Hanukkah Blessings and Prayers

Family gathered around a menorah; the father and youngest child are lighting the seventh candle.

Rafael Ben-Ari / Getty Images

Hanukkah is also called the Festival of Lights because it is celebrated with the lighting of candles in a very specific way. Each night, special Hanukkah blessings and prayers are recited before the candles are lit. Three blessings are said on the first night, and only the first and second blessings are said on the other seven nights. Additional prayers are said and candles lit, however, on the Sabbath (Friday night and Saturday) which falls during Hanukkah. While there are Hebrew prayers that can be said over various different types of foods, these are not traditionally said at Hanukkah.

Key Takeaways: Hanukkah Blessings and Prayers

  • There are three blessings said over the Hanukkah candles. All three are said on the first day, while only the first and second are said on the other days of Hanukkah.
  • Hanukkah blessings are traditionally sung in Hebrew.
  • On the Friday that falls during Hanukkah, the Hanukkah candles are lit and blessed before the Sabbath candles are lit and blessed.

Hanukkah Blessings

The Hanukkah holiday celebrates the victory of the Jews over a tyrant and the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem. According to tradition, there was only a small amount of oil available to light the Temple menorah (candelabra). Miraculously, however, oil for just one night lasted for eight nights until more oil could be delivered. The celebration of Hanukkah, therefore, involves lighting a nine-branched menorah, with one new candle lit each night. The candle in the center, the shamash, is used to light all the other candles. The blessings over the Hanukkah candles are said before the Hanukkah candles are lit.

Traditional translations of Jewish prayers use the male pronoun and refer to G-d rather than God. Many contemporary Jews, however, use a more gender-neutral translation and use the full term, God.

The First Blessing

The first blessing is said every night before the Hanukkah candles are lit. As with all Hebrew prayers, it is usually sung.

Hebrew:
.ברוך אתה יי, אלוהינו מלך העולם, אשר קידשנו במצוותיו, וציוונו להדליק נר של חנוכה

Transliteration:
Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech ha’olam, asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav v’tsivanu l’hadlik ner shel Hanukkah.

Translation:
Blessed are You,
Lord our G‑d, King of the universe,
who has sanctified us with His commandments,
and commanded us to kindle the Hanukkah lights.

Alternative Translation:
Praised are You,
Our God, Ruler of the universe,
Who made us holy through Your commandments
and commanded us to kindle the Hanukkah lights.

The Second Blessing

Like the first blessing, the second blessing is said or sung every night of the holiday.

Hebrew:
.ברוך אתה יי, אלוהינו מלך העולם, שעשה נסים לאבותינו, בימים ההם בזמן הזה

Transliteration:
Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech ha’olam, sheasah nisim la’avoteinu bayamim hahem bazman hazeh.

Translation:
Blessed are You,
Lord our G‑d, King of the universe,
who performed miracles for our forefathers
in those days,
at this time.

Alternative Translation:
Praised are You,
Our God, Ruler of the universe,
Who performed wondrous deeds for our ancestors
in those ancient days
at this season.

The Third Blessing

The third blessing is said only before the lighting of the candles on the first night of Hanukkah. (Watch a video of the third Hanukkah version).

Hebrew:
.ברוך אתה יי, אלוהינו מלך העולם, שהחיינו, וקיימנו, והגענו לזמן הזה

Transliteration:
Baruch atah Adonai, Elohenu Melech ha’olam, shehecheyanu, v’kiyimanu, v’higiyanu la’zman hazeh.

Translation:
Blessed are You, Lord our G‑d,
King of the universe,
who has granted us life, sustained us, and enabled us to reach this occasion.

Alternative Translation:
Praised are You, Our God,
Ruler of the universe,
Who has given us life and sustained us and enabled us to reach this season.

Shabbat Blessings During Hanukkah

Because Hanukkah runs for eight nights, the festivity always includes the celebration of Shabbat (the Sabbath). In Jewish tradition, Shabbat runs from sundown on Friday night to sundown on Saturday night. (Watch a video of the Shabbat blessings during Hanukkah).

In more conservative Jewish homes, no work is done on that Sabbath—and "work" is an inclusive term that means even the Hanukkah candles may not be lit during the Sabbath. As the Sabbath officially begins when the Sabbath candles are lit, it's important to bless and light the Hanukkah candles first.

On the Friday before Hanukkah, therefore, the Hanukkah candles are lit earlier than usual (and the candles used are usually a bit fatter or taller than those used the other nights). The Shabbat candle-lighting ritual is almost always completed by a woman, and it includes:

  1. The lighting of two candles (though some families include a candle for each child)
  2. Drawing the hands around the candles and toward the face three times to draw in the Sabbath
  3. Covering the eyes with the hands (so that the light is only enjoyed after the blessing has been said and Shabbat has officially begun)
  4. Saying the Shabbat blessing while the eyes are covered

Hebrew:
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה אַדֹנָ-י אֱ-לֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם אֲשֶׁר קִדְּשָׁנוּ בְּמִצְוֹתָיו וְצִוָּנוּ לְהַדְלִיק נֵר שֶׁל שַׁבָּת קֹדֶשׁ

Transliteration:
Baruch Atah Adonai Eloheinu Melech Haolam Asher Kideshanu Bemitzvotav Vetzivanu Lehadlik Ner Shel Shabbat Kodesh.

Translation:
Blessed are You, Lord our G‑d, King of the universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments, and commanded us to kindle the light of the holy Shabbat.

Alternative Translation:
Blessed are you, Adonai our God, Sovereign of all, who hallows us with mitzvot, commanding us to kindle the light of Shabbat.