- Chanukah begins on the evening of the 25th of Kislev and continues
for eight days.
- For the entire eight days of Chanukah it is forbidden to fast
or to eulogize.
- It is permitted to work; however it is customary for women
not to work for at least the first half hour of the candles' burning,
and some have the custom not to work for the entire time of burning.
The types of activities that are forbidden are things like sewing
and laundry etc. (Cooking is permitted.)
- There is no obligation to have festive meals; however it is
customary to celebrate by eating special meals anyway, because
of the fact that the dedication of the Temple and Altar took place
- It is customary to sing during the meals songs that thank
and praise Hashem. To sing and speak about Torah makes the meal
into a seudat mitzvah, a meal of religious significance.
- It is customary to eat milk foods because Yehudit, daughter
of Yochanan the High Priest, was taken to be defiled by the Greek
ruler Holofernes. She fed him cheese (to make him thirsty) and
wine (to quench his thirst); and after getting him drunk she killed
him. This was one of the events that sparked the Maccabean uprising.
Food fried in oil is also eaten to commemorate the miracle of
the Menorah. Latkes and donuts are the most common foods.
- One should not fast during Chanukah, even on the occasion of
a parent's yarhzeit (anniversary of death).
- The festivities of Chanukah should be combined with study of
Torah. Although many people have a custom to play card games on
Chanukah, the Mishna Berurah states that, "He who cares for
his soul should not involve himself in card games."
- It is obligatory to light candles, and one should even borrow
money to fulfill this mitzvah. If a poor person needs money for
Chanukah candles the community is obligated to provide for him.
- The minimum obligation is that every household should have
one candle burning every night. It is customary to be scrupulous
regarding this mitzvah: to have one candle on the first
night and an additional candle every night (1-8), and for everyone
in the house as well.
- Any type of oil is acceptable for use in the menorah,
however, it is best to use olive oil. The oil should not be made
of a forbidden substance, nor should it be something from which
it is forbidden to derive benefit.
- The menorah should be similar to the Menorah in
the Temple and hence most authorities forbid using electric lights
or gas lamps.
- The light should be clear, and the wicks should not flicker
- Wax candles are also acceptable, providing they have a single
- All wicks are acceptable, but it is best to use cotton. The
same wicks may be used over and over again.
- It is correct to have a Menorah of glass or metal if
one is lighting with oil, since other substances such as clay
become disgusting after one use. If one can afford it, it is correct
to buy a beautiful Menorah.
- If one is using candles a Menorah is not necessary.
- If a number of people are lighting in one household they should
make a slight separation between their menorahs so that
there is no confusion to the observer as to the number of candles.
- Ideally, the Menorah should be placed outside the house
to the left of the entrance. Since anti-Semitism was so common
throughout Jewish history it became customary among may communities
to place the Menorah inside the house, near the entrance
or on the table. In many families it is the custom to place the
menorah in a window facing the public, especially where
many people share one entrance (e.g., apartment building). In
Israel it is customary to light outside in a special box that
prevents the flames from blowing out.
- In most Yeshivot and Seminaries, it is customary for students
to place their menorahs in the dining room at windows facing
the street or public thoroughfare. (Lighting in the dormitories
is usually a fire hazard and should therefore be avoided)
- The menorah should be no lower than three tfachim
from the floor (approx. 10.5 inches or 27cm) and should be no
higher than 20 amot from ground level (35.5 ft or 10.8
m). Ideally, it should be about 10 tfachim high (35 inches
or 90 cm).
- The Menorah should have all the candle or wicks on
the same level, none higher or lower than the others.
- It is customary to have an additional candle (the shamash)
with which to light the other candles and in order to use
it's light. The shamash should be placed in a way that
shows that it is not one of the Chanukah candles.
- It is forbidden to derive benefit from the light of the Menorah
just as it was forbidden to derive benefit from the Menorah
in the Temple, and also in order to show that its purpose
of the Menorah is for a Mitzvah, not just for illumination.
