Hanukkah Candle Lighting Ceremony

There is a set procedure that is followed in this home ritual.

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3)      As our final berakhah (and only on the first night) we say "shehecheyanu."  [Who has given us life]. This blessing is said at the beginning of every major Jewish religious experience. It acknowledges our entry into a special time, a holy time. But in a real sense, shehecheyanu is a connector. Its words thank God for "continuing our life," "continuing our establishment," and "bringing us along." In short, it is a blessing for growth and continuity. When we say it, we establish a link between the moment we are experiencing and the core of our life. It expresses the hope that this moment's meaning will further enrich the meaning of every experience that has led us here, and help to sharpen our sense of direction from here on. As the last expression of blessing on the first eve of the mitzvah, shehecheyanu is a call for connection and significance.

4)      Haneirot Hallalu is a short prayer written in the Geonic period after the Talmud was finished, about 750-1038 C.E. It is a kind of instant Hanukkah lesson that reviews all the key points expressed in the Talmud. Haneirot Hallalu is a kind of miniature "Hanukkah Haggadah," a one-paragraph authorized explanation of the Hanukkah story.

5)      Maoz Tzur is a medieval song that further thanks God for the miracle of Divine intervention. It continues the themes begun in sheh'asah nissim la'avoteinu (#2) and expanded in Haneirot Hallalu (#4). It seals the Hanukkah ritual experience with a call upon God to work future redemptions, just as God effected an earlier redemption in the time of the Maccabees.

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Dr. Ron Wolfson

Dr. Ron Wolfson is the Fingerhut Professor of Education at American Jewish University and the president of Synagogue 3000.