From the Rav's desk
1. The Obligation of Kindling the Menorah
- A. Every member of the household (including younger children capable of understanding the concept of Chanukah) should optimally light his own menorah.
- B. Married women may kindle the menorah individually as well. The prevalent minhag, however, is for a wife to fulfil her obligation through the hadlakah of her husband. She should try to be present, preferably, when this is done.
- C. Guests - A guest wishing to join in the kindling done by the household members must contribute an amount of money to become a partner in the lighting. If possible, he should light his own menorah. A guest returning to his own home later, during the course of the evening, should light at home even at a later hour (according to Reb Moshe Feinstein zt'l).
- D. A visitor away from home should light in the place where he is sleeping, even if all his meals are eaten elsewhere.
2. The Menorah and Its Brachot
- A. Whereas all oils and candles are permitted, the most preferred medium is olive oil and wicks made from cotton or linen. New wicks are not needed every night.
- B. If using oil, one should be certain to place the proper amount of oil in the menorah before kindling.
- C. The candle holders or oil receptacle in the menorah used should be positioned in one straight line, though a semi-circular menorah may be used as well.
- D. Preparing the Menorah: The lights are placed in the menorah from right to left before kindling and are lit from left to right.
- E. On the first night of Chanukah, 3 brachot are recited: Lehadlik ner shel Chanukah, She-asa nisim, and She-hechiyanu.
- F. All subsequent nights only the first two brachot are recited.
- G. The brachot should precede the lighting and the Haneirot Hallalu should be said after lighting the first flame, while continuing to light the others.
- H. The menorah should ideally be placed outside to the left of the doorpost, opposite the mezuzah, 31 cm above the ground.
- I. Menorahs kindled inside the home, should be set at a window facing a public thoroughfare or neighbouring residences.
- J. The menorah should not be moved after being kindled.
- K. Every menorah should have its own additional shamash.
- L. If the flames die out before the proper amount of time has elapsed, they should be rekindled without any additional brachah.
- M. One may not derive any benefit from the menorah (i.e. reading by its light) even after the required amount of time has passed, unless so stipulated prior to the kindling.
3. Proper Kindling Time
- A. The menorah should be lit at Tzait Hakochavim (nightfall) and should continue burning for 30 minutes. Tzait hakochavim is approximately 42 minutes following sunset. Under no circumstances may the menorah ever be lit prior to Plag Haminchah which, this year 5769-2008, is 7:12 pm. When lighting so early, please see the procedure for lighting candles on Erev Shabbat below for the additional oil/ wax halachically required.
- B. One should not become "involved" in any activity within a reasonable amount of time before sunset.
- C. Erev Shabbat: On Erev Shabbat enough oil/large candles must be used to enable the menorah to burn until 30 minutes after nightfall, (i.e. 90 minutes) with the menorah being lit before the kindling of Shabbat candles. If one davens at the plag haminchah minyan, the candles need to last upwards of 3 hours. Technically speaking, to fulfil the principle obligation of lighting, one candle, only, need last for this duration. When davening at the plag haminchah minyan, the Chanukah candles may not be lit until after Plag which, this year 5769-2008, is at 7:12pm.
- D. On Motzai Shabbat, the havdalah precedes the lighting of candles in the home.
- A. Al hanisim is inserted in both the Shemoneh Esrai and birchat hamazon. If forgotten, one does not repeat the tefilah.
- B. The entire hallel is recited on a daily basis. Mizmor shir chanukat habayit is added to the Shir shel yom.
5. Chanukah Customs
- A. It is customary to eat latkes and dairy products on Chanukah.
- B. It is customary to play "dreidle" on Chanukah; not to be misconstrued as an opportunity for any form of gambling whatsoever.