More than two thousand years ago, the Greeks tried to make us give up the Torah. They invaded the Temple, and prohibited circumcision and Torah study. One family, the Hasmoneans, fought the Greek Empire that ruled the land of Israel, and G-d gave them victory against all odds. The Jewish people were liberated from the forced Hellenism and they rededicated themselves to observing the Torah and the commandments.
The Hasmoneans returned to the Temple, and relit the menorah. A miracle occurred and a tiny quantity of oil burned for eight days. The miracle of the one jar of pure oil lasting this long was a sign that G-d loves us and desires us. The candles we light reminds us of the miracles that G-d performed for our ancestors and for us, when we fight to preserve our Jewishness.
In short: how to prepare the menorah:
– The menorah should be placed at the entrance of the house, such as in a main window, or outside the front door, so everyone can see it.
– On the first night, one candle is lit; on the second night, two candles; and one candle is added each day until eight candles are lit on the eighth night.
– The shammash candle (usually a raised candle in the middle, or a slightly higher candle than the others) is lit all the days of Chanukah. It is not considered an additional candle.
– Each night we add a candle going from right to left on the menorah but the candles are lit going from left to right.
– It is important that the candles be at same height, have equal intervals between them, and remain lit for at least 30 minutes.
– It is best to light a menorah at sunset, but it may be lit in the night too. Before Shabbat, it is lit 18 minutes before the beginning of Shabbat.
In short: how to light the candles
– Before lighting the candles, one recites:
“Blessed are You, our G-d, King of the Universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us to light Chanukah lights.”
“Blessed are You, our G-d, King of the universe, who made miracles for our forefathers, in those days, at this time.”
We recite this blessing only on the first day: “Blessed are You, Lord our G-d, King of the universe, who has kept us alive, and sustained us and let us reach this time.”
After reciting these blessings, one lights the candles. One first lights the leftmost candle, and continues to light the candles from left to right. Finally we light the shammash.
You have just managed to fulfill an incredible mitzvah. You have prepared for yourself a menorah that will light up the world to come. Enjoy.