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Chanukah Halachic Digest 5778

Chanukah Halachic Digest 5778




Halachic Digest - חנוכה  ה'תשע"ח

Compiled by Rabbis Yoseph Vigler, Mendel and Sholom Zirkind

Edited by Rabbi Y. Zirkind ע"ה

לעילוי נשמת הרב יצחק בן הרב אליעזר צבי זאב צירקינד ז”ל

Time of Kindling Menorah

  • Minhogim differ as to when to light candles: right after sunset,  right after tzeis hakochavim, or some time in between.

  • One should make sure to put in enough oil that it should burn for at least a half hour after tzeis hakochavim, (and some say fifty minutes)

  • If you light after tzeis, it is best to daven Maariv first - unless you have a set Minyan later.  Prepare the Menorah earlier, so you can kindle right after Maariv.

  • If members of the family are away, it is best to kindle when they return home, even though it means a delay. Try plan ahead so the whole family is back on time.

  • From half an hour before the time of kindling until you light the candles, you cannot do work or business, learn, eat mezonos or hamotzi (or drink alcoholic beverages) more than a kebeitza. Eating less than a kebeitza is permissible. One may eat (and drink) shehakol and fruits as much as one wishes. One can learn, if he asks someone who is not learning to remind him to light when the time comes.

  • If you are flying at the time of kindling you may eat anything. The restriction only applies if you are able to light but are delaying it for whatever reason.

  • If one will not have a chance to light later, the earliest time to light candles is after plag hamincha (331pm - 3:34pm in NYC). However there are varying opinions if a Beracha may be recited then. A Rav should be consulted.

    • Note, you must place enough oil for the candles to burn into the night, half hour after tzeis.

    • If you forgot and put in only enough oil to burn for 30 minutes (after tzeis hakochavim) you have to relight with the correct amount. .

  • Lighting before sunset is not optimal. Given the option between lighting early, before shkia, or late at night, the latter is better - as long as someone in the household will be present at the lighting later.

  • Candles may not be lit before plag hamincha. If you lit before plag hamincha, you have to relight later with a bracha.

  • Bedieved the latest possible time to light is Alos hashachar. You may only light with a bracha at this time if members of the household are present to watch the lighting. (If one is lighting less than a half hour before Alos hashachar, there are varying opinions if he could light with a Beracha).

  • If the father is away at work etc and cannot get home at the time of Chanukah lighting but plans to return home before everyone goes to sleep, wait for him to light. If he plans to arrive after bedtime, his wife should light. He should have in mind not to be yotze so that he can light with a bracha when he arrives home. For him to make a bracha late night some of the family must be awake or he should wake them up. Otherwise no bracha.

Traveling on Chanukah

  • The (primary) obligation of Chanukah, is for one to light in his own house. If someone is staying over elsewhere (even for a day), he may light there if he is eating and sleeping there, because this is considered his house for that day.

  • However if someone is eating temporarily in someone else's house (e.g. at a Chanukah party), all agree that the optimal Halachic option is for him to light at home, even if will be returning late at night, than to light elsewhere (because in this case, it is not considered his house). There are some contemporary Poskim who allow - in case of need - for someone to light at a party in someone else's house, if he is there with his whole family (and he is eating a full meal). Most Poskim disagree with this leniency.

  • If someone is traveling during Chanukah, he should arrange his travel in a way that he will be able to light Chanukah candles (at the right time) in his house or in the place where he is staying at his destination.

  • If one must travel from before פלג המנחה through the entire night, a Rav should be consulted regarding if and how to light Chanukah candles, and if he should say (all) the berachos. If he has family members remaining at home, they should light there with a bracha.

  • If one is getting married or moving to a new home during Chanuka, it depends which home you are in at the time of candle lighting.

    • If you are going to leave your former home before the time of lighting, light in the new home. If you are still in the old home at the time of lighting light there, providing that you will still be there for a half hour after lighting.

  • If one was staying in another house and plan on returning that night, some hold that they should return and light in their own house, and others hold that if they will still stay for a half hour after lighting, they could light where they are now.

The Chanukah Candles

  • Although other oils (or candles) may be used on Chanukah, olive oil is ideal. The oil needs a reliable Hechsher (especially if it's from Eretz Yisroel).

  • There is some fraud in the olive oil market. One way to test for genuine olive oil is to place it in the fridge. Real olive oil becomes thicker and cloudier than an imitation.

  • In a situation where one won't be able to light real fire, one should use an electric Menorah, but should not make a bracha.

  • Although any wicks may be used for Chanukah, cotton wicks are ideal.

  • On the first night, we light the candle on the far right of the Menorah, and add one more each night from right to left.

  • When lighting the flames, we begin with the newest candle, and proceed from left to right. However, you should position yourself to the left of the candles so as not to pass over a wick and “embarrass” it by not lighting it immediately.

  • The Shamash  should be higher than the other candles. Many use a beeswax candle Shamash. Others light it of olive oil, (and use a separate candle to light the candles).

  • The custom is that all men and boys from Chinuch-age light their own Menorah.

