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Some Laws of Chanuka

12/14/2022 08:00:34 AM


Chanukia (Menorah) and lights -- One should strive to have a beautiful Menorah but almost any material short of foodstuffs like potatoes or egg shells will do.  All of the lights should be on the same level in a straight line.  Olive oil is preferred but candles are sufficient.


The Lights -- The basic Mitzvah is to light one light each night for the whole house.  The Talmud adds two possible levels beyond that: Mehadrin (those who go beyond the letter of the law) and Mehadrin Min HaMehadrin (those who go even further).

The Mehadrin practice is for each person in the household to light their own light each night. The Mehadrin Min HaMehadrin practice is to add an extra light each night corresponding to the number of days that have gone by.

For Ashkanazim, the custom is to combine these two practices, so that each family member lights and each family member adds an extra light each night.  For Sephardim, the custom is for just one Menorah to be lit each night for the whole household but to add another light each night.

All women are obligated in this Mitzvah despite the fact that it is a time-bound positive commandment.  If they are married, they may be included in their husband's lighting, though they should be present for the lighting.  Even if they are married, they may light for themselves with a Beracha.

Children who have reached the age of Chinuch (education) should light; if it's an issue, they need not light more than one light per night.


When to light? -- According to the Talmud and its commentators, the optimum time to light is either after sundown or after three medium stars have appeared.  Regardless of one’s custom, the lights should burn for a half-hour after the stars have appeared.  If one is going out for the night, then one can light as early as one-and-a-quarter hours before sundown (3:57 pm this year) but there should be enough oil or candle to last at least two hours.  But if one is going to be returning, even very late, it is best to light then and not before sundown.

Now that we (in the Diaspora) light inside the house, one needn’t worry as much about the issue of publicizing the miracle to people in the street.  Therefore, the time for lighting can be set according to when household members will be present.  Even if one lights later, the lights should burn for at least a half-hour.

One can light at any time through the night.  If the rest of the family has already lit but one adult member of the family was not around, then the returning family member may light with a Beracha upon arrival at home (provided that at least one other family member is awake to see the light).  If one is not going to be home at all for one of the nights, please see below.


Travellers/Visitors -- An adult family member planning to return home too late for anyone else to be awake should make sure that the family has him or her in mind when they light.

A regular boarder should join the household's lighting as a normal member of the household.  Roommates should light separately unless they always eat together.  Guests in a motel or hotel should light in their rooms.

Visitors for all of the night, such as overnight Shabbat guests, should buy a portion of the host household's lights (by contributing at least a dime to the host).  They may also light for themselves if they bring their own Menorah and lights.  Visitors on Shabbat who are still around on Motzai Shabbat can and should buy a portion of the host household’s lights.  They can, if they wish, also go home to light there, but they should not do both.

If one will not be home at all for the night, then one should light wherever one will be.  If one is eating in one place but sleeping in another, one should light in the place where one is sleeping for that is one's domicile for that night.  One can even light on an airplane, a boat, or a train as long as there is no safety hazard.  One need not light more than one light.  It should rest on something and not be held by hand.  If one uses an electric light on a plane, one makes no blessing on it.  (It is useful only as a reminder of the holiday.)

Fri, February 3 2023 12 Shevat 5783