A Chanukiyah is the name for a Chanukah menorah. Today the common practice is to
place candles in the Chanukiyah from right to left, and to kindle the lights from left to right. In this way the newest candle is lit first. This approach incorporates the common practice of adding one candle to the Chanukiyah for each successive night of Chanukah. Yet in the Talmud (Shabbat 21b) there is a disagreement between Beit Hillel and Beit Shammai regarding how many candles belong in the Chanukiyah at the beginning of the holiday. Beit Shammai’s position is that we ought to begin with eight candles, decreasing by one on each night. Lighting in this manner allows us to focus on the number of days left in the holiday. According to Beit Hillel we ought to begin with one and add a candle for each day that passes. We know that our custom is to light according to Beit Hillel, but the Talmudic discussion teaches that in matters of holiness we must always strive to increase, and never decrease.
The light of the Chanukah candles is a reminder of God’s ability to bring about miracles. It is a mitzvah not just to light the candles, but to do so in a place where others may see the light as well. In sharing the lights of Chanukah we share God’s light. As we do so, may our awareness of the Eternal One and the holiness we bring into the lives of others increase with each passing day.
Chag Urim Sameach,
Rabbi Sandra M. Bellush