Menorah, Oil and Wicks
In-depth laws of how to perform the Chanukah mitzvah properly.
1. From which type of material should the menorah be made?
In order to enhance the mitzvah, one should try to obtain as beautiful a menorah as possible according to his ability. The order of preference for different materials is: silver, copper, other metals, glass, wood and china.
2. Are any materials forbidden?
One may not use eggshells or hollowed-out vegetables to make the menorah, since this disgraces the mitzvah.
3. Is the shape of the menorah important?
It is preferable that the lights stand in a straight line and all at the same height. Therefore, one should not buy a modern design menorah whose branches are in a staggered position or of differing heights.
4. How far apart should the branches be?
The branches of the menorah should not be very close to one another since each light should be separated from the next by 2 cm. If the lights are too close to each other they will appear like a torch, which is not valid. (According to some opinions, a menorah does not appear like a torch and no minimum separation is required.)
5. What if one has no menorah at all?
A menorah enhances the mitzvah but is not essential. A person wishing to light with oil could use several glasses or cups placed in a straight line. If candles are being used, they may be fixed in a row onto a tray or similar surface.
6. Does one need to immerse the menorah in a mikveh?
No, since this item has no direct connection to food.
7. Is it preferable to use oil or candles?
Oil is preferable since the miracle in the Holy Temple happened with oil.
8. Are all types of oil suitable?
The most preferred type of oil is olive oil since the miracle happened with olive oil. If one cannot afford or obtain olive oil, one may use any other oil (or paraffin) that burns with a clear flame.
9. May some lights be lit with oil and some with candles?
No, one should not mix the two. All the lights should be either oil or candles. However, one may use oil on one night and candles on another night. This is particularly relevant to a person who must travel during Chanukah and is unable to take an oil menorah.
10. Is solidified oil as good as liquid oil?
Since this melts as it burns, it is considered equally good.
11. If one uses oil but the wick is coated with wax is this considered lighting with oil?
Since the wax is part of the wick and melts immediately, it is considered as lighting with oil.
12. Does the oil require kosher certification?
Although the oil is only being burned and not eaten, one should buy oil with a kosher certification since certain types are forbidden to use.
13. May one use oil which is bitter-tasting and not fit to eat?
Since the oil is burned and not eaten, this is permitted. According to some opinions, it is praiseworthy to use oil that can be eaten.
14. Which type of wicks should be used?
All wicks may be used, but the most ideal is cotton, wool or linen.
15. Should one use fresh wicks every night?
It is not necessary to replace the wicks every night. Some opinions prefer the reusing of wicks since they light better. Some have the custom to change the wicks every night in the same way that they were changed daily in the Holy Temple.
16. May one throw away used wicks?
Since the wicks were used for a mitzvah one may not disgrace them by throwing them away in the garbage. One should burn them or wrap them in a bag before discarding them.
17. May one use electric lights for the menorah?
Electric lights are not valid for the mitzvah of the menorah.
Excerpted from"Guidelines" - more than 200 commonly asked questions about Chanukah (Targum/Feldheim).
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