Is there a sequence for lighting the Hanukah candles? Should it be done from right to left, or from left to right?

ANSWER: There are a number of ways of lighting the Hanukah menorah and each method is considered appropriate. R. Israel Isserlein (a.k.a, the “Rema”) indicates that the Rhineland tradition began at the left of the menorah and continued in sequence day by day. On the other hand, he also notes that in Vienna, precisely the opposite sequence was used, and one moved from right to left, in other words, in the fashion of the Hebrew writing.[1] To the best of my knowledge, there is no earlier discussion of this matter and there is no Talmudic or Mishnaic basis for any decision. The Shulhan Arukh (the Code of Jewish Law) decided that the candles should be inserted from the right, with one added each night, but lit from the left, with the newest lit first, a kind of compromise.[2]

The Talmud (T.B. Shabat 21b) is concerned with another problem, i.e., should one add a light each night or diminish the number each night? The School of Shammai began with eight candles and diminished the number until on the last night only a single candle was lit. On the other hand, the School of Hillel began with one candle and built to a climax of eight candles. Tradition has chosen to follow the School of Hillel, and we continue in this pattern.

Clearly then, family tradition in this matter may be followed, though the path of the Shulhan Arukh has historically become a general custom, and we should follow this pattern along with the majority of the Jewish community.

Ask your Kids the following question: What is the most important candle of the Menorah? Try to justify your answer.  Let me know what kind of answers you come up in your postings.

[1] Responsa of the Terumat Hadeshen #105

[2]  Shulhan Arukh Orah Hayim 676.5.

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