Dusting off a Tradition: Blessings and Meditations for Each Night of Hanukkah

Light the First Hanukkah Candle Thursday, Dec. 7.

The Nov. 25, 1999, Hanukkah edition was the first time the TJP ran “Chanukah Blessings,” a two-page spread with a different meditation to be read each night. It became a regular feature in the holiday issue for many years. Years ago, a longtime reader of the TJP sent me a photo of her tattered pages that she kept with her menorah. She began the tradition of reading the nightly messages with that original publication and continues the ritual to this day. With Hanukkah beginning tomorrow evening, we bring the tradition back with our daily newsletter. One new message for each night of the Festival of Lights. May God bless you and your loved ones for a meaningful celebration, protect our troops fighting for the security of Israel and the Jewish people, shine a light on hatred and antisemitism and bring peace to all human beings everywhere.

A Guide to Lighting the Hanukkah Candles:

These meditations based on classic Hanukkah hymns or texts are designed to be read on each of the nights of Hanukkah before the candles are lit. They reflect the relevance of Hanukkah to the mood, spirit and situation of our people.

Lighting the Hanukkah candles

The kindling of the lights is the most significant ceremony of the festival. It should be observed in a spirit of reverence and solemnity and in a beautiful and impressive manner.

1. The Hanukkah candles should be kindled after nightfall. The menorah should be placed near the window for public view.

2. On the first night, place one candle in the menorah at the extreme right. Light the shamash(the auxiliary candle) and recite the blessings. With the shamash, light the candle in the menorah. On the second night, place two candles in the menorah and so on, adding one candle each night of the festival. The candles in the menorah are kindled from left to right.

On the First Night:

Hanukkah blessings
(Recited after the shamash is lit but before the other candles are kindled)

The Shecheyanu (only on the first night)

Baruch Ata Ah-do-nai Eh-lo-haynu Melech Ha’olam she-he-che-yanu, v’ki-y’ma-nu, v’higi-anu, la’zman hazeh.

Blessed are You, O Lord our God, Sovereign of the Universe, who has kept us alive, sustained us and permitted us to celebrate this season.

All Nights:

Baruch Ata Ah-do-nai Eh-lo-haynu Melech Ha’olam, asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav vitzi-van-u l’had-lik nayr shel Chanukah.

Blessed are You, O Lord our God, Sovereign of the Universe, who has sanctified us with Your commandments and commanded us to kindle the lights of Hanukkah.

Baruch Ata Ah-do-nai Eh-lo-haynu Melech Ha’olam she’asa nissim la’avotaynu ba’ya-mim hahem ba’zman hazeh.

Blessed are You, O Lord our God, Sovereign of the Universe, who performed miracles for our ancestors in days of old in this time of year.

Reading for the First Night

Hanerot hallalu anakhnu madleekim (from Tractate Soferim 20:6):

These lights which we kindle tell the story of freedom: freedom from Greek oppression and from the cruel persecutions our people were made to suffer in the days of Antiochus.

Just as the Maccabees wanted to be free to serve God alone, may we dedicate ourselves to serve our people and humanity by helping to bring freedom to all and teaching by example our devotion to the God of our salvation.

On the Second Night:

Since it is Shabbat, light the menorah before you light your Shabbat candles. Place two candles in the menorah at the extreme right. Light the shamash (the auxiliary candle) and recite the blessings. With the shamash, light the candle in the menorah. The candles in the menorah are kindled from left to right.

Blessings for the Second Night:

Baruch Ata Ah-do-nai Eh-lo-haynu Melech Ha’olam, asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav vitzi-van-u l’had-lik nayr shel Chanukah.

Blessed are You, O Lord our God, Sovereign of the Universe, who has sanctified us with Your commandments and commanded us to kindle the lights of Hanukkah.

Baruch Ata Ah-do-nai Eh-lo-haynu Melech Ha’olam she’asa nissim la’avotaynu ba’ya-mim hahem ba’zman hazeh.

Blessed are You, O Lord our God, Sovereign of the Universe, who performed miracles for our ancestors in days of old in this time of year.

Reading for the Second Night

She’asa nissim la’avotaynu (from the second Hanukkah candle blessing):

“God performed miracles for our ancestors in those days.”

God’s miracles are with us today, too. Sometimes we are so close to them, we either miss them or take them for granted. The creation of the State of Israel in 1948 and the exodus of Soviet and Ethiopian Jews are new miracles in our own time. By supporting our brothers and sisters — those in Israel and those still yearning for our homeland — we acknowledge that God’s miracles are fulfilled by human deeds. Through our deeds, we give praise to the eternal God, Maker of ancient and modern miracles.

