How to Light the Menorah (in this Universe), in 5783/2022

Another Calendrics Blog Post & A 2022 Anniversaries Bolg Post

First Posted Friday, December 23, 2022 / Yom shishi, 29 Kislev, 5783.

David Orenstein, Emeritus, Danforth CTI,

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

You might remember that, on December 16, I blogged here that:

“This Sunday, December 18, 2022, at sunset, will be the start of Yom sheni, 25 Kislev, 5783: the first of eight nights of Chanukah for 5783. Celebration will include the lighting of the candles on the Menorah, the candelabra with places for up to eight candles, plus the Shamash, the candle which is responsible for lighting the candles that celebrate the Miracle of Chanukah.

“The second lighting will be the next evening, and so on each night in sequence. And we’ll continue until the spectacular last lighting at the sunset that begins Yom sheni, 2 Tevet, 5783. This last lighting will also be on … December 25, 2022, Christmas Day….”

So, today at sunset, we will light the Chanukah Menorah for the sixth time this year 5783/2022.

In this period of history, we first light the shamash (the helping candle) on every one of the eight nights of Chanukah. This candle doesn’t count as one of the candles that represent the Miracle of Chanukah. Then we are using the shamash to light the Chanukah candles: one on the first night (25 Kislev, 5783 / December 18, 2022, at sundown – 4:24 pm here in Toronto), two on the second, three the third, and so on to eight candles on the eighth evening.

But two thousand years ago, this order was up for debate. In the Talmud (Berakhot), Rabbis Hillel and Shammai are famous for debating almost anything about Jewish practice. This includes how to light the Chanukah lights.

Rabbi Hillel advocated for increasing the number of candles by one each day,

i.e. ni = ni-1 + 1, where n1 = 1 and i = {1,2,3, …, 8}.

By contrast, Rabbi Shammai went for decreasing the number,

i.e, ni = ni-1 – 1, where n1 = 8 and i = {1,2,3, …, 8}.

These are two possible ways to celebrate the miracle. Either way the same number of candles would be lit to have a full celebration.

But what was their motivation?

According to Rabbi Irving Greenberg in The Jewish Way (1988), on p. 273:

“The school of Hillel ruled that one candle should be lit on the first night and one additional light be added every subsequent night. The school of Shammai suggested starting with eight candles the first night and decreasing one every night. This is in imitation of the miracle in which the supply of oil was progressively used up.  The tradition of adding lights won out on the grounds that holiness and sanctity should always increase.”

Hillel and Shammai are but two of the many voices in the Talmud, where many facets of the issues at hand are expressed in the discussion of any point of Jewish Law (Halakhah).

Similarly, there are many voices to hear in the History of Canadian Science and Technology. For example, on November 25, I wrote here, promising a look at:

“The Annual Report for 1897 of the Geological Survey of Canada. George Mercer Dawson (son of McGill’s William Dawson) was the Director, and he submitted the Report ‘to the Honourable Clifford Sifton, M.P., Minster of the Interior’, in addition to writing his own 155 page ‘Summary Report’. It was printed in Ottawa in 1899 ‘by S.E. Dawson, Printer to the Queen’s Most Excellent Majesty’.”

Thus, this a report for 1897, that is 125 years ago. The same year as the BAAS was in Toronto, which gets mentioned, along with its associated geological excursion, in the report on p. 11A.

This solid report, about four inches thick, definitely reflects several voices in late 19th century Canadian Geology.

In addition to Dawson’s own forementioned “Summary Report”, listed as “Report A”, there a further five more reports:

“Report H … by William McInnes, B.A.”

“Report I … by Alfred Ernest Barlow, M.A.”

“Report J … by R. Chalmers”

“Report M … by I.W. Bailey, Ph.D., LL.D., F.R.S.C.”

“Report S …  Elfric Drew Ingall, M.E.”

These reports look. Respectively, at Northern Ontario, Northern Ontario and Northwestern Québec, Southern Québec, New Brunswick, and overall Canadian Mineral Statistics.

But that’s five more stories!




From one Hanukkah to the next, it can be a challenge to remember in which direction to add candles and in which direction to light them. Here’s what you need to know: When the menorah is facing you, the candle for the first night is placed in the right-most holder of the eight-branched menorah and the shamash is placed in its holder, which is raised or otherwise distinguished from the rest of the candleholders.

Anyone may chant or recite the blessings by lighting and holding the shamash, reciting the blessings, and then using the shamash to light the candles (from left to right, so that the kindling begins with the newest light).

Two blessings are chanted or recited every night of Hanukkah. The first is a blessing over the candles themselves. The second blessing expresses thanks for the miracle of deliverance. A third blessing – the Shehecheyanu prayer, marking all joyous occasions in Jewish life – is chanted or recited only on the first night.

On each successive night, an additional candle is placed to the immediate left of the previous night’s candle, and the candles are lit from left to right, so the kindling begins with the newest light. Since these lights are holy, we aren’t supposed to make practical use of them (e.g., using them to see or read by, or lighting other candles with them); therefore, we use the shamash to light the ones that mark each night of the holiday.


Reform Judaism website, « Hanukkah » page.



Chanukah Links:

How to Light the Menorah.

Hillel-Shammai Menorah Debate.

Canadian Geology Links:

George Mercer Dawson in DCB.

Introduction to GSC video.


Previous CSTHA Calendrics Blog Posts:

Counting Chanukah Candles post, December 16, 2022.

Re-Reading Torah & Canadian Science in 5783 / 2022(and 2023) post, November 25, 2022.

Simchat Torah 5783 post, October 26, 2022.

Yom Kippur 5783 post, October 4, 2022.

Putting “Calendrics” in CSTHA “Search” function.


Previous BSHM Calendrics Blog Posts:

Chanukah Candles, Which Order? post, December 19, 2022.

Counting Chanukah Candles post, December 12, 2022

Re-reading Torah and Mathematics Texts for 5783 / 2022 (and 2023), November 28, 2022.

Re-reading the Torah in 5783 post, November 21, 2022.



George Mercer Dawson et al. (1899), Geological Survey of Canada, Annual Report 1897, Queen’s Printer, Ottawa. xiii + 156 + (pagination for five more Reports) + xxi pp., incl. xxi pp. Index.

Irving Greenberg (1988) “Assimilation, Acculturation, and Jewish Survival: Hanukkah”. p. 258-282, in The Jewish Way.

(1988) The Jewish Way, Summit Books, London. 463 pp., incl. 13 pp. annotated biblio., 7 pp. Glossary of Names, 15 pp. index.