“וּמִנּוֹתַר קַנְקַנִּים נַעֲשָׂה נֵס לַשּׁוֹשַׁנִּים בְּנֵי בִינָה יְמֵי שְׁמוֹנָה קָבְעוּ שִׁיר וּרְנָנִים”🍩🍩🍩🔥🔥🔥
“But from the last remaining flask a miracle was done for the Jews. Therefore the sages of the day ordained these eight for songs of praise.” 🍩🍩🍩🔥🔥🔥
Shalom KDE and channukah sameach. The festival of channukah begins Thursday evening כ”ה בכסלו and is celebrated for eight days.
On channukah, we mark Hashem’s many miracles and in particular the success of the Maccabean revolt. Our heroes conquered Jerusalem and purified the Temple. Our sages teach us about a specific miracle at the conclusion of the war, in which the Maccabees discovered a vial of pure olive oil from which they were able to light the menorah. The oil, which was supposed to last a single day, miraculously burned for eight days. Channukah marks the triumph of Torah over assimilation and the few against the many. May we learn from our history to be strong in the face of adversity and, like our ancestors, be the light in the darkness.
Selected Halachot for Channukah (for any specific questions please feel free to be in touch directly):
The Chanukiah and placement
i) Channukah Begins on כ”ה כסלו / night of Thursday 7th December.
ii) The convention is that the chanukiah is an eight branched candelabra in the style of the menorah used in the Temple (with an additional branch “the shamesh” traditionally being added in the middle or at the end of the chanukiah).
iii) The height of the branches (not the shamesh) must be the same. Many of the chanukiot available today may have ascending/descending branches and these are not kosher for the mitzvah.
iv) The chanukiah can be made out of any material, but it is traditional to use one that is silver to beautify the mitzvah.
vi) Customs vary as to where to place the chanukiah with some authorities saying it should be placed in a window or an area facing the public domain (so people who pass will see the chanukiah burning), others at the entrance to an apartment (in the hallway) and others at the entrance to the building where one is living. All of these are acceptable locations although the chanukiah should not be lit in the same place shabbat candles are lit. One must choose a location where the flame of the chanukiah will not go out due to wind or rain (suitable glass boxes for chanukiot are readily available at local stores if one is lighting outside).
vii) The custom of some families of lighting the chanukiah in the house and then leaving it on the dining room table (i.e. not displaying it in one of the locations mentioned above) developed during a time of persecution and when public displays of Judaism were a threat to life. Baruch Hashem, in Israel there is no such risk and accordingly lighting should be done in area where the chanukiah can be seen for the sake of pirsumei nisa – publicising the miracle.
viii) Customs vary as to whether there is one chanukiah for the family or every individual has their own chanukiah. Everyone should follow their family custom but if to do so would harm shalom bayit (for example children bring home chanukiot they want to light from gan yeladim but the family custom is to light only one chanukiah) there is no need to be strict on the custom and cause upset. The majority Ashkenazi custom is for everyone to light their own chanukiah.
ix) The chanukiah should be placed higher than 3 tefachim from the ground (roughly 31 cm to fulfill most opinions) and lower than 10 tefachim (roughly 80 cm to fulfill most opinions).
Nerot (candles) and lighting
i) The common custom is to use pure olive oil with a floating wick. This is because olive oil produces a clear flame and it is a commemoration of the miracle of the oil. Some use candles. Both are acceptable for the mitzvah so long as they produce a clear light. The oil/candles should last a minimum of 30 minutes beyond nightfall. One should be careful if using the small wax candles often sold as channukah candles that they will burn long enough to fulfill the mitzvah as these candles often last less than the required time.
ii) The time for lighting channukah candles at shkiah this year is at around 16:36. Some wait until tzeit cochavim, which is at around 16:54.
iii) The mitzvah is to light one light every night of channukah. The mitzvah minhamuvchar (and the universal custom) is to light one additional light for each night. We place the first candle on the far right of the chanukiah and add another one going left for each night. When we light we start with the newest candle (going from left to right) and begin singing “hanerot halallu” after the first new light is lit (some light all the candles before singing hanerot halallu). After lighting all of the candles, the custom is to sing “ma’oz tzur”.
iv) On the first night before lighting, we say the blessings “lhadlik ner shel channukah”, “she’asah nisim lavoteinu” and “shechechyanu”. On all following nights, we say the blessings “lhadlik ner shel channukah” and “she’asah nisim lavoteinu”. If one has not yet lit channukah candles that year he says “shechechyanu” the first time he does the mitzvah.
v) Some have the custom to light the candles with the “shamesh” candle. The shamesh is kept burning and placed back in the holder with the other candles. The main purpose of the shamesh is to ensure we do not benefit from the light of the channukah candles save but for spiritual purposes. If using an oil shamesh it is proper to light the shamesh first (prior to making the blessings and lighting the first channukah candle), however if one forgets one can light the shamesh afterwards.
vi) It is customary to abstain from work (particularly for women) for around thirty minutes (at least) after the chanukiah has been lit. Indeed, it is proper to spend time with family, learn Torah, mark the occasion and celebrate the miracle.
vii) If a man will be arriving home after shkiah/tzeit kochavim it is correct for his wife (if she is home) to light the chanukiah at shkiah/tzeit kochavim as her husband’s shaliach. However if early lighting would cause an upset to shalom bayit it is acceptable to delay lighting until one returns home. Ideally, one should light as soon as possible after shkiah/tzeit kochavim but if one is not able to, one can light until alot hashachar (first light) in order to fulfill the mitzvah.
Customs and celebrating
i) It is customary to eat milky and fried foods (sufganiyot, latkes etc) to celebrate the festival.
ii) A channukah celebration should involve words of Torah relating the miracles Hashem has done for the Jewish people. It is important that children are educated about the miracle and the mitzvah of lighting. There is a custom to play dreidel (“sevivon”) in memory of Jews who continued their Torah learning in secret during the revolt of the Maccabees.
iii) If one attends, a public chanukiah lighting one should light at home first.
i) Those who light at shkiah can daven ma’ariv after lighting. If one lights at tzeit kochavim one can say ma’ariv before lighting but if one has a fixed ma’ariv later in the evening they attend, they can light first.
ii) We add “al hanissim” into all tefillot per the text in the siddur and add it to birkat hamazon. If al hanissim is missed one need not repeat.
iii) Each day of channukah we recite the full hallel with a bracha during shacharit and read the Torah. We do not say tachanun.
i) The halachot of travelling (and flying in particular) or staying away from home (with family/friends or at hotels) on channukah can be complex. Before flying or staying the night away from home, one should ask a shailah.
i) Erev shabbat we will be davening Mincha at shul at 14:30.
ii) Channukah candles can be lit from plag hamincha (roughly 15:32) onwards. The candles must be long enough/there must be enough oil to burn for 30 minutes after nightfall. Be careful not to light so late as to risk being mechalel shabbat.
On motza’ei shabbat there are two customs- some light the chanukiah before havdalah and some do havdalah before lighting. Both customs have their basis and one can go by their family custom. If one does not have the custom, the prevalent practice is to do havdalah first followed by channukah candles.