On the Third Night:

Light the menorah after Havdalah. Place three candles in the menorah at the extreme right. Light the shamash (the auxiliary candle) and recite the blessings. With the shamash, light the candles in the menorah. The candles in the menorah are kindled from left to right.

Blessings for the Third Night

Baruch Ata Ah-do-nai Eh-lo-haynu Melech Ha’olam, asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav vitzi-van-u l’had-lik nayr shel Chanukah.

Blessed are You, O Lord our God, Sovereign of the Universe, who has sanctified us with Your commandments and commanded us to kindle the lights of Hanukkah.

Baruch Ata Ah-do-nai Eh-lo-haynu Melech Ha’olam she’asa nissim la’avotaynu ba’ya-mim hahem ba’zman hazeh.

Blessed are You, O Lord our God, Sovereign of the Universe, who performed miracles for our ancestors in days of old in this time of year.

Reading for the Third Night

Oy lee, lamah yoo-ladi-tee (from Megillat Hanukkah 2:6-13):

“Woe is me,” Mattathias said when he saw the horrible crimes of the Greeks in Judea and in Jerusalem. “Why was I born to see this — the crushing of my people, the destruction of the holy city — and to sit still while it is surrendered to the enemies, the holy place into the hands of foreigners?” And then he gathered his sons and neighbors. They armed themselves and defeated their foes.

When we think about how our people have suffered in recent times, it is hard not to despair. And, we are troubled still. Outbreaks of antisemitic violence here and abroad are increasing.

Let us not lose hope. Like Mattathias, let us affirm, “God is with me. I shall not fear!” And, like Mattathias, let us be ever vigilant, ever among the defenders of our people.

On the Fourth Night:

Place four candles in the menorah at the extreme right. Light the shamash (the auxiliary candle) and recite the blessings. With the shamash, light the candles in the menorah. The candles in the menorah are kindled from left to right.

Blessings for the Fourth Night

Baruch Ata Ah-do-nai Eh-lo-haynu Melech Ha’olam, asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav vitzi-van-u l’had-lik nayr shel Chanukah.

Blessed are You, O Lord our God, Sovereign of the Universe, who has sanctified us with Your commandments and commanded us to kindle the lights of Hanukkah.

Baruch Ata Ah-do-nai Eh-lo-haynu Melech Ha’olam she’asa nissim la’avotaynu ba’ya-mim hahem ba’zman hazeh.

Blessed are You, O Lord our God, Sovereign of the Universe, who performed miracles for our ancestors in days of old in this time of year.

Reading for the Fourth Night

Vi Yerushalayim sh-mamah, kha-midbar hayatah (from Megillat Hanukkah 3:45):

“Jerusalem was deserted like a wilderness, none of her children went in or out.” Thus was the holy city as Judah Maccabee and his brothers prepared for battle.

The Maccabees were shocked by the appearance of the empty city. But they gathered together and prayed and planned. They recalled how our ancestors were saved from Egyptian bondage, and the memory gave them strength.

This Hanukkah we resolve to stand in solidarity with our people in Israel. We promise that we will not desert Jerusalem. As we come together, our frustration with the hard challenges that face us will be transformed into faith in the One who liberates and saves Israel.

On the Fifth Night

Place five candles in the menorah at the extreme right. Light the shamash (the auxiliary candle) and recite the blessings. With the shamash, light the candles in the menorah. The candles in the menorah are kindled from left to right.

Blessings for the Fifth Night

Baruch Ata Ah-do-nai Eh-lo-haynu Melech Ha’olam, asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav vitzi-van-u l’had-lik nayr shel Chanukah.

Blessed are You, O Lord our God, Sovereign of the Universe, who has sanctified us with Your commandments and commanded us to kindle the lights of Hanukkah.

Baruch Ata Ah-do-nai Eh-lo-haynu Melech Ha’olam she’asa nissim la’avotaynu ba’ya-mim hahem ba’zman hazeh.

Blessed are You, O Lord our God, Sovereign of the Universe, who performed miracles for our ancestors in days of old in this time of year.

Reading for the Fifth Night

Va-yarev kavod l’amo (from Megillat Hanukkah 3:3-9):

Judah Maccabee “increased his people’s glory far and wide,” winning many battles and securing victory for our people. In a world filled with evil, the Maccabees enabled our people to stand tall.

In our violent world we Jews stand proud because of Israel’s might.

But over and over again, we have witnessed the victory of the few against the many as Israel has defended its people.

