From the Kabbalists
People might have thought that as there were no windows inside the Tabernacle there was a need for the lights of the Menorah, whereas in the Temple which was equipped with windows (Kings I 6:4) there was no need for interior illumination. The Book of Kings makes a point of stating that the windows in the Temple were very narrow on the inside and wide on the outside suggesting that their purpose was not to let light enter, but on the contrary, to illuminate the outside world with the spiritual light contained therein. Our sages (Tanchuma Behaalotcha 2) phrased it thus: when the average person builds himself a house he arranges for the windows to be narrow on the outside and wide on the inside in order to admit the maximum amount of daylight. Solomon did the reverse. He made the windows narrow on the inside and wide on the outside in order for the Temple to radiate the maximum amount of spiritual light to the outside world. This conveyed the message that the entire Temple was a source of light, and that G-d most certainly did not require man-made light to light up the interior for Him.
From The Torah Commentary of Rebbeinu Bachya, as translated and annotated by Eliyahu Munk.
From the Chassidic Masters
Spiritually, to light the Menorah means to ignite one's own soul and the souls of others and to bring light to all of one's surroundings. The seven branches of the Menorah correspond to the seven basic emotions and the seven basic types of people. Lighting all seven lamps means bringing light to all facets of one's personality and environment and igniting the souls of all types of people. Indeed, Aaron was known for his care for all people, even those whose only redeeming feature was the fact that they were God's creations.
Halachically, anyone can light the Menorah in the Temple, even a non-priest. This teaches us that it is not only the Aarons-the religious professionals-that must light the human Menorahs of our world. Every person has the responsibility to seek out those silent and repressed souls waiting to be ignited.
Nevertheless, the Torah instructs Aaron to light the Menorah. This signifies that each person is given the power to be like Aaron the high priest, a man whose entire focus and reality was God and the Torah.
"Raising up" the flame (see Num. 8:2) means that instead of lighting the flame and moving on, one must hold the fire to the wick until it is burning steady, on its own. Spiritually, this means that when we light the flame of the human Menorah-our own soul and the souls of others-we should not suffice with a quick inspiration and then move on. One should remain near, coddling the flame of the soul to a steady and self-reliant glow.
[Adapted by Rabbi Yossi Marcus from Likutei Sichos for the "Lubavitcher Rebbe Chumash"]
From Ascent Quarterly
Once during Chanukah, a note requesting a blessing, was brought to the Chozeh ["seer"] of Lublin from a certain individual who was known for his evil behavior. The Seer immediately gave a warm blessing!
A short while later, the man, pleased with the blessing he had received, submitted a second note, hoping to receive another blessing. This time, however, the Seer immediately dropped it to the floor. He wouldn't touch it, as though it were something poisonous.
When his puzzled assistant asked why the Seer had reacted so differently to the two notes, the Seer answered that when he read the first note, the individual had at that very moment been lighting his Chanukah menorah. Because he was engaged in a mitzvah, his soul was shining radiantly, and on the basis of this merit, he was worthy of a blessing. But at the time of the second note....
Some Laws and Customs
BASIC LAWS OF THE CHANUKAH LIGHTS
1. On the first night (Wed., Dec. 12), one light is kindled at the right
end of the menorah.
2. On the next night a light is added to the left of the first one and both lights are kindled, and similarly each night until eight lights are kindled on the eighth night.
3. Each night an additional light is kindled--called the shamesh--which is used to light the other ones and then placed above them.
4. The lights are kindled left to right, starting with the newest light.
5. The lights must burn for at least half an hour after dark.
6. If available, olive-oil lights are preferable to wax candles.
7. Before kindling, make sure there is enough oil (or big enough candles) to burn for half an hour (or more if lit before nightfall-see 5).
8. In our times, the menorah is placed:
a. On the outside of the front door, opposite the mezuzah (Jerusalem practice)
b. In a door frame inside the house, opposite the mezuzah (Chassidic practice)
c. In a window facing a public thoroughfare (common practice)
note: in an apartment more than ten meters above the street, practice c. is of questionable validity.
9. The lights should be in an even row -no curves, no height variations. They should be well-spaced so their flames do not appear merged (and if candles, that they do not melt each other).
10. On the first night, immediately before kindling, all three blessings (found in every prayerbook) are said.
11. On the subsequent nights, only the first two blessings are said.
12. No use should be made of the lights shed by the Chanukah candles, such as reading by their light.
13. For the Friday eve of Chanukah, the lights must be kindled before
sunset and before the Shabbat candles are lit. Additional oil (or larger
candles) should be provided to ensure that they can burn until half an
hour after nightfall.
Last year's Chanukah page