Just over 2000 years ago, during the era of the second temple the Greek army invaded and conquered the land of Israel. The Greeks embarked on a campaign to spread Hellenistic culture amongst the Jews and imposed many anti religious decrees upon them. Many Jews abandoned their religion in favour of Hellenism. However, a small core of Jews led by the family of the high priest, resisted the Greek tyranny, and finally took to arms and revolted.
Miraculously, the Jewish army defeated the Greeks despite being heavily outnumbered. They regained control of the temple, and discovered that the Greeks had ritually contaminated almost everything in it. Only one jar of pure olive oil was found for lighting the menorah. The jar contained enough oil to burn for just one day, but eight days were needed to produce more pure oil. Nevertheless,
they lit the menorah with the oil they had found, and it burnt miraculously for eight days. We therefore celebrate this miracle by lighting the menorah each night for eight days.
The Chanukah Menorah has eight spaces for the Chanukah lights, and an additional one for the Shamash. The Menorah should be as beautiful as possible. The Chanukah miracle occurred with olive oil. Therefore, the Menorah should preferably be lit with olive oil. Otherwise, any other oil may be used. Where oil is not available, one may use wax candles, providing they will last more than half an hour. Left over oil, wicks and partially burnt candles, may only be re-used for lighting the Menorah. Otherwise, they should be disposed of in a respectful manner.
B. "Location, Location, Location" Ideally, the Menorah should be lit outside the house at the entrance to the property. In England, due to the potential danger involved, the Menorah is lit inside the house. The Menorah should be easily visible from the street. Therefore, it should be placed next to a window facing the street, which is less than 1Om above street level. If this is not possible, the Menorah should be lit next to a doorpost, opposite the Mezuzah. Otherwise, the Menorah may be lit on a table indoors. Ideally, the lights of the Menorah should be placed at a height of between 28cm and 96cm above the floor. The Menorah should not be positioned in a draughty location where the lights could easily be extinguished.
C. Time Is Of The Essence! The Menorah should be lit as soon as possible after dark. Where this is not possible, the Menorah should be lit later during the evening. It is preferable to have some members of the household present to see the lighting.
If it is not possible to light the Menorah after dusk, it may be lit earlier, but not before Plag Hamincha. On Friday afternoon, the Menorah must be lit before the Shabbos candles, but not before Plag Hamincha. On Motzei Shabbos, the Menorah must be lit after the termination of Shabbos. Some people light the Menorah before reciting Havdallah, others light the Menorah afterwards.
D. Getting Started The lights of the Menorah should all be on the same level and arranged in a straight line. The candles should be slightly apart from each other. When several Menorahs are lit, they should be positioned in a manner that ensures that two Menorahs are not mistaken for one. Each Menorah has a Shamash, an additional light, to ensure that benefit is not derived exclusively from the Chanukah lights. The Shamash should be above, or out of line with, the other Chanukah lights. This ensures that the Shamash is not mistaken for the other lights. The Menorah must contain sufficient oil, or have large enough candles to burn for at least half an hour. If it is lit before nightfall (such as on Fridays), it must contain sufficient oil, or have large enough candles to continue burning until half an hour after dark (Approx. 2hrs). Before the Menorah is lit, the family should be gathered together. Each male of every household should light a Menorah each night of Chanuka
E. Lighting Up The Chanuka lights should be lit using the Shamash, not any of the other Chanuka lights. Likewise, the Shamash may not be lit from the Chanuka lights. The person lighting the Menorah should stand to the left of the Menorah, and light from the left to right. On the first night three Brochos are recited:- Lehadlik ner shel Chanuka, She’oso nissim la’avoiseinu, She’hecheyonu. On all the other nights, only the first two Brochos are recited. The Menorah should only be lit after all the appropriate Brochos have been recited.
The lighting of the Menorah in the shul is only a minhag (custom). Therefore, everyone in shul must light their own Menorah at home with all the associated Brochos. Once the Menorah has been lit it should not be moved. Where possible, lights that have been blown out should be re-lit. No benefit may be derived from the Chanukah lights, however one may watch them.
Last But Not Least! DON’T FORGET those piping hot latkes, and of course the doughnuts!