How to Shabbanukkah

For more inspo, test your knowledge with The Real Story of Hanukkah.

Get Lit

Lighting a menorah, or Chanukiah, as they are called when they have eight branches and a ninth used to light the others, is how we fulfill the mitzvah (the commandment) to publicize this great miracle of Chanukah. It also creates a ton of light in the home, which is ideal if it’s the darkest time of year. Whether or not the story of the oil is true in part or whole, the idea to create a ton of light in the middle of the winter makes a lot of sense, and makes for one of the most-celebrated Jewish rituals in modern times.

The practice of lighting came about over time, the discussion of which can be found in the Talmud amidst the discussion of lighting Shabbat candles. Therefore it’s even more appropriate, if you’re going to pick one night of Chanukah for a big blow out, to make it Friday night, the beginning of the weekend, the beginning of Shabbat. Two extra candles baby!

Shabbanukah! If you’re lighting Hanukkah candles and Shabbat candles on Friday night, because why not, light the Hanukkah candles first, then your Shabbat candles. Why? Amongst other things, the Shabbat candles symbolize our last act of the work week before welcoming the weekend. We want the Shabbat candles to be the final fire of the evening. (Challah and Wine blessings stay the same, both done at dinner following the candle lighting.)

  • Menorah (Chanukiah) with eight branches, and a ninth branch for the shamash, the candle that you use to light the others
  • Add candles in the Chanukiah from right to left according to the night; if it’s the 4th night of Chanukah add four candles plus a shamash
  • Light the shamash first, then the candles from left to right, newest first
  • Check out the blessings below to help elevate the light
  • Some people light one Chanukiah per house, some light one per person; invite your guests to bring one along and fill your home with miraculous winter solstice light


The primary blessing for the Hanukkah candles is so similar to the blessing for the Shabbat candles that most of us use the tune to the Hanukkah blessing year-round. It’s just that popular. Even if you don’t know the tune that’s fine, a blessing is blessing whether you sing it or say it. Each night, you recite both the first and second blessings as you light the candles; on the first night only you also recite the Shehecheyanu, a blessing we say when we do things either for the first time, or for the first time in a long time.


Hanukkah is all about the deep fried goods. Try some latkes, potato pancakes traditionally served with applesauce and/or sour cream, or serve up some sufganiyot for dessert, jelly donuts that will definitely add some festive oil to your meal. And if you’re a fan of chocolate, break out the gelt, Yiddish for money, delicious chocolate coins covered in gold or silver foil, a tradition dating back to 17th century Poland.

Game On

Up for more? Grab a dreidel and place your bets! The Yiddish dreidel is derived from a popular Eastern European spinning top game. On the four sides of the dreidel appear four letters from the Hebrew alphabet — nun (נ), gimmel (ג), hey (ה), and shin (ש). These four letters are an acronym for nes gadol hayah sham, “a great miracle happened there.” Players begin by putting a minimum amount of their currency, three pieces or so of m&m’s, pennies, gelt, etc. into a central pot. Each player spins the dreidel and proceeds according to the following rules:

  • Nun – nothing happens
  • Gimmel – take everything in the pot; all players replenish the pot
  • Hey – take half of the pot
  • Shin – put a set number of currency (one to three units in the pot)

Rabbi in Residence & Director of Program | Lover of outdoor concert venues, words that sound like what they mean, and my noodle poodle Lucy.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.