  • Ladies are obligated in kindling. They are yotze from men but if there are no men over bar mitzvah at home they should light personally or through a representative.

  • Girls studying in seminaries away from home must therefore fulfill the mitzvah where they presently live. However, one girl may be appointed as a representative to light a menorah on behalf of them all.

  • The candles must be:-

(a) in a straight row, not circular

(b) on the same height

(c) with an equal distance between candles

(d) spaced far enough from each other so as not to appear as one flame, (approx. 2 (or 2.4) cm between the flames) and if lighting wax candles, spaced far enough not to melt.

(e) Leave space between Menorahs if separate  individuals light together.

  • First light the Shamash and recite the brochos “להדליק” and “שעשה נסים”, and on the first night also “שהחיינו”. Once all brochos are completed begin lighting the candles.

  • Should one forget to recite the brochos,

    • If you remembered before lighting all the candles, say all the Brochos and continue lighting.

    • If you already finished lighting all of them, you skip the first brocho, “להדליק נר חנוכה” and start from the second bracha, “שעשה ניסים”

  • שהחיינו is recited the first time you light even if it is not the first night of Chanukah.

  • One should hold the Shamash by each wick until the flame is embedded in the wick.

  • Do not light one candle from another, only from a shamash or other foreign candle.

  • The remaining oil in the bottle may be used for any purpose.

  • However, the remaining oil in the menorah cups after the 8th night, that was left over after it was lit for at least 30 minutes (after tzeis hakochavim) should not be used for any other purpose - and should be burned (without deriving any benefit).

    • Note - if you stipulatedwhen you lit that the leftovers would not have any kedusha to them then the remaining oil has no sanctity. (However it should not be disposed of in a disrespectful way).

    • Note also, if the candles were extinguished for whatever reason before being lit for 30 minutes after tzeis hakochavim, then a stipulation would not help and the remaining oil must be burned even if a stipulation was made.  

Where to light

  • Some light by the window facing the street. Others light in a doorway of their home on the left side, so that the Mezuzah is on the right and the Menorah on the left.  In a room with no Mezuzah (e.g. in a hotel), the Menorah would be lit on the right.

  • The Menorah is preferably placed higher than 3 Tefachim and lower than 10 Tefachim when lighting by the doorway. According to many, this means that the flames (not the base of the Menorah) should be between 3 and 10 Tefachim.

  • When lighting by the window, preferably light by a window lower than 10 Tefachim.

  • If the window is higher than 20 Amos from street level, some say it is better to light by the doorway, while others say to light by the window. If one is lighting by the window, use a Menorah that has no back, so that the people in the house can also see the flames. Similarly, if one is lighting late at night when no people are out, he should ensure that the people in the house should see the flames.

  • One is not allowed to light in a windy place or any place that the flame would easily be extinguished. If you did light in such a place and the candles did extinguish, you must relight them albeit without a Brocho.

  • However, if the candles were lit in a place where they were likely to last, yet they went out before lasting 30 minutes (after tzeis hakochavim), the din is they need not be relit. Still, the custom is to relight them without a brocho.

  • The proper location to light is where you eat on a permanent basis.

  • It is better to light where you eat (on a more permanent basis), than where you sleep

  • However, bochurim in a dormitory, should rather light by their rooms than in the dining room since the dining room is communal whilst the rooms are more personal to them. For good measure, they should eat a meal or two in their dormitory room.

After the lighting

  • הנרות הללו is recited. Some say it after lighting the first candle, while others say it after lighting all the candles. Some also recite other tefilos and zemiros..

  • It is proper to remain with the candles half an hour after lighting (except on Erev Shabbos).

  • One is not allowed to derive any benefit from the light of the Chanukah candles.

  • The Menorah should remain in the place it was lit without being moved. In case of need, one could move it after it burned for a half hour after tzeis hakochavim. Some don’t move it even afterwards (particularly when lighting by the window).

  • (Note for those that light by the window: there are some  Poskim who maintain that in today’s society, ever since we have electricity, people are out on the streets until late at night. Since the Halacha is that Chanukah candles should  burn as long as people are on the street, that would be much later than 30 minutes after tzeis - about 9pm or even later. If you follow that, you should preferably (a) have sufficient oil to burn till late night and (b) not move the candles even after half an hour after tzeis.)

  • While the candles are burning: Women do not do work e.g. sewing, weaving, washing, ironing until the candles burned 30 minutes (from tzeis). Afterwards it is permissible, but not near the candles .

ועל הניסים

  • If you forgot to say ועל הניסים but remembered before saying “ה’” at the end of the bracha, go back. If not, do not go back. Some insert before the second יהיו לרצון at the end of the Amida: הרחמן הוא יעשה לנו ניסים כמו שעשה לאבותינו בימים ההם בזמן הזה. בימי

  • In bentching, if you remembered before saying “Hashem” at the end of the bracha, go back. If not, you do not go back. But before הרחמן הוא יזכנו you say הרחמן הוא יעשה לנו ניסים כמו שעשה לאבותינו בימים ההם בזמן הזה, בימי...

