Answers to all those burning questions
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A CHANUCIAH AND A MENORAH?
“Menorah” is Hebrew for a candelabrum with any number of branches, while “chanuciah” refers specifically to the nine-branched candelabrum used during the festival of Chanucah.
WHAT DO BOTH REPRESENT?
The menorah is one of the oldest symbols in Judaism, dating to the time of the first temple in Jerusalem.
In those days the menorah was lit daily, using fresh, consecrated olive oil. It was allowed to burn through the night, with at least one lamp kept burning through the day.
After the destruction of the holy temple in the second century BCE, the Maccabees returned to rededicate the temple and found enough oil for only one night. But a miracle happened and the oil lasted for eight nights. The eight branches of the chanuciah represent this miracle.
A menorah tends to have seven b r a n c h e s a n d n o s h a m a s h (Hebrew for “helper” or “s e r v a nt” ; the candle used to light the others). It has come to be a symbol of the Jewish faith. The ner tamid (everlasting light) in a synagogue represents the menorah from the original temple. There are also menorot placed in synagogues as ornaments, as they are beautiful deco r a t i o n s and remind the Jews of the temples that were destroyed. A kosher chanuciah is Brass bird by Jonathan Adler, £265 considered to be eight candles in a line and the ninth out of place, either at a different height from the other candles or in a different position. They can come in all shapes and sizes, as long as there are eight candles at the same height and in line with each other with a ninth misaligned.
HOW AND WHEN IS A CHANUCIAH LIT?
The chanuciah is lit each night, at sunset. The shamash is kindled first; blessings are recited and then the shamash is used to light the correct number of candles for the number of nights, moving from right to left.
WHO LIGHTS IT?
The chanuciah can be lit by any man, woman or child in the household. It’s a mitzvah for everyone to light one. It is customary for there to be more than one chanuciah at a gathering, to give everyone a chance to light a candle, perform a mitzvah, remember the miracle and enjoy the festival of lights.
HOW DO I GET THE MOLTEN WAX OFF MY CHANUCIAH?
You can minimise the problem by using non-drip candles such as those from Safed. At £8 for a pack lasting eight nights, they are slightly more expensive than ordinary candles but worth it. They come in blue/white, multi-coloured and plain white.
Whether using non-drip candles or not, it is wise to place your chanuciah on a tray, silver foil or glass surface.
Alternatively, convert to oil. You can buy oil cups, wicks and oil or pre-filled cups.
Chanuciot made from cast iron, stainless steels and metals and all the popular anodised aluminium ones can withstand boiling water straight from the kettle, which will shift wax. However, do check the care instructions, or ask the artist or supplier first. And be careful not to scald yourself.
WHAT DO I DO WITH THE CHANUCIAH FOR THE OTHER 51 WEEKS OF THE YEAR?
Botanical leaf chanuciah by Michael Aram, £175 At Contemporary Judaica, we believe in “meaningful art for the home”. A chanuciah should be displayed all year around, as something you love to look at for its aesthetic value — not something that is just dusted off once a year when the festival comes around.
Even the more traditional branched shapes have a contemporary element to them but they are reminiscent of the menorahs we see in ancient sculpture and mosaic.
There is a clear traditional influence, for example, on the cast-iron chanuciah by Josh Owen, the botanical and the pomegranate chanuciot by Michael Aram and the contemporary branched chanuciah by Nambe.
There are also fun and quirky designs for all the family to enjoy, such as the bright orange Lucite chanuciah and my favourite, the ceramic elephant by Jonathan Adler.