Chanukah Primer (and then some!)
This will be a combination of a halachic review, practical suggestions, useful information, and more. Do not take anything written here as “the last word”; if you have any doubts, check things out with your Rav. We are including it the week before Chanukah to give you time for careful review.
FRIDAY, 24 KISLEV (Nov. 29)
In general, one should prepare his Chanukiya during the afternoon so that there will not be a delay in lighting at the proper time. This is especially so on Friday, Erev Shabbat-Chanukah (we have two of them this year) because things get kind of hectic as Shabbat approaches.
Some have the custom of preparing the Chanukiya in the morning for the evening (this goes for every day, except Shabbat, of course). This not only serves the practical purpose of being ready to light on time without delaying to set up later, but it also commemorates the practice in the Beit HaMikdash called Hatavat HaNeirot, whereby the Kohen (Gadol) tended the Menorah and prepared it in the morning for kindling in the late, late afternoon. Since our lighting on Chanukah directly commemorates the lighting of the Menorah in the Beit HaMikdash, this suggestion provides a nice “added touch” to the mitzva and symbolism of Chanukah lighting.
In addition to preparing for the first candle of Friday evening, it is a good idea to also prepare for the second candle which will be lit on Motza’ei Shabbat, on Friday. This will allow lighting on Motza”Sh without any unnecessary delay, especially since the Motza”Sh lighting is already delayed until after Shabbat. One can set up two candles in another Chanukiya, or even at the other end of the same Chanukiya he/she will be lighting on Friday. (Don’t worry about the left-right business; it is more important to be ready to light as soon as possible after Shabbat.) Also, have your Motza”Sh Shamash and matches ready nearby.
Something else that one should try to do on the two Fridays Erev Chanukah, is to daven Mincha before candle lighting. This is so because Mincha “belongs” to Friday and candle lighting “belongs” to Shabbat (even though we are lighting when it is still Friday). The lighting of the Menorah in the Beit HaMikdash was done after the Tamid sacrifice of the afternoon. All this said, if it means not davening Mincha with a Minyan, it is better to light and then go to shul for Mincha and Kabbalat Shabbat & Maariv. However, one should try to daven at a Mincha Gedolah Minyan.
To that end, we will be davening Mincha at the Israel Center on Fridays, November 29th and December 6th at 12:00 noon, in the Wolinetz Family Shul Ohel Shmuel, on the ground floor of the Center. (Men and women are invited.)
We cannot follow the standard weekday timing (sunset or stars-out – see further) on Erev Shabbat, because of the prohibition of kindling and handling fire on Shabbat. So we will have to light early. And this will require longer (or fatter) candles or more oil than usual. Furthermore, the rule is that Chanukah candles are lit before Shabbat candles. Shabbat candle lighting in most places is 18-22 minutes before sunset. This time should not be tampered with. Chanukah candles should be lit a couple of minutes before Shabbat candles (even when different people are lighting). Preferably, they should not be lit a lot before Shabbat candles, but in all cases, never before Plag.
Jerusalem (and Petach Tikva) custom for every Shabbat is to light candles 40 minutes before sunset. There is an acceptable custom to delay Shabbat candles 15 to 20 minutes after the posted time (remember – Jerusalem and Petach Tikva only, or other places where the same practice is observed) so that one’s Chanukah candles do not have to be lit so early. This matter should be explained well to the family so that misunderstandings do not arise.
Be very careful not to get anywhere near sunset. Let 4:30pm be a “redline” for lighting candles (Chanukah or Shabbat) – otherwise, one runs the risk of encroaching on Shabbat. If you are late, be absolutely sure the sun is still in the sky – otherwise it is better not to light Chanukah or Shabbat candles.
TACHLIS: Shabbat candle lighting time for Jerusalem on both Erevs Shabbat- Chanukah is 4:00pm. (Because Chanukah is at the beginning of December this year, the sunset times throughout Chanukah week hardly vary.) Either light Chanukah candles right before 4:00pm and then light Shabbat candles, or wait until 4:15-ish, then light Chanukah candles followed by Shabbat candles.
Remember, if you are not in Jerusalem [or…], stick to the posted Shabbat candle lighting time – do not delay it.
In all cases, do not light either sets of candles before PLAG Mincha, 3:35pm (Jerusalem time, slightly padded to protect one from errors), and usable throughout Chanukah this year.
