Chanukah celebrates the relighting of the menorah by the Maccabees. But the menorah that the Maccabees lit was actually the great seven-branched candelabra of the Temple, and not a nine-branched candelabra – one with eight lights for Chanukah and a shamash, a “helper” candle to light the other candles  To distinguish, many people refer to the Chanukah candelabra that we light is actually called a chanukiyah.

In preparation for the holiday and to make Chanukah truly shine, Jewish Treats presents some “things to know” about the chanukiyah:

1) You really don’t need a chanukiyah (or a menorah)! That’s right, one could technically light a series of tea lights (for example) one next to the other and still properly fulfill the mitzvah of Chanukah lights.

2) The lights should be in a straight line without any difference in height between any of the Chanukah lights. They may be in a semi-circle as long as all the lights are visible at the same time. The place for the shamash on the chanukiyah, however, should be differentiated from the other lights. Usually it is higher, lower or out of line with the others.

3) There should be enough space between lights so that the none of the flames merge with their neighbor. Also the candles must be far enough apart that one candle does not cause the candle next to it to melt. 

4) It is preferable to use olive oil for the Chanukah lights since the miracle took place with olive oil. One may, nevertheless, use wax or paraffin candles or other types of oils as long as they produce a steady, clean light.
This Treat was published on December 21, 2011.

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