REVIEW OF LAWS OF CHANUKAH & LIGHTING YOUR CHANUKIYA
This year, Chanukah begins on the evening of the 25th of Kislev, which corresponds to Thursday night, December 10, and continues for eight days. Please join us for our special events and classes.
For the entire eight days of Chanukah it is forbidden to fast or to eulogize. During morning prayers, Shacharit, one should recite the full Hallel every day. “Al hanissim,” the special paragraph of prayers for Chanukah, is added to the silent prayers, Shmoneh Esreh and in Grace after meals. If one forgets to say this addition, one should not repeat either Shmoneh Esreh or Grace.
Preparing the Chanukia
If a number of people are lighting in one household they should make a slight separation between their Chanukiyot so that there is no confusion to the observer as to the number of candles.
Ideally, the Chanukiya should be placed outside the house to the left of the entrance. Since anti-Semitism was so common throughout Jewish history it became customary among many communities to place the Chanukiya inside the house, near the entrance or on the table. In many families it is the custom to place the Chanukiya in a window facing the public, especially where many people share one entrance (e.g., apartment building).
The Chanukiya should be no lower than three tfachim from the floor (approx. 10.5 inches) and should be no higher than 20 amot from ground level (35.5 ft). Ideally, it should be about 10 tfachim high (40 inches).
The Chanukiya should have all the candles or wicks on the same level, none higher or lower than the others.
It is customary to have an additional candle (the shamash) with which to light the other candles and in order to use its light. The shamash should be placed in a way that shows that it is not one of the Chanukah candles.
It is preferable to have the candles in a straight line, and not in a semi-circle, however it is permitted to have them in a semi-circle providing each candle is clearly separated from the others.
It is prohibited to light the shamash from the Chanukah candles.
It is obligatory to light candles, and one should even borrow money to fulfill this mitzvah. If a poor person needs money for Chanukah candles the community is obligated to provide for him.
The minimum obligation is that every household should have one candle burning every night. It is customary to be scrupulous regarding this mitzvah: to have one candle on the first night and an additional candle every night (1-8), and for everyone in the house as well.
Any type of oil is acceptable for use in the Chanukiya, however, it is best to use olive oil.
Wax candles are also acceptable, providing they have a single wick.
Place first candle on the extreme right of the Chanukiya. On the second night add a candle on the left. Light the newest candle first and proceed to the right.
There are different customs regarding the placement of the candles, some follow the right and left of the observer from outside, some follow the right and left of the person lighting inside.
ORDER OF BLESSINGS AND SONGS
On the first night three brachot, blessings are recited. “Lehadlik ner shel Chanukah”, “She’asa nissim” and “Shehecheyanu.” Page 709 in the Birnbaum Siddur, page 782 in the Artscroll Siddur, or page 897 in the Koren Siddur.
On the other nights only the first two blessings are said.
All the blessings should be recited before actually lighting the candles. First light the Shamash before the blessings to avoid delay. It is forbidden to speak between the recitation of the blessings and the completion of candle lighting.
“Haneirot Halalu” is recited either during or after the lighting of the additional candles.
“Maoz tsur yeshuaty” is then sung.
NOW THAT IT’S LIT…
The Chanukiya should not be moved after is has been lit.
If the Chanukiya was lit in accordance with the requirements of Jewish law and it was extinguished, one is not obligated to relight it, but one may relight it without reciting a blessing.
If the Chanukiya was not lit properly in the first place, or was lit in a windy place and blew out, then one is obligated to relight if it went out within 1/2 hour after nightfall.
It is permitted to work; however it is customary for women not to do any work for the entire time that the candles are burning.
It is forbidden to derive benefit from the light of the Chanukiya just as it was forbidden to derive benefit from the Menorah in the Temple, and also in order to show that the purpose of the Chanukiya is for a Mitzvah, and not for illumination.
WHEN TO LIGHT
There are different customs as to the lighting of the Chanukiya. Some light at sunset. Some light about ten minutes after sunset and some at nightfall. Here in Berkeley one should try to light as soon as possible after 5:21 p.m. (except for Shabbat, see below).
It is obligatory to put in enough oil, or a long enough candle to burn for at least 1/2 hour after nightfall (i.e. the appearance of three medium size stars).
In exceptional circumstances one may light one and a quarter hours before sunset with a blessing. However one should be careful to put in more oil or to use longer candles. If possible it is better to appoint an agent to light candles at the correct time, than to light early.
If one forgot or was not able to light at the correct time, one may light as long as people are still awake in the house in which one is lighting.
It is best to light in the presence of many people in order to publicize the miracle.
If one is a guest at someone’s house (and staying there), one should give the owner a small amount of money to buy a portion in their candles and one may fulfill the obligation through the owner. Alternatively the guest may light his own Chanukiya.
If one is eating out then one should light the Chanukiya at their place of residence.
CHANUKAH & SHABBAT
On Friday afternoon, the Chanukah candles should be lit before the Shabbat candle-lighting time (if one accepted Shabbat early, it is forbidden to light Chanukah candles). Mincha should be said before lighting, if possible.
Remember to put in more oil or bigger candles on Friday, so that they burn 1/2 hour after nightfall. Try to light just before the Shabbat candles, (without of course delaying the lighting of the Shabbat candles)
After Shabbat one should first recite Havdalah at home and only then light the Chanukah candles. One may not use the Chanukiya as the candle for Havdalah.
Warm brachot for a joyous and safe Chanukah!
Adapted from the laws of Chanukah by Rabbi Mordechai Beche.