8 Tips for Lighting the Menorah
How to deepen the candle-lighting experience for the entire family.
This Hanukkah don’t just light the menorah and move on. Slow down, take in the moment and deepen the experience. Here are eight tried-and-true ways to make your lighting more engaging.
1. Gather the family together. Make sure everyone is present.
There are some sources that suggest that age-old custom of playing the driedel was merely meant to ensure that the children would be present and the lighting and stay for a while (getting our children’s attention is not a new problem!). Simply gathering the family for the lighting already transforms this moment into a happening.
2. Turn off the lights. Turning the lights off in the room gives center stage to the star of the show – the light of the menorah. Make sure everyone has a menorah to light – especially the children. It is a thrill for kids to light the menorah and to watch it flicker and burn.
3. Share stories around the menorah. After lighting the menorah sit down together. Share a thought or tell a story. Share the Hanukkah story, or a story of a modern day Jewish hero that highlights the themes of the day. Those that are blessed to have grandparents present, sit and listen to their story. They can share a Hanukkah memory from their childhood. How beautiful it is to experience before our own eyes the passing of tradition from generation to generation!
4. Stop working. Jewish law encourages that no work be done in the house while the flames remain lit. Put aside phone calls, Facebook, answering emails. Give your total attention to the beauty of the night, the beauty of your children and your family. It’s the ‘holiday of the home’ says the Talmud. Let nothing interfere with letting the light of Hanukkah fill your home.
5. Dance together. Once the candles are lit play joyous music. Take your children, your family, and your friends by the hand – and dance. The days of Hanukkah are meant to fill us with happiness. Dancing is one of the best ways to feel the joy.
6. A private prayer. Rabbi Nachman of Breslov taught that the time that the candles are lit is a sacred time for prayer. These flames connect us to the miraculous and eternal. Do you have a friend who is ill? Is there a family member or friend that is going through hard times? Pray for them at this time. Choose a prayer from the book of Psalms or offer personal words. In the presence of the holy flames we can open ourselves to heartfelt prayers.
7. Invite friends and family to share the lighting with you. A great rabbi once said – “If you want your holiday to be meaningful give it to somebody else”. The more we share the holiday with others the greater the experience will be for ourselves and for our family.
8. A celebratory dinner. What a beautiful custom to celebrate Hanukkah with a meal that honors the holiday. While the menorah is lit, sit around the dinner table, indulge in the delicious holiday foods. Some eat fried potato latkes, others eat jelly donuts, and some have the custom of serving dairy delights. These delicious foods give us a real ’taste’ of the miracle.
The winter months are the darkest time of the year. Our souls yearn for the Hanukkah lights. Inject these days with meaning, joy and hope, and tap into their encouragement and renewal that can carry us for the weeks and months to come.