It seems that with wax candle menoras, the shamash is generally lit first and used to light the other candles, but with an oil menora this is not possible. So should you light the shamash before the other oil lamps, or after? And what should you use instead of the shamash to light all the oil lamps?


3 Answers 3


One of the purposes of the shamash is to ensure that there is light in the vicinity of the menora other than that of the menora itself. That way, if someone reads near the menora, their reading won't be [exclusively] by the light of the menora's lights, so they won't be making mundane use of those lights, which is forbidden, since they're supposed to serve exclusively for the mitzva.

I think you light the shamash first, so that there's always such coverage when the menora lights are lit.

To accomplish the actual lighting, use a candle, a piece of pasta, a sparkler, or some other device that will safely hold a flame long enough to light the menora.

  • 2
    The pasta idea is particularly intriguing...
    – Sam
    Dec 9, 2009 at 19:05
  • 3
    Use with caution. Not all pastas are created equally combustible.
    – Isaac Moses
    Dec 9, 2009 at 19:12

I have just now watched a video of Rav Ovadia Yosef זצ'ל (zecher tzadik livracha)lighting his Menorah. He lit (using a candle) first the three lights and then the Shamash


Davkah (specifically) to ensure that the Shamash is used, I light it first, and then I use a special wax candle to take flame from it and light the others.

  • 2
    What's special about the candle? (Aside from the specialness of the candle, I do as you do.)
    – msh210
    Dec 12, 2012 at 1:07
  • I figure it's appropriate to have, since it's the prevailing custom, to ensure I don't inadvertently use the regular candles for any purpose, including their light. But, I also figure that it's best not to allow the Shamash to be confused with the regular candles and actually make some concrete, practical use of it.
    – Seth J
    Dec 12, 2012 at 2:29
  • Oh, did you mean what's special about the wax candle? That's another story.
    – Seth J
    Dec 12, 2012 at 2:30

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