We pray for the peace of Jerusalem and Israel, keeping in mind God’s word to Joshua, who led our people into the Holy Land: “Be strong and resolute; do not be terrified or dismayed, for the Lord, your God is with you wherever you will go.”

On the Sixth Night:

Place six candles in the menorah at the extreme right. Light the shamash (the auxiliary candle) and recite the blessings. With the shamash, light the candles in the menorah. The candles in the menorah are kindled from left to right.

Blessings for the Sixth Night

Baruch Ata Ah-do-nai Eh-lo-haynu Melech Ha’olam, asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav vitzi-van-u l’had-lik nayr shel Chanukah.

Blessed are You, O Lord our God, Sovereign of the Universe, who has sanctified us with Your commandments and commanded us to kindle the lights of Hanukkah.

Baruch Ata Ah-do-nai Eh-lo-haynu Melech Ha’olam she’asa nissim la’avotaynu ba’ya-mim hahem ba’zman hazeh.

Blessed are You, O Lord our God, Sovereign of the Universe, who performed miracles for our ancestors in days of old in this time of year.

Reading for the Sixth Night

Mee yi-ma-layl ge’vurot Yisrael (from the folk song; Hebrew by Menashe Ravina, English by Ben Edidin):

“Who can retell the things that befell us. … ” What a thrilling story Hanukkah tells! The revolt against religious persecution, the purification and rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem and the development of ways to preserve Judaism in a world of alien cultures.

May our faith be as strong; may we too marshal the ability to resist assimilation using our faith to measure what is good and what God requires of us — justice, righteousness, humility, wisdom, a compassionate heart and a charitable hand.

On the Seventh Night

Place seven candles in the menorah at the extreme right. Light the shamash (the auxiliary candle) and recite the blessings. With the shamash, light the candles in the menorah. The candles in the menorah are kindled from left to right.

Blessings for the Seventh Night

Baruch Ata Ah-do-nai Eh-lo-haynu Melech Ha’olam, asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav vitzi-van-u l’had-lik nayr shel Chanukah.

Blessed are You, O Lord our God, Sovereign of the Universe, who has sanctified us with Your commandments and commanded us to kindle the lights of Hanukkah.

Baruch Ata Ah-do-nai Eh-lo-haynu Melech Ha’olam she’asa nissim la’avotaynu ba’ya-mim hahem ba’zman hazeh.

Blessed are You, O Lord our God, Sovereign of the Universe, who performed miracles for our ancestors in days of old in this time of year.

Reading for the Seventh Night

Ma-oz tzur yi’ shu·a-tee (from the anthem by Mordecai ben Isaac):

“Mighty Rock of my salvation, praised beyond compare, You are our God and Deliverer. When the Greeks assailed us in the days of the Hasmoneans, breaking through the defenses, profaning the pure oil, You wrought a miracle from the remaining container, causing our sages to decree eight days of singing and rejoicing!”

The memory of Hanukkah has given strength to our people. They understood that they would prevail: “not by might, nor by power, but by God’s spirit.”

This is the spirit that sustained Russian, Eastern European and Ethiopian Jews through the dark years of oppression. Now they are at freedom’s door, and we must ensure the success of their Exodus by strengthening Israel’s economy and providing jobs for these newcomers. We must help give the story of their salvation a happy ending.

On the Eighth Night:

Place eight candles in the menorah at the extreme right. Light the shamash (the auxiliary candle) and recite the blessings. With the shamash, light the candles in the menorah. The candles in the menorah are kindled from left to right.

Blessings for the Eighth Night

Baruch Ata Ah-do-nai Eh-lo-haynu Melech Ha’olam, asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav vitzi-van-u l’had-lik nayr shel Chanukah.

Blessed are You, O Lord our God, Sovereign of the Universe, who has sanctified us with Your commandments and commanded us to kindle the lights of Hanukkah.

Baruch Ata Ah-do-nai Eh-lo-haynu Melech Ha’olam she’asa nissim la’avotaynu ba’ya-mim hahem ba’zman hazeh.

Blessed are You, O Lord our God, Sovereign of the Universe, who performed miracles for our ancestors in days of old in this time of year.

Reading for the Eighth Night

Kindle the taper like the steadfast star

Ablaze on evening’s forehead, o’er the earth:

Send through the night its luster till afar

An eightfold splendor shines above the earth.

(from the poem, “The Feast of Lights” by Emma Lazarus [1849·1887])

These words set the mood for this final night of Hanukkah with its “eightfold splendor.” We proclaim the miracles of this season: the victory of the Maccabees, the renewal of our faith, the triumph of the spirit. In every age that followed this victory, “a hero, a sage,” inspired by these achievements, has emerged to lead us into a brighter future.

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