On the first night of Chanukah one candle is placed in the holder to the far right. The shamash is lit and three blessings are said before lighting that first candle. On every subsequent night, one more candle is added to the right-hand side as you face the chanukiah. However, the one to light first is the new one representing the new day — that is, the candle farthest to the left — and thus the candles are set up from left to right but lit from right to left!