Also – and this is very important – whenever you light Chanukah candles, they must have enough fuel (oil or wax) to last until at least a half-hour after stars-out, that is, at least until 5:30pm (better would be 5:45pm and even later). This applies to Friday night too, which means that the standard (or even the prettier, longer) Chanukah candles will not make it. Recommended are the #16 or #20 Shabbat candles, which will fit most Chanukiyas and will last long enough. For oil users, experience will teach you how much oil you need. If you do not have the experience, it doesn’t hurt to experiment a couple of days before Chanukah so you will be ready.
A practical and nice suggestion is to hold MA’OZ TZUR for the Shabbat table as one of the Zemirot, rather than say it at candle lighting. Basically, as soon as candles are lit, it’s off to shul.
Many shuls will sing L’CHA DODI to the tune of MA’OZ TZUR on Shabbat Chanukah. And, of course, at the table, if you have any GAN-age children or grandchildren, there is a host of Chanukah songs to add to your usual Friday night repertoire of Zemirot and other songs. Remember, although Chanukah does not require a SEUDAT MITZVA, any meal with songs, stories, and relevant Divrei Torah (especially, but not only, on Shabbat) becomes a special Chanukah Seudah.
AL HANISIM is added to every Amidah and all Birkat HaMazon throughout Chanukah. (There is no reference to Chanukah in “AL HAMICHYA”, i.e. Bracha Mei’ein Shalosh.)
Forgetting AL HANISIM does NOT invalidate either the Amidah nor Birkat HaMazon. That means that one does NOT repeat either due to leaving AL HANISIM out. However, if one realizes the omission before the end of the Amidah, AL HANISIM can be said right before YIHYU L’RATZON. In Birkat HaMazon, an omitted AL HANISIM becomes a HARACHAMAN, right before HARACHAMAN HU Y’ZAKEINU, as follows…
HARACHAMAN HU YA’ASEH LANU NISIM V’NIFLA’OT KA’ASHER ASAH LA’AVOTEINU BAYAMIM HAHEIM BIZMAN HAZEH. BIMEI MATITYAHU…
SHABBAT, 25 KISLEV (Nov. 30)
Full HALLEL is said on each of the eight days of Chanukah (because there was the manifestation of a miracle on each day).
Two Sifrei Torah are taken out. (When there are two Shabbatot-Chanukah, the first is VAYEISHEV and the second is MIKEITZ.) Parshat HaShavua – Vayeishev – is read from the first, and the Torah reading for the first day of Chanukah is read for the Maftir in the second Torah. The reading starts at the beginning of the 7th perek in Bamidbar (Parshat Naso), with the description of the dedication of the Mishkan, almost a year after the Exodus. The reading begins with the anointing and sanctification of the Mishkan, its furnishings, and vessels, and the gifts of the Leaders of the Tribes to the families of Levi for the transport of the dismantled Mishkan. It continues with the gifts and offerings of Shevet Yehuda on the first day of Dedication, the first day of Chanukat HaMizbei’ach. Some shuls begin the reading of the first day six psukim earlier, to include the portion of Birkat Kohanim in the Chanukah reading. The reason (or one of the reasons) is to identify and acknowledge the Chashmonaim as Kohanim.
The Torah reading is followed by the special Chanukah Haftarah, which preempts the regular Haftarah of Vayeishev. The reading is from Zechariah, and includes his vision of a golden Menorah. (More on this in next week’s Sedra Summary.)
MOTZA’EI SHABBAT, eve of 26 KISLEV (Nov. 30)
(Times are for Jerusalem; other places require proper adjustment.) Sunset is 4:40pm. Shabbat is out at 5:16pm. Although 5:16 is considered Stars-Out (Tzeit HaKochavim) as far as Shabbat is concerned, there are earlier times that qualify as Stars-Out for other purposes, such as reciting SH’MA at night. There are different opinions, but let’s use 20 minutes after sunset as an earlier TZEIT. It is recommended (not everyone agrees) that we start davening Maariv at 5:00pm so that we can finish at or shortly after the Shabbat-out time. This will allow lighting Chanukah candles earlier (sooner after Stars-Out) than if we daven Maariv at the usual time for Motza”Sh.
Those who say V’YITEN L’CHA should say it after Chanukah candles are lit.
Okay, it’s Motza’ei Shabbat and Chanukah, we’re home from shul as soon after Shabbat as possible, what now?
Two mitzvot to perform – Havdalah and Chanukah candles. By the rule of TADIR (that which is more frequent should be done first), havdalah should be said first. And by logic, one should “finish” with Shabbat and then light candles for the next day of Chanukah, which is Sat. night & Sunday. Many authorities hold that on Motza’ei Shabbat, one should say havdalah first and then light Chanukah candles. This opinion is followed by the majority of Chanukah-candle-lighting Jews all over the world. The Maharal (among others) is vehement in his insistence that we cannot possibly consider doing something so “weekday-ish” as lighting Chanukah candles, unless we have first said havdalah. He rejects any argument to the contrary.
