A menorah is a candelabra that generally holds nine candles. Eight candles are for each night of Hanukkah, and the ninth candle, which stands taller than the others, is to light the eight candles. Each night, an additional candle is lit. So, on the first night, the taller candle, which is called the shamas, is lit. The shamas is then used to light the first candle for the first night. On the second night, the shamas is used to light two additional candles. This continues until the eighth night when all nine candles are lit.There are specific candles for menorahs. They are typically small, thin, and colorful.
Menorahs come in all kinds of shapes, sizes, colors, and designs. The only requirement is that one candleholder be taller than the others. The tallest candle holder always goes in the middle and holds the shamas. There are four smaller candleholders on each side. Some menorahs only have seven candles. These are called temple menorahs. The design of the menorah as show by the Lord to Moses had seven branches and candle holders.
Menorahs can be made out of metals such as brass, gold, or silver. They could be made out of clay, brick, crystal, or wood (but, a wood menorah would need to have a metal candle holder to avoid fire). Menorahs can be small enough to fit in the palm of an adult’s hand, or large enough to be the size of a small building. Some Chasidic Jews, which are Jews who are highly observant and believe that the Messiah will come if asked, have placed such extremely large menorahs in their communities. They are typically powered by electricity, rather than fire and flame.
Each night of Hanukkah, observant Jews light the Hanukkah candles, sing songs, and say prayers. The prayers are for the lighting of the holiday candles and for reaching a special occasion. The songs celebrate the holiday and its other traditions such as spinning the dreidel, and eating soufganiot which are Hanukkah pastries. This is a rare time when parents will allow children to light a match to light the shamas, or to use the shamas to light the other candles. The menorah is supposed to be displayed near a window so that outsiders can see the celebration of lights.
The reason why Hanukkah is celebrated over eight days and nights is that the holiday commemorates the rededication of the Second Temple in the second century before the Common Era during the Macabbean Revolt. There was only enough oil in the eternal flame for it to last for one day, yet it lasted for eight days until the supply could be replenished.
Thus, the menorah is a symbol, a candelabra, and piece of Judaica related to Hanukkah.