For those who don’t know why there are three candles for the second night, the one in the middle is called the shamash, or servant candle, and it is used to light the others. One starts the first night with a single candle on the right, and then uses more and more candles from right to left to fill in the next seven days. You’re supposed to let the candle burn down on its own, and it’s supposed to be showing to the world through a window facing the street.
Chanukah celebrates the Jewish people’s reclamation and resanctification of their temple which had been taken over and desacrated by the Syrians who had been Hellenized and were in the process of Hellenizing the Jews (cultural and religious genocide). Judah Maccabee and his sons, along with a band of Jews they recruited, fought back, drove the Syrians out of the temple, and restored it to a proper Jewish temple.
The story of the miracle is that the Jews lit the one remaining oil lamp and it burned for a seemingly impossible eight nights. But, to me, the real lesson of this holiday is not the miracle but the human action.
After reciting the blessings, use the shammus to light the Chanukkah candles from left to right (newest to oldest). See animation at top.
Candles should be left burning until they go out on their own. They must burn for more than half an hour. Standard Chanukkah candles burn for about an hour.
Susan and Ken wish you a happy and bright Chanukah.