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Hanukkah means dedication. It is also an acronym for Heth Neroth WeHalakha KeBeth Hillel (eight candles and the law according to the House of Hillel). This refers to the famous difference of opinion Between the Houses of Shammai and Hillel. The House of Shammai said that we should light eight candles on the first night and reduce one every subsequent night. The House of Hillel said that we should light one candle on the first night and increase the amount by one every day. We light in accordance with Beth Hillel.

The word Mashiyah (Messiah) is an acronym for Madliqin Shemonah Yeme Hanukkah (we light throughout the eight days of Hanukkah). What is the significance of this? By lighting the Hanukkah we perform three Miswoth (precepts) together, as follows:

When one enters one’s home the Mezuzah is on the right, the Hanukkah is lit on the left, and the man who enters has Sisiyoth (fringes) on his Tallith Qatan. The Acronym for Sisith, Mezuzah and Hanukkah is Semah, who is the Mashiyah.

During the eight days of Hanukkah we kindle lights in commemoration of the “miracles, deliverance, mighty deeds salvations, wonders and solace” that our Heavenly Father performed for us in those days, at this time.

It was then that the suppressive and tyrannical rule by the Greeks was overturned in battle and the Beth Hammiqdash (Temple) was rededicated by the Hasmoneans.

There are different opinions as to why, when they entered the Temple and found only one cruse of pure oil for the Menorah (sufficient for only one day), they required eight days to make new oil. One opinion is that they were defiled from war and had to wait to be purified before making it.

In any case, as is well known, this solitary cruse lasted for eight days and in memory of this miracle the festival of Hanukkah was established for eight days.

On each night of Hanukkah, from when the time for lighting arrives, we are not permitted to eat or even study Torah till the lights are actually kindled.

The choicest way of performing the precept of the lighting of the Hanukkah lights is through the use of olive oil. However two types of lights may not be mixed (such as olive oil and wax candles) as it should not appear that two people lit them.

In accordance with the teachings of Sephardi Hakhamim, z”l, only the head of the household may light Hanukkah lights in each household. The other members of the family stand beside him and watch.

It is good, however, to allow one of the children to light the additional candle – referred to as the Shammash – in order to train them in the performance of the Miswoth. The Shammash, which is generally considered to have some Miswah attached, should be lit last and should not be used to light the other lights.

This is in accordance with the Sephardim. Ashkenazim have the Minhagh of having each child light his own Hanukkah.

Click Here for more of the Laws and Customs of Hanukkah.

(Taken from the writings of Hakham Ya'aqob Menashe.)