Whatever Floats Your Wick: Chanukah Translation Confusion

We use floating wicks to light our Chanukah menorahs. Made of thin cork with aluminum foil glued on one side, they come with stiff wicks that get threaded through a hole in the stopper. We always run out of wicks before stoppers. But I digress. Some stoppers are round and some are hexagonal. You put water and oil into the glass cup, place the wick and thread on top, and fit the cup into your Chanukah menorah.

We noticed that our flame was too small and kept going out, so we checked the instructions.

You’d think that instructions for wicks, which are a pretty simple tool, would be uncomplicated. You’d be wrong.

The first two pictures are from one brand of wicks, the last two from another. We’re not going to comment about spelling or vocabulary, okay?
English instructions for wicksHebrew instructions for inserting a wick
My English translation of the Hebrew text: Thread the wick from the aluminum side. Check that the wick extends 1/3 above the stopper, and 2/3 underneath.

The English and Hebrew don’t exactly match, do they?

The second box also has English and Hebrew instructions:

english instructions call for a third of wick on topHebrew instructions for inserting wick, place a third on bottom

My translation: For a gentle flame, place 1/3 of the wick underneath the stopper and 2/3 above.

Confused yet?

You may also enjoy:

Imaginary Ingredients

Navigating an Israeli Supermarket


  1. I have come across a lot of sloppy English here in Israel but I’m still amazed when it’s one that involves an element of danger to the mistranslation. Once there were mobile children in our house I stopped using oil, it makes me nervous (maybe once they’re larger and I’m less neurotic).

  2. DH and I were just discussing this very issue – well, the issue of the terrible floating wicks that seem to go out or topple over. While visiting a friends house this evening we discovered cotton wicks. Our friends gave us one to try and it was wonderful! You need to dip the entire length of cotton wick in oil and then place it such that it coils in the bottom of the oil and then let it drape against the top rim of the glass. My friend suggested dipping the top part of the wick (that would be lit) in oil before draping against the rim as it burns better. We are planning to go buy more of the cotton wicks tomorrow. The floating ones are driving us nuts and we worry we aren’t properly keeping the mitzvah as they don’t seem to stay lit long enough!

  3. First of all I stopped the water under the oil, when the glass jars exploded. I use oil only for lighting. And I can’t stand those little combination sets. The wicks unravel when pushed through the non-existent hole.

    A couple of years ago I found some plain long waxed wicks which are the easiest to use. Just stick them in the “pot” of oil. Now, if you see them, please buy me some more, thanks.

  4. Amazing! I’ve been looking for a good Chanuka blooper – can I repost that at A Time of the Signs?

  5. Awesome! đŸ™‚

    We stopped using floating wicks a few years ago. Instead, we have these special metal tubes which stand up inside the glass cups and hold the wicks up. One advantage is that the glass cups stay much cleaner than with the floating wicks.

    Chodesh tov and happy Chanukah!