ON THE OTHER HAND… there is a strong argument for lighting Chanukah candles before havdalah. First of all, Shabbat is over when it is 5:16pm (some calendars might vary slightly) AND one has said Havdalah in davening (ATA CHONANTANU in the Maariv Amidah) OR at least said BARUCH HAMAVDIL BEIN KODESH L’CHOL. Havdalah is NOT what ends Shabbat – it is what honors the departing Shabbat. Even so, havdalah should go first, except for one very important factor: The prime time (according to some opinions, the only time) for Chanukah candles is ticking away. We cannot, of course, light Chanukah candles when it is still Shabbat. But we should maximize the amount of time of the “half-hour after” once we are allowed to light. Havdalah will wait; Chanukah candles will not. Therefore, the OTHER opinion is that Chanukah candles go first and then havdalah. This procedure comes with the reminder not to use the Chanukah candles for havdalah, since one may not benefit from the Chanukah lights, and the bracha in havdalah is specifically upon using the light (hence the examining of fingernails, etc.). Chanukah candles first is the opinion of the Vilna Gaon and many others, and is Minhag Yerushalayim. (Remember that not everyone in Yerushalayim follows the practices known as Minhag Yerushalayim.)
This dispute is one of the few in halacha that is resolved in the following manner: “Whichever opinion you follow, you have performed correctly”. Either procedure may be followed. Family and community custom should play a deciding role in this issue. Again, a Rav should be consulted, especially if one is considering a change in practice.
Some say that those who light outdoors should follow the custom of lighting before havdalah. Those who light indoors can take their pick.
Remember that Shabbat is paramount. In case of doubt as to whether Shabbat is being encroached upon, one should NOT light Chanukah candles. It must be DEFINITELY after Shabbat before lighting. But one should not unnecessarily delay the fulfillment of the mitzva of Chanukah candles.
A note for Rabbeinu Tam people: Those who follow the Shabbat-out time of Rabbeinu Tam (72 minutes after sunset) and consider it to be the correct halachic time, must keep it even on Motza’ei Shabbat Chanukah, even though it means losing “prime time” for Chanukah candles. Those who keep Rabbeinu Tam time as a CHUMRA (a strict measure, but accept the earlier time as halachic), might end Shabbat earlier on Motza’ei Shabbat Chanukah, in order to fulfill the mitzva of Chanukah candles at their better time. It is advised to check this out with a Rav.
In shul, it is the universal practice to light Chanukah candles before saying havdalah, this to maximize Pirsumei Nisa in a situation where everyone present will be leaving for home shortly.
At home, people will still be there for the Chanukah candles, so there is no need to light before havdalah (according to those who follow this first opinion).
Those who say havdalah first can light their Shamash for the Chanukah candles with the havdalah candle before extinguishing it, thus dovetailing two mitzvot.
Those who follow the second opinion can light the havdalah candle from the Shamash, thereby dovetailing one mitzva into another.
On Motza’ei Shabbat, when we light after Stars-Out, it is sufficient for the candles to burn for half an hour. Still, it is preferable that they last longer. This has to do with the fact that in our time, people are out in the streets later than in times past and Pirsumei Nisa (publicizing the miracle) applies later than the original “half-hour after stars-out”.
Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday evenings, the eves of 27, 28, 29, 30 KISLEV, and 1 TEVET (Dec. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
There are two practices as to when is the ideal time to light Chanukah lights during the week (i.e. except for Friday and Motza’ei Shabbat, when different factors affect the timing, as already discussed). Minhag Yerushalayim (which many, but not everyone follows) is to light with the setting of the sun. As mentioned earlier, this year sunset during Chanukah week hovers at 4:40pm (Jerusalem). People in other locations should check when their local sunset is.
The other opinion [that of “the rest of the world”] is to light when the “light of the sun has left the sky”, i.e. Stars-Out a.k.a. Tzeit HaKochavim). Remember that there are different opinions as to when Stars-Out occurs. Except for Motza’ei Shabbat, most people will use an early-ish Stars-Out time, in order to be closer to the Minhag Yerushalayim timing, and because Z’RIZIM MAKDIMIM, people who are enthusiastic about doing mitzvot, do them “right away”. 5:00pm will work for this early Stars-Out time this Chanukah (except for Motza”Sh – as above). Those who light with Stars-Out should light right after Maariv, unless they have a fixed time later in the evening for davening. This will result in lighting Chanukah candles a little later than the 5:00pm TZEIT time.
