Table of Contents
The difference between the Hanukkiah and the (Temple) Menorah lies in the number of candles each holds as well as the purpose and time of year each is used.
The Hanukkiah is a type of menorah or candelabra that holds 9 candles and has 8 branches. The Menorah is a similar candelabra with branches. However, it is a 7-lamp candelabra with 6 branches.
Below, you will find answers to your Hanukkiah questions as well as more information about the difference between the Hanukkiah and the Menorah.
The Hanukkiah’s Connection to Hanukkah
The Hanukkiah is used as a symbol to observe and remember the Feast of Dedication, also known as the Festival of Lights or Hanukkah—a time when a small and humble priestly family, named the Maccabees, refused to allow the Hellenistic culture to cut off their devotion to the God of Israel.
When is Hanukkah Celebrated?
Hanukkah begins each year on the 25th of Kislev on the Jewish calendar. This Hebrew date typically falls in late November to the end of December according to the Gregorian calendar that most Westernized countries use.
This year, 2021, Hanukkah begins November 28 and ends on December 6.
What is the History of the Hanukkiah?
Around 167 BC, the Jewish people were living under a foreign power. Antiochus IV Epiphanes, the Greek Seleucid (Syrian) ruler at the time, outlawed the observance of the Sabbath, the Feasts, and circumcision.
Antiochus also set up an altar in the Jewish Temple to the Greek god, Zeus, with pork offerings. These actions desecrated the Temple, sparking the Maccabean revolt.
The revolt was led by the local high priest, Mattathias and his sons, who became known as the Maccabees. The Maccabees were outnumbered and under-supplied. They had to rely on the Lord to provide the knowledge, wisdom, and creativity to overcome.
After three and a half years of war, Antiochus’ army was defeated by Jewish forces. Hanukkah is a celebration of the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem after the war. The war became known as the Maccabean war.
During this rededication, the Jewish people discovered they did not have enough oil to keep the Temple Menorah lit.
Moving forward in faith, they lit the Menorah and got to work on preparing the next batch of oil. A miracle was witnessed as the Menorah burned past the first day and lasted eight days until new oil was fully prepared!
The miraculously lit menorah became known as the Hanukkiah. The Hanukkiah is a symbol of the miracle of the lasting oil. Unlike the Temple Menorah, which is a 7-lamp, 6-branched candelabra, the Hanukkiah has eight branches with a shamash candle.
How Many Candles Are Lit for Hanukkah?
Because the Hanukkiah is the menorah used specifically for Hanukkah, it has 8 candles that are lit from a center candle called the shamash, or “servant” candle. This is in contrast to the typical Menorah, which has 7 candles and is lit throughout the year.
Lighting the Hanukkiah is something you and your family can do to commemorate God’s faithfulness, provision, and goodness. It is a way for you and your family to partake in a tradition that is tied to the Hebraic roots of your faith, resting in the knowledge that your Savior, Yeshua HaMashiach, also observed the festival (see the section below: Did Jesus Observe Hanukkah).
Lighting the Hanukkiah during this season can realign you with the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as you step into His calendar.
- Click HERE to discover the spiritual blessings of Hanukkah that help you leave the legacy to your family.
- Click HERE to get The Believer’s Guide to Hanukkah, tips for celebrating the holiday, and step-by-step instructions for lighting the Hanukkiah.
Did Jesus Observe Hanukkah?
“Now it was the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem, and it was winter. And Jesus walked in the temple, in Solomon’s porch.”
The account here in John reflects that Hanukkah, or the Feast of Dedication, was a well-established festival commemorating events that took place during the period of time between the Old Testament and New Testament. Jesus walked into the Temple during this festival, indicating His observance of it.
What Can You Do While Your Hanukkiah Candles Are Lit?
If you are interested in celebrating Hanukkah, you will want to purchase a Hanukkiah. After you light the candles, enjoy the time with your family!
The amount of time the candles are lit is up to you. Typically, they are lit anywhere from 30 minutes to a couple of hours.
When Do You Light the Menorah?
The Menorah is different from the Hanukkiah. Not only does it have a different number of branches, but it also serves a different purpose for worship.
You may have noticed that we, at Curt Landry Ministries, light the Shabbat candles, which are placed in a seven-lamp Menorah, every Friday night, following the Hebraic custom to usher in and thank the Lord for His Sabbath rest.
In a traditional Jewish home, the Shabbat candles are lit by a woman of the house just before sunset on the Sabbath. She circles her hands over the flames three times, then places her hands briefly over her eyes, reciting the Hebrew blessing that honors God and ushers in the Sabbath.Again, this is not about performing these traditions in a legalistic way, but about experiencing more of God through these actions.
Lighting the Menorah dates back to the time of the First Temple in Jerusalem. As mentioned before, the Temple Menorah has 6 branches with 7 candles. While the Temple was in Jerusalem, it was customary for the high priests to light the Menorah every day at sundown.
What is the History of the Menorah?
A menorah is an ancient type of lampstand originally described in the Bible as the golden lampstand Moses used in a portable sanctuary in the wilderness and, eventually, in the Temple in Jerusalem. This Menorah used fresh olive oil to light its lamps. Today, it is the emblem on Israel’s coat of arms.
The original Menorah (see Exodus 25) was made for the Tabernacle. It was carried in the wilderness by the Israelites until they crossed the Jordan River. Scripture makes no mention of the Menorah during the time of the traveling of the Ark of the Covenant or in Solomon’s Temple.
However, there are references to lamps and “vessels” of illumination during the restoration of the Temple following the time of captivity in Babylon. There is no biblical record of what happened to the original Menorah.
The Second Temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD. According to ancient records, the Menorah used in the Second Temple was carried to Rome and found in the Roman Temple of Peace.
When the Vandals and the Moors sacked Rome in 455 AD, they most likely looted the Temple Menorah and took it to Carthage. When the Byzantines invaded Carthage in 533 AD, they may have taken it for themselves and brought it to the city of Constantinople.
Some accounts say that it was carried through the streets during a procession of General Belisarius in honor of his triumph in Carthage. The same accounts indicate that it was eventually sent back to Jerusalem, but there is no record of the second Menorah after that.
There are similarities between the Hanukkiah and the Menorah, but each one serves a different purpose. Each also has a significant history that tells the story of restoration and victory.
- The Hanukkiah is an 8-branched type of menorah lit for the Feast of Dedication or Hanukkah.
- The 6-branched Menorah can be lit daily, but we, at Curt Landry Ministries, typically light it before we begin any Shabbat service or feast to usher in the rest that the Lord has prepared for us.
During Hanukkah, it is customary to light your Hanukkiah before lighting your Shabbat candles.
The entire process of lighting either one is not about the customs themselves but about connecting us to God by experiencing more of how He set up the patterns through the Jewish people. It is about remembering His goodness and faithfulness and believing that the King and Creator of the universe cares for each of us.
We all have a part in His story, a legacy to live, and life to bless.
So, let us move forward this holiday season and connect to the Light of the World as we remember: because of Him, we no longer walk in darkness.
“Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.’”