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A Summary of Chanukah Laws


Menorah 2

The following comments are not meant to encourage you to go with the NER CHANUKA version, but they might help explain why some people embraced this text for the bracha. BTW, Rinat Yisrael siddur has NER CHANUKA. So does the GR”A siddur, Eizor Eliyahu. Koren siddur has NER SHEL CHANUKA. So does T’filat Kol Peh.

Candles for Shabbat are candles, in the sense that they produce light (which is their main function), heat, fire – just like “regular” candles. Therefore, the appropriate term for them is NER SHEL SHABBAT, candles of or for Shabbat. So too, SHEL YOM TOV and SHEL YOM HAKIPURIM. Canuka candles are not “regular” candles. We are not allowed to use them – not their light nor heat nor fire. As we say, ELAH LIR-OTAM BILAVAD, (they are) exclusively to look at them. That’s it. They are not candles that are being used for Chanuka. They are CHANUKA CANDLES. Again, this is not meant to discredit referring to them in the bracha as NER SHEL CHANUKA. The gemara and many authorities since, have given the text as NER SHEL CHANUKA. It’s meant to explain why other sources go for the NER CHANUKA.

Additionally, with NER CHANUKA, the first bracha has 13 words, cor- responding to the 13 MIDOT of G-d’s mercy. With the second bracha also having 13 words, the two brachot add to 26 words, 26 being the numeric value of HaShem’s name.

Indoor/Outdoor

The original place for lighting and displaying of the Chanukiya was outdoors at the entrance to one’s courtyard or home. Over many generations in exile, where lighting outdoors was inconvenient (weather-wise) to say the least, and often dangerous (“neighbors”), the practice evolved to light indoors.

In some circumstances, the lighting was to be done at a window, so that the candles would be visible to passersby in the street. In other cases, the Chanuka lights were lit in a conspicuous location for the attention of the members of the household, especially when it was dangerous to light at the window.

Many people who have come to Israel, still light inside, at the window, as they had been doing in their countries of origin. Others have gone back to the original practice of lighting outdoors, which is common in Israel – especially in Jerusalem.

Candle lighting

The following applies to Tuesday,  December 20th, the first candle; Wednesday, December 21st, Thursday, the 22nd, Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday, the 25th, 26th, and 27th. In other words, the six nights of Chanuka that are not Erev Shabbat or Motza”Sh.

WHEN: There are two practices as to when is the ideal time to light Chanuka lights during the week (i.e. except for Friday and Motza’ei Shabbat, when Shabbat affects the timing, as we will soon present).

Minhag Yerushalayim (which many, but not everyone follows) is to light with the setting of the sun. For this year (5772), sunset (taking elevation into account, which is what is done for Jerusalem) ranges from 4:44pm to 4:48pm during Chanuka week. We recommend using 4:45pm as your timing for the first three candles of Chanuka and 4:48pm for the last three candles (remember that Friday and Motza’ei Shabbat are different – see further.) Remember that this timing needs to be slightly adjusted for other locations.

Those who light with sunset should daven Maariv at the appropriate time, obviously after lighting candles. The other opinion (that of “the rest of the world”) is to light when the “light of the sun has left the sky”, i.e. Stars-Out a.k.a. Tzeit HaKochavim). Remember that there are different opinions as to when Stars-Out occurs. Except for Friday and Motza’ei Shabbat, most people will use an earlyish Stars-Out time, in order to be closer to the sunset, and because of Z’RIZIM MAKDIMIM, people who are enthusiastic about doing mitzvot, do them “right away”. 5:05-5:10pm will work for this early Stars-Out time this Chanuka (except for Erev Shabbat & Motza”Sh). Those who light with Stars-Out should light right after Maariv, unless they have a fixed time later in the evening for davening, in which case they can light before.

Until when?

Candles must burn at least a half hour after stars-out. This was the original time period after dark that people were still around outdoors and defined the PIRSUMEI NISA aspect of the mitzva. Although in our day, people are out later than this time, the halacha only requires the half hour after stars-out. However, it is recommended that one use longer candles or more oil to extend this time (a bit), in recognition of the expansion of the current-day Pirsumei Nisa time-frame. Let’s say that one’s candles should burn at least to 6:00pm.

(Since Rabbeinu Tam’s Stars-Out is 5:50-5:55pm during Chanuka week (this year), one might try to have his Chanuka lights burn at least until 6:25-ish. This is not a requirement, but it does acknowledge the different opinions concerning Stars-Out. Treat this as an off-the-record suggestion, especially in light of the reality that the Pirsumei Nisa time is later into the night than it was in the time of the Gemara.) Anyone who lights after Stars-Out during the week, needs candles or oil to last at least a half hour – preferable longer.

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The following general overview of Chanukah laws – Chag Sameach!

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