Those who light with sunset should daven Maariv at the appropriate time, after candles.
Candles must burn at least a half hour after stars-out. This was the original time period after dark that people were still around outdoors and defined the PIRSUMEI NISA aspect of the mitzva. Although in our day, people are out later than this time, the halacha only requires the half hour after stars-out. However, it is recommended that one use longer candles or more oil to extend this time [one need not go overboard on this issue, but…], in recognition of the expansion of the current-day Pirsumei Nisa time-frame.
TACHLIS: If one lights at 4:40 or 5:00 or earlier than 4:40 (remember, not before PLAG, 3:35pm) or as late as 5:15, then the candles should burn until at least 5:45pm, preferably somewhat longer.
(Since Rabbeinu Tam’s Stars-Out is 5:52 during Chanukah week (this year), one might try to have his Chanukah lights burn at least until 6:25-ish. This is not a requirement, but it does acknowledge the different opinions concerning Stars-Out. Treat this as an off-the-record suggestion, especially in light of the reality that the Pirsumei Nisa time is later into the night than it was in the time of the Gemara.)
If someone lights after 5:15pm (and certainly if it is after 5:52pm), then the candles must last at least a half hour, regardless of what time one lit. (Preferably longer, as already mentioned.)
For those who must light early, the earliest time one may light is PLAG MINCHA. For all of Chanukah, we can use 3:35pm as PLAG. This time is padded slightly to avoid someone’s being off a bit and lighting too early.
Those lighting early should remember that the candles or oil must be able to last until the minimum half-hour after Stars-Out.
Also know that the closer to sunset, the better is the early lighting. 3:30pm is TOO EARLY TO LIGHT – probably BRACHOT L’VATALA (brachot in vain) and no performance of the mitzva. 3:35pm is okay, because it is after PLAG, but 3:40pm is better. 3:45 is better still. Etc. Get the point? The closer to sunset one lights, the better it is for visibility of the candles, and that means the better it is for Pirsumei Nisa.
If, because of one’s work or travel schedule, one has to choose between lighting early or late, or between lighting early or appointing someone to light for you at the proper time, or between lighting late and appointing someone to light for you at the proper time — one should consult a Rav for a p’sak based on how early and how late, and any other relevant factors.
Sometimes a less-than-perfect performance of a mitzva is a fine, acceptable “second best”. Sometimes, not. Lighting Chanukah candles early or late is a poor second, at best. Lighting early lacks an element of Pirsumei Nisa because a candle flame is not eye-catching (so to speak) during full daylight. Lighting late is not so good because of the opinions that the time-period for Pirsumei Nisa from the days of the Gemara remains the optimum time (and some say the ONLY time) for the fulfillment of the mitzva.
Although we follow other opinions, and basically allow lighting any time of the night, it is far less than ideal to light late. A “good” excuse makes it okay, but not great. One should consult a Rav especially for recurring situations, such as coming home late from work or school, and the like.
Remember that having someone light for you is a valid alternative to your lighting for yourself, and sometimes it is even the preferred alternative. Ask your Rav.
POINT Brachot (including SHE’HE’CHE’YANU) should be recited BEFORE beginning to light the candles. This complies with the general rule for Brachot of Mitzva, that they be recited immediately before performance of the mitzva, if possible. This means, that even on the eighth night, the candles are not begun to be lit until the brachot are completed.
POINT Opinions differ, but a common practice is to place the first candle (or oil cup) in the right side of the Chanukiya. If one lights at the doorpost, then the first candle should be closest to the doorpost, even if it is the left side of the Chanukiya. From the second night on, the custom (one of the customs) is to “load” the Chanukiya from right to left, but to light it, left to right. At the doorpost, one loads it from the doorpost out, and lights it starting with the candle closest to the doorpost. Loading and lighting direction is not crucial to the performance of the mitzva, but there are reasons for the various practices.
POINT The essential performance of the mitzva of Chanukah Lights is the lighting of a single candle each night, and the custom that we follow of increasing the number of candles each night is considered HIDUR MITZVA (enhancement of the mitzva). One practice that has developed because of this, is to begin reciting HANEIROT HALALU after the first candle is lit, while lighting the others. Alternatively, one can wait until the lighting is done to say HANEIROT HALALU.
POINT One should not just light the Chanukah candles and then go on to business as usual, but rather one should look at the candles for a while, ponder G-d’s miracles, spend some time with the family talking about the message of Chanukah and how it relates to our time, play a little dreidel, sing a song or two, have some Chanukah fun.
