CARR 278-279


Contemporary American Reform Responsa

186. Sequence of Lighting Hannukah



QUESTION: Is there a sequence for lighting the

Hannukah candles? Should it be done from right to left, or from left to right? (M. C.,

Pittsburgh, PA)ANSWER: There are a number of ways of lighting the

Hannukah menorah and each is appropriate. Israel Isserlein indicated that the

Rhineland tradition began at the left of the menorah and continued in sequence day by

day. On the other hand, he also stated that in Vienna, precisely the opposite sequence was used,

and one moved from right to left, in other words, in the fashion of the Hebrew writing

(Terumat Hadeshen #105). To the best of my knowledge, there is no earlier discussion of

this matter and there is no Talmudic or Mishnaic basis for any decision. The Shulhan

Arukh decided that the candles should be inserted from the right, with one added each night,

but lit from the left, with the newest lit first, a kind of compromise (Shulhan Arukh Orah

Hayim 676.5). The Talmud (Sab. 21b) is concerned with another problem, i.e.,

should one add a light each night or diminish the number each night? The School of Shammai

began with eight candles and diminished the number until on the last night only a single candle

was lit. On the other hand, the School of Hillel began with one candle and built to a climax of

eight candles. Tradition has chosen to follow the School of Hillel, and we continue in this

pattern. Clearly then, family tradition in this matter may be followed, though the path

of the Shulhan Arukh has become a general custom, and we should follow this pattern

along with the majority of the Jewish community.October 1984

If needed, please consult Abbreviations used in CCAR Responsa.