  • You do not skip lechatchila Ve’al hanissim to catch up to answer Kedusha or Modim.

  • On Shabbos Chanukah, if you are bentching again because you forgot to say Retzei the first time in bentching, you do not have to say ve’al hanissim again.


  • No tachanun for the entire Chanukah.

  • Complete Hallel is recited all 8 days.

  • Minhagim vary if Avelim daven for the Amud on Chanukah. Those who daven for the Amud should have someone take over for hallel. The Avel continues with Kaddish.

  • No fasting on Chanukah, even a Chosson on his wedding day.

Chanukah customs

  • It is proper to give out Chanukah gelt - to adults too. Kids give to other kids.

  • The minhag is to play with a dreidel.

  • It is customary to increase in meals and get-togethers during Chanukah. During these get togethers we should discuss and thank Hashem for the miracles of Chanukah.

  • To commemorate the miracle of Yehudis, daughter of Yochonon Kohen Gadol, some have the minhag to eat cheese or other milchiks.

  • Minhag Yisroel is to eat foods fried in oil to commemorate the miracle of the oil.

  • Chanukah is an appropriate time to increase in Torah (especially in Torah matters of Chanukah), prayer and  Tzadaka.

Lighting in Shul

  • The Menorah is placed on the southern wall and the candles from east to west, above 10 tefachim.

  • Candles are lit at Mincha, before Aleinu, as long as it is after plag hamincha. We do not wait for sunset.

  • One is not yotze with the Shul candles, and must go home and light again.

  • The Shliach Tzibur who recites שהחיינו in Shul does not repeat it at home, unless he has family members present, who have not heard it yet. However, according to some, if he first lit at home and then in Shul, he recites שהחיינו again even if everyone has lit already due to the added measure of Pirssumei Nissa in Shul.

  • Candles should be lit at all Minyanim (including Shacharis albeit without a bracha). The Menorah should be at the same location (as above) in the shul. One should still use a shamash and not light the candles from one another even when lighting in the morning without a bracha (so that people don’t get confused with the real menorah lighting at home)

  • It is best if a man over bar mitzvah lights the candles in the evening in Shul.

Erev Shabbos Chanukah kindling

  • On Erev Shabbos, it is best to daven Mincha early before lighting Chanukah candles. You then light Menorah in Shul, only if it is after plag hamincha as above.

  • It is proper to have a Minyan present in shul for Chanukah lighting.

  • If you cannot make it to Minyan before lighting candles, rather light before Mincha and daven Mincha in Shul with a minyan after lighting.

  • Since on Erev Shabbos you light earlier than usual, make sure there’s enough oil (or the candles are large enough) to burn at least 30 minutes after tzeis.

  • Chanukah candles are lit before Shabbos candles.

  • One cannot light chanukah nor Shabbos candles after sunset.

  • If  one forgot and lit the Shabbos candles first,

    • If it is a man, he can still light the Chanukah candles himself, if he didn’t have in mind to accept Shabbos when lighting the Shabbos candles.

    • If it is a woman, she cannot light herself, but she may ask someone to light for her. The one lighting recites the first bracha and she would recite the rest.

  • On Friday night, one has to be careful not to open the door (or walk past the candles very quickly), if this can cause the wind to blow out the candles. If the candles are near a door, something should be placed to protect the Chanukah candles from the wind, so that there won't be an issue with opening the door on Shabbos.  

  • On Shabbos, it is forbidden to move the chair on which the Menorah rests, even after the flames have gone out.

If you anticipate you will need to move it then, before Shabbos place a Challah or other item that will be used for Shabbos, on the chair or the stand, where the Menorah is. (However placing this on a tray is designated for the Menorah, will not help). It then becomes a בסיס לאיסור ולהיתר and may be moved , provided that it is being moved because one needs the space where the menorah is, (but not for the safety of the menorah itself).

  • Another option is  to push the chair using your feet. In this way one may move it even for the safety of the Menorah itself.

  • Regardless, one may never move it if the candles are still burning, as this will cause any of the flames to be extinguished, or the oil to move closer or further from the wick.

Motzei Shabbos

  • In Shul: Ma’ariv, Candle lighting before Aleinu, and then Havdalah.

  • At home: we try to light as early as possible without delay. The prevailing custom is to say Havdalah and then Candle lighting. For those who usually say ויתן לך at home after Havdalah, many have the custom to say it after lighting the Chanukah candles

Rosh Chodesh Teves

  • Remember Yaale veyavo in addition to ועל הניסים

  • 2 Sifrei Torah are taken out today by Shacharis. In the first we read 3 Aliyos for Rosh Chodesh. In the second we read the Keriah for Chanukah

  • Musaf for Rosh Chodesh, with ועל הניסים

Sunday 6 teves, December 24

  • Tonight (the night leading into Dec. 25) is known as “Nittel Nacht”. Many do not learn Torah tonight until midnight. However one should not not waste time, but use it productively, for household chores, acts of kindness, or intellectual pursuits (e.g. playing chess) that sharpen the mind and help him learn Torah.  

A lichtigen Chanukah!