Does Halacha require using a Menorah, or some other utensil, for the Hanukah candle lighting? If, for example, one has wax candles which he wishes to use for the Hanukah lighting, is it sufficient to simply place them on the windowsill, sticking them to aluminum foil, or must he use a Menorah?
Hacham Bension Abba Shaul (Israel, 1923-1998) addresses this question in his work Or Le’sion (vol. 4). He concludes that using a Menorah for the Hanukah candle lighting constitutes a Hiddur – an enhancement of the Misva – but is not necessary for fulfilling one’s obligation. This is also the implication of the Mishna Berura (671:18), who discusses a situation where one attaches candles to a wall for the Hanukah lighting. He writes that one fulfills his obligation in this fashion, though it is preferable to use a Menorah.
Therefore, it is preferable to use a Menorah for the Hanukah candle lighting, but if one does not have access to a Menorah, he may fulfill his obligation by attaching candles to a surface and lighting them. If possible, one should at least place the candle in a fireproof cup or some sort of receptacle, in order to achieve the higher standard of using a utensil.
Many people use beautiful silver Menorahs in order to enhance the Misva and fulfill it at the highest standard. Usually, however, the candles are lit in small glass cups atop of the Menorah. Hacham Bension (4:7; listen to audio recording for precise citation) addresses the question of whether one achieves Hiddur when lighting in this fashion. After all, although the Menorah is made out of silver, the lighting is done in a glass utensil, not in a silver utensil. Perhaps, then, one should ensure to place the candles directly in the silver, so he can achieve Hiddur Misva by using a silver receptacle. Hacham Bension dismisses this argument, and rules that one may certainly light in the glass cups and achieve Hiddur Misva in this fashion. Since the glass cups are part of a larger structure, one is considered as lighting with a silver utensil. Moreover, one who looks at the Menorah sees a silver utensil, even though the candles burn in glass receptacles. And, besides, G-d quite obviously knows how much one spent on the Menorah, and certainly considers him as having enhanced the Misva by purchasing a beautiful silver Menorah. Hacham Bension goes so far as to say that it may even be preferable to use the glass cups, because this allows people to see the oil, further enhancing the Misva.
Summary: It is preferable to use a Menorah for the Hanukah candle lighting, as opposed to simply placing candles on the windowsill or other surface. Nevertheless, if one does not have access to a Menorah, he may light the candles without it, though he should try, if possible, to at least place the candles in a fireproof cup or some other utensil. One who uses a silver Menorah achieves the highest standard of Hiddur Misva (enhancing the Misva), even though the candles are lit in glass cups.