- It is preferable to have the candles in a straight line, and
not in a semi-circle, however it is permitted to have them in
a semi-circle providing each candle is clearly separated from
- It is prohibited to light the shamash from the Chanukah
- Left over wicks and oils should be destroyed after Chanukah
(except for unused oil left in bottle) since they may not be used
for anything else. One should not store the used wicks and oil
for the next year, since there is a probability that it will be
used for profane purposes by accident.
- There are different customs as to the lighting of the
Menorah. Some light at sunset. Some light about ten minutes
after sunset and some light 1/2 hour after. Some specifically
light after the evening service is recited (Maariv). Ideally
a person should follow the custom of his father. If this is not
known or is inapplicable for any reason, one should follow the
custom of the local community.
- It is obligatory to put in enough oil, or a long enough candle
to burn for at least 1/2 hour after nightfall (i.e. the appearance
of three medium size stars).
- In exceptional circumstances one may light one and a quarter
hours before sunset with a blessing. (However one should be careful
to put in more oil or to use longer candles). If possible it is
better to appoint an agent to light candles at the correct time,
than to light early. .
- If one forgot or was not able to light at the correct time,
one may light as long as people are still awake in the house in
which one is lighting.
- One should prepare the wicks and candles etc. before Maariv
(if you light after) or well before the time of lighting in
order to light the Menorah at the correct time.
- I t is best to light in the presence of many people in order
to publicise the miracle.
- On the first night three brachot, blessings are recited.
"Lehadlik ner shel Chanukah", "She asa nissim"
and "Shehecheyanu". .
- On the other nights only the first two blessings are said.
- All the blessings should be recited before actually lighting
the candles. First light the Shamash before the blessings
to avoid delay. It is forbidden to speak between the recitation
of the blessings and the completion of candle lighting.
- "Haneirot Halalu" is recited either during or
after the lighting of the additional candles.
- "Maoz tsur yeshuaty" then sung.
- Place first candle on the extreme right of the Menorah. On
the second night add a candle on the left. Light the newest candle
first and proceed to the right.
- There are different customs regarding the placement of the
candles, some follow the right and left of the observer from outside,
some follow the right and left of the person lighting inside.
- Do not remove the Shamash from the wick until the flame
catches on most of the wick.
- One does not add candles if they forgot to light on any night..
- The Menorah should not be moved after is has been lit.
- If the Menorah was lit in accordance with the requirements
of Jewish law and it was extinguished, one is not obligated to
relight it, but one may relight it without reciting a blessing.
- If the Menorah was not lit properly in the first place,
or was lit in a windy place and blew out then one is obligated
to relight if it went out within 1/2 hour after nightfall.
- On Friday afternoon, the Chanukah candles should be lit before
the Shabbat candle-lighting time (if one accepted Shabbat early,
it is forbidden to light Chanukah candles). Mincha should
be said before lighting, if possible.
- Remember to put in more oil or bigger candles on Friday, so
that they burn 1/2 hour after nightfall. Try to light just
before the Shabbat candles, (without of course delaying the
lighting of the Shabbat candles)
- When lighting on Saturday night, some authorities say that one should light Chanuka candles before Havdalah, others say after Havdalah. One should follow their family custom in this. ( Mishna Berurah 681:2 and Aruch HaShulchan 681:2). One may not use the Menorah
as the candle for Havdalah.
- If one is a guest at someone's house (and staying there),
one should give the owner a small amount of money to buy a portion
in their candles and one may fulfil the obligation through the
owner. Alternatively the guest may light his own Menorah.
- If one is eating out then one should light the Menorah
at their place of residence.
- During morning prayers, Shacharit, one should recite
the full Hallel every day.
- "Al hanissim" the special paragraph of prayers
for Chanukah is added in the silent prayers, Shmoneh Esreh and
also in Grace after meals. If one forgot to say this addition,
one should not repeat either Shmoneh Esreh or Grace.
- It is customary to light a Menorah in the Synagogue
every evening. It is placed at the southern wall of the Synagogue,
in imitation of the Menorah in the Temple in Jerusalem.
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