My son pulled out a new box of Hanukkah candles, examined them and proclaimed, “These are not going to fit in the Hanukkiah.” So I had to laugh when I read Rabbi Larry Milder‘s email to his congregation, Beth Emek, the very next morning titled, The Candles Don’t Fit in the Menorah. Here’s what he said.
I don’t know why it is, but the candles just never seem to fit in the menorah.
This isn’t the greatest challenge the Jews have ever faced. But it’s frustrating, nonetheless. They fall over. They list into the next candle, causing it to burn at a pace unequal and unfair to the neighboring candles.
I guess it used to be different. All Hanukkah candles came in the same blue box, with exactly the correct number of candles for the holiday (9!-1). Of course, this was never actually enough, because, as a child, one was entrusted with the sacred task of inserting the candles into the menorah, which inevitably resulted in a broken candle or two. Hence, the box of leftover candles from last year, which were never enough for this year, ad infinitum.
And, they seemed to fit every hanukkiyah (the correct term for a Hanukkah menorah).
No more. Judaism has gotten creative. The hanukkiyah comes in all forms, there is no halachah that governs the diameter of the candle holder (what is that thing called?), and candles themselves have gone wild: stripes, tapers, fancy boxes to hold them.
I kind of like that. If there wasn’t the challenge of getting the candle to stand straight in the hanukkiyah, I would have lost something of my childhood.
Hanukkah connects us, over time and space. Jews everywhere are lighting their Hanukkah candles tonight. Children are debating which color candles should go in which order. It’s practice for studying Talmud.
At the very least, please accept these two simple lessons about lighting the hanukkiyah.
- As you are looking at the hanukkiyah, add the candles each night from right to left, just the way you would write Hebrew. And as you light them, light from left to right, that is, the newest night’s candle first.
- Place the hanukkiyah in a window, where it can be seen from outside. This fulfills the mitzvah of pirsum hanes, the proclamation of the miracle.
Hanukkiyah is a time of pride in being Jewish. We show the world: this is our story. Even if the candles are listing.
Chag urim sameach, wishing you a joyous festival of lights.
Back at my house, yes the fancy candles were too small so we took some aluminum foil and wrapped a strip around the base of the candle before pressing it into the menorah. Done!