Kindling the Chanukah Menorah

Blessed are You, HaShem our God, King of the Universe, Who has sanctified us with His commandments, and has commanded us to kindle the Chanukah Light. Blessed are You, HaShem our God, King of the Universe, Who has wrought miracles for our forefathers, in those days at this season. Blessed are You, HaShem our God, King of the Universe, Who has kept us alive (Deut. 6:24-25), sustained us, and brought us to this season.

HaNeiros Hallalu: "These lights we kindle upon the miracles, the wonders, the salvations, and the battles which You performed for our forefathers in those days at this season THROUGH YOUR HOLY PRIESTS.

During all eight days of Chanukah these lights are sacred, and we are not permitted to make ordinary use of them, but to look at them in order to express thanks and praise to Your great Name FOR YOUR MIRACLES, YOUR WONDERS and Your salvations."

The word NISSIM ”miracles”  refers to the obvious acts of intervention of His Divine Providence. This word can also mean banners or signposts (Isaiah 18:3, 11:10,12, 49:22, Exodus 17:15), a flagpole; something that is raised up or elevated. For God’s miracles are meant to be signposts and symbols that stand out to teach and to guide us.  

The term ”wonders,” NIPHLAOT, describes these extraordinary occurences in terms of their independence from the regular order of things (R’ Hirsch).



It is forbidden to use the Chanukah lights for any personal purpose – such as reading or doing work by their illumination ‘lest one slight the mitzvos’ (Shabbos 21b). The prohibition against enjoying the lights makes it manifestly clear to all that they were kindled for the sole purpose of commemorating the miracle.

In compliance with the prohibition against the enjoying the lights, we light a shamash (lit., servant) flame, which is not holy, so that any incidental pleasure that comes from the lights can be considered as coming from the shamash.

By refraining to utilizing the Chanukah lights for anything but the mitzvah itself and contemplating them while they burn WE MAKE IT APPARENT TO ALL that our intent IS TO POPULARIZE THE MIRACLE AND TO PRAISE GOD’S GREAT NAME IN ACKNOWLEDGEMENT OF HIS GREAT MIRACLES.

After the proper numbers of lights are kindled and recital of HaNeiros Hallalu, Maoz Tzur Yeshuati - Mighty Rock of my Salvation is chanted. In the zemer, the liturgical poet recalls various exiles that the Jewish people have endured, praises God for redeeming us from each of them (Egyptian bondage, Babylonian; Persian, Greek and the subsequent exile; Rome (Edom-Yishmael), and prays for the restoration of the Temple and for the dawn of the Messianic Redemption. 

Ma’oz Tzur: ”O mighty Rock of my salvation, to praise You is a delight. Restore my House of Prayer and there we will bring a thanksgiving offering.

When You will have prepared the slaughtering of the blaspheming foe. Then I shall complete with a song of hymn the dedication of the Altar.”

This opening stanza is a plea for the reestablishment of the Temple, our House of Prayer (Isaiah 56, 60:6-7 Haggai 2:8-9, Ezekiel 37:24-28, Jeremiah 30:18), the rededication of the altar, and the renewal of the services there (Jeremiah 33:15-18).

”Troubles sated my soul (during the bondage in Egypt), when with grief my strength was consumed. They had embittered my life with hardship, with the calf-like kingdom’s bondage (Jeremiah 46:20). But with His great power He brought forth the treasured ones, Pharaoh’s army and all his offspring went down like a stone into the deep.

To the abode of His holiness He brought me (i.e., the Holy of Holies in king Solomon’s Temple). But there, too, I had no rest. And an oppressor (Babylonia) came and exiled me. For I had served aliens, And had drunk benumbing wine.” Israel drank ”the wine of sin” and her sensivity to holiness was numbed.

"Scarcely had I departed (my land) When at Babylonia’s demise Zerubabel came – At the end of seventy years I was saved.

To sever the towering cypress (Mordechai; Isaiah 55:13) sought the Aggagite, son of Hammedatha, but it became a snare and a stumbling block to him and his arrogance was stilled. The head of the Benjaminite You lifted and the enemy, his name You blotted out His numerous progeny – his possessions – on the gallows You hanged.

Greeks gatherd against me then in Hasmonean days, They breached the walls of my towers and they defiled all the oils; and from the one remnant of the flasks a miracle was wrought for the roses. Men of insight – eight days established for song and jubilation.” The Syrian-Greeks, especially Antiochus IV Epiphanes, was the monarch who attempted to Hellenize (impose Greek culture) Eretz Yisrael through force.

”Bare Your holy arm (Isaiah 52-53) and HASTEN THE END FOR SALVATION – avenge the vengeance of Your servant’s blood from the wicked nation. For the triumph is TOO LONG DELAYED for us, and there is NO END TO DAYS OF EVIL, Repel the Red One (Edom) in the nethermost shadow and establish for us the seven shepherds (Michah 5:4).”

Since it contains a strong plea for Divine vengeance against Israel’s foes, this stanza was subject to much censorship by Christian authorities. The Red One refers to Esau/Edom—Rome, whose descendants brought the current exile.The war between the Greeks and the Jews was a war over whose wisdom and knowledge would endure and so will be the war between Edom/Rome-Ishmael and the Jews. 

Op-Ed: Hanukkah for a Generation in Need of Rededication By Rabbi Dr. Eliyahu Safran: Judah Macabee’s enemy was clear. Can the same be said for our own? This year, do your share to let the light in (INN, December 08, 2012).

The Torah is the light of the world (Prov. 6:23, Isaiah 2:5), Israel and Mashiach is the bearer of this light and reflect His wisdom to the nations (Isaiah 49:1-6, 42:6-7, 60:1-4, Psalms 27:1).

"A man's wisdom maketh his face to shine,.." (Eccl. 8:1, Ex. 34:29-35). "So perish all Thine enemies, O LORD; but they that love Him be as the sun when he goeth forth in his might..." (Judges 5:31). "His (David's) seed will be forever and his throne is like the sun before Me" (Psalm 89:36-38, Malachi 3:19-21).

A Song. A Psalm, For The Dedication Of The House. By David. Mizmor Shir Hanukat HaBayit LeDavid (Ch. 30). I will exalt You, O Lord, for You have raised me up (lifted me on high), and You have not allowed my enemies to rejoice over me. O Lord, I have cried out to You, and You have healed me. O Lord, You have brought my soul from the grave; You have revived me from my descent into the Pit.

Sing to the Lord, His pious ones, and give thanks to His holy name. For His wrath lasts but a moment; life results from His favor; in the evening, weeping may tarry, but in the morning there is joyful singing.

And I said in my tranquility, "I will never falter." Lord, with Your will You have made me stand like the mighty mountains. You hid Your countenance and I became frightened.

To You, O Lord, I cry, and my Master I beseech. What profit is there in my blood, that I go down to destruction. Shall the dust praise You? Shall it tell Your truth? Hear me, O Lord, and have compassion, Lord be of help to me. You have changed my mourning to dance. You have opened my sackcloth, and clothed me with joy. That I might sing Your honor, and not be silent. O Lord God, I shall constantly praise You."