What’s the difference between a hanukiah and a menorah? This is a common question. According to tradition, every year from the 25th of Kislev which is the Jewish calendar or the end of December according to the Gregorian calendar, Jews all over the world celebrate Hanukkah, the festival of light. The main religious tradition of Hanukkah is lighting the Hanukiah. Some people confuse the hanukiah with a menorah however; there is quite a substantial difference between the two.
A hanukiah is a type of candelabra, with nine candle holders. Eight candles are in a line and the ninth candle is out of place, either at a different height or in a different position on the Hanukiah. They come in all shapes and sizes as long as there are eight candles at the same height and in line with each other with a ninth candle misaligned, then it is classed ‘Kosher’ Hanukiah. The Hanukiah represent the miracle of the oil burning for eight days instead of one. Every day of Hanukkah Jewish families get together at sunset and light the Hanukiah, one day at a time so that on the eighth day, all the candles are burning bright. The one candle that is out of place is known as the service candle or in Hebrew the ‘Shamash’. It is used to light all the other candles on the Hanukiah and it should be lit first. The rest of the Hanukiah should be lit from right to left.
The other type of candelabra is known as a Menorah and is more of a symbolic object. It dates back to the time of the first temple in Jerusalem. It consists of seven branches of candle holders and does not have a ‘Shamash’ out of place. The Menorah is one of the oldest symbols in Judaism. The high priests known as the ‘Kohanim’ used to light the menorah in the temple every evening, using olive oil to burn. The Menorah is known as a symbol of the Jewish Faith and Religion. In every Synagogue all over the world, there is a light placed above the Arc which holds the scrolls of the Torah, Jewish Bible. It is known as the ‘Ner Tamid’ (The everlasting light).This light represents the menorah from the original temples. There are also Menorahs placed in synagogues as ornaments as they are beautiful decorations and remind the Jews of the temples which were destroyed.
The difference between the Hanukiah and Menorah is that the Hanukiah is lit on the festival of Hanukkah and the Menorah is not. In addition, the Menorah has fewer branches than the Hanukiah and does not have an out of place ‘Shamash’. The menorah is just a symbol representing the Jewish faith.