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Laws and Customs of Chanukah ASKT 5781

The History
The holiday of Chanukah celebrates both the victory of the Maccabees over their Syrian-Greek adversaries and the miracle of the oil burning for eight days at the rededication of the temple in 165 B.C.E.  The name Chanu – Kah, they rested on chof heh – the twenty fifth, refers to the break from the battles on that day when the beginning of the miracle occurred.  It also refers to the Chanukas HaBayis – the rededication of the Temple which occurred at that time.

The Lighting
The main mitzvah of the holiday is the lighting of the Chanukah lights.  In some households, one menorah is lit while in others everyone lights their own menorah.  The candles or oil are placed from right to left, adding one additional light for each night.  Then the lights are lit from left to right, using the shamash, the additional light.  

On the first night, three blessings are said – 1) “Lehadlik ner shel chanukah  2) sheasah nisim 3) shecheyanu.  On the last 7 nights only the first two blessings are said.  

The menorah should be placed where it can be viewed by others as the main point of the mitzvah is pirsumei nisa – publicizing the miracle.  If this is impossible or unsafe, it can be lit in a place where the family will view it.

When Does One Light the Menorah?
It should be lit between sunset (this year in Glendale – about 4:18 pm) and about 30 minutes after sunset and must burn for a half hour after the stars appear (about 5:05 pm).  Therefore on Erev Shabbat, when we light the Chanukah candles early, right before the Shabbat candles, one should make sure to have candles or oil that will last about 80 minutes.  

On Motzai Shabbat, we make havdalah at home before lighting Chanukah candles although in shul we do the opposite.

If one is unable to light at the proper time, one can light the menorah until people are no longer walking in the street or until the members of one’s household go to sleep.  If one will return late to their home, one can appoint a spouse to light for them at the proper time.  If one did not do so and upon arriving home everyone in the household is asleep and unwilling to be woken up, one can light until the next morning’s dawn, but it is questionable whether they should make a blessing so one should not.

If one is unable to light at sunset but can light earlier, the earliest one can light is at plag hamincha, 1 ¼ halachic hours before sunset (this year about 3:20 pm).  If one does so, however, they should use candles or oil that will burn for around 2 hours.

Once the time to light candles arrives, one should not engage in work, eat a meal (a snack is ok) or even learn Torah until the lighting takes place.  However, if one is unable to light at home until after eating, they should appoint someone to remind them to light the chanukah candles when they get home.

If one normally davens Maariv before actual nightfall then they should daven maariv and then light candles.

Al HaNisim is said during the Shemonah Esreh and bentching.  Hallel is said every day after Shemoneh Esreh.   Tachanun, Tzidascha, Lamnatzeach, Keil Erech Apayim before the reading of the Torah and Yehi Ratzon after are all omitted during Chanukah. Tachanun is also omitted at Mincha on Eruv Chanukah.

Some customs of the holiday:
1. We try to eat an elegant dairy meal.  
2. We attempt to eat foods with oil in them like latkes and doughnuts.
3. Playing dreidel   
4. Giving Chanukah gelt  
5. Lighting the menorah in Shul  
6. Women refrain from working while the candles are burning.

Mon, June 17 2024 11 Sivan 5784