POINT It is recommended to learn some Torah, share a Dvar Torah, have a family shiur, or something like that, right after candle lighting. The decrees of the Greeks included a ban on Torah learning. Our celebration of Chanukah marks our freedom from Greek oppression, including the ability to learn Torah in public without fear. So let’s do just that!
POINT Notice on the other sheet of this Pull-Out that the word SHEL in the first bracha is in parentheses. There is a dispute as to whether the bracha ends NER SHEL CHANUKAH or NER CHANUKAH. One should follow his own (or family) minhag, if you have one (and remember it). If not, you might want to ask your Rav which wording you should use. (Those who say NER CHANUKAH have a bit of a problem if they sing the brachot, but don’t let that determine your choice of wording.)
The original place for lighting and displaying of the Chanukiya was outdoors at the entrance to one’s courtyard or home.
Over many generations in exile, where lighting outdoors was often inconvenient to say the least, and sometimes dangerous, the practice evolved to light indoors. In some circumstances, the lighting was to be done at a window, so that the candles would be visible to passersby in the street. In other cases, the Chanukah lights were lit in a conspicuous location for the attention of the members of the household.
Many people who have come to Israel, still light inside, at the window, as they had lit in their countries of origin. Others have gone back to the original practice of lighting outdoors. It seems that this is the preferred method in Yerushalayim.
If you are considering changing any aspect of your Chanukah candle lighting routine, (candle to oil or vice versa, sunset to stars-out or vice versa, indoors to outdoors or vice versa, window to door or vice versa, each family member to one for the family or vice versa, etc.) it is advisable to consult a Rav.
These pages should be considered a review of some – but not all – of the many Chanukah topics. (Others might be included in the body of TT, this week or next.) Often, different opinions were presented, but there were still sides of the different issues that were left out. It has been said often, but we repeat, it is best to consult your Rav to clear up any doubts you might have.
Sunday thru Wednesday, 26-29 KISLEV (Dec.1-4)
Full Hallel. One Sefer Torah. Three people to the “Tribal Leader” of the day (from Naso, Bamidbar 7). Each day’s portion has 6 p’sukim. The first three are read for the Kohen, the next three for the Levi. The third Aliya is a repeat of the whole portion. (Outside of Israel, the third Aliya is the next day’s portion.)
Thursday and Friday, 30 KISLEV and 1 TEVET, a.k.a. Rosh Chodesh Tevet (Dec.5,6)
Two Torahs. Three people are called to the first Torah for the Rosh Chodesh reading. (Same reading as all weekday Rosh Chodesh, except it is divided into three portions, rather than four, which makes repeating a pasuk or two unnecessary.) From the second Torah, we read a fourth Aliya from Naso – the Tribal Leader of the day. Mussaf with Al HaNisim for Chanukah.
Friday, 1 TEVET (Dec.6)
See the lengthy presentation of the first Erev Shabbat-Chanukah – pretty much the same, except there is no need to set up candles for Motza’ei Shabbat.
Shabbat, 2 TEVET (Dec.7)
Parshat HaShavua is Mikeitz. It is read from the first of the two Torahs. The Maftir, from the second Torah, is the longest Maftir there is. We read from Naso of the “Tribal Leader” of the eighth day, and we continue with the gifts of the 9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th days of the dedication of the Mishkan, then the summary of the animals, gold and silver, and spices given over the 12 day period, and we conclude with the first portion of B’HAALOTCHA, the portion of the Menorah (more on this, IY”H, in TT 547). The Shabbat meals give us a wonderful opportunity to discuss and sing about G-d’s miracles, then and now.
Shir shel HaYom – Psalm of the Day – for Chanukah
According to MINHAG YERUSHALAYIM (mostly based on minhagim of the GR”A, brought to Eretz Yisrael by students and followers about 200 years ago), there is a special chapter of Tehillim said on each day of Chanukah (Ps.30) which preempts the regular Shir shel HaYom. That is, except for Shabbat. Shabbat’s perek, 92, is said on Shabbat Chanukah, not 30. The chapter for Rosh Chodesh (104) also trumps that of Chanukah, and even that of Shabbat. The following chart covers all possible arrangements of Chanukah in our fixed calendar. For this year, 5763, use the last row.
Tehilim 30 is the introduction to P’sukei D’Zimra (or the bridge between Korbanot and P’sukei D’Zimra) and is said by some not only at the end of Shacharit on Chanukah, but also at the end of Maariv and/or at candle-lighting. (BTW, according to the GR”A, it is not said every day – only on Chanukah.)