December 17, 2008
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The Laws of Chanukah
As with every other Yom Tov there are chapters in the Shulchan Aruch, the code of Jewish Law, which deal specifically with the laws relating to the ceremonies and rituals to be performed during that holiday. Following is an abbreviated version of those laws so that the reader will become acquainted with some of these laws. For further elucidation one can refer to the Orach Chaim chapters 670 - 685.
Permitted and prohibited on Chanukah
Chanukah, celebrated for eight days, begins with the evening leading to the twenty fifth day of Kislev. During these days one may neither recite a eulogy or the El Molay Rachamim for the departed, nor may one fast on these days. All manner of work is permitted, except for the half hour while the candles are burning. The sages did not specify that we prepare a festive meal for Chanukah. There are those who say we should have a festive meal in honor of the Mishkan, the Tabernacle, which was erected in the desert and completed on the twenty fifth of Kislev.
Lighting the candles
PLEASE NOTE: Throughout this article, when we refer to the candles, it does necessarily mean wax or paraffin candles. We are also talking about oil but the generic term is to light candles: One should make every effort to light with oil even if that necessitates borrowing money. All oils are permissible for the Chanukiya, the Chanukah Menorah, but olive oil is preferred. One may also light with candles. On the first night we light one candle plus a Shamash, a server candle, by which we light the others. The Shamash is then placed on the side or higher so that it is not in the same line as the candles. Every consecutive night we add one candle to the amount of the previous night.
Many people place the candles on the right side of the Chanukiya as it faces the person, adding new candles each night, to the left on the Chanukiya. Following the Berachos we begin to light from the new one and continue backwards until they are all lit. Following the lighting the paragraph Hanairos Hallalu€is said, usually followed by singing Maoz Tzur.
There are various customs as to the placement of the Chanukiya. Some place it near the door on the left side so that we are surrounded by Mitzvos, the Mezuzah on
the right and the Chanukiya on the left. Others place it near the window facing the street. Still others place the Chanukiya in a special glass covered box outside in the
yard, where this is feasible.
The Chanukiya must be placed higher than three Tefachim, approximately twelve inches, from the floor, but not higher than twenty Amos, approximately forty feet. The
preferred height is under ten Tefachim, approximately forty inches from the floor. One who lives in a building which is more than forty feet from the street, may still
light the Chanukiya in his window since it is not higher than forty feet from the floor of his apartment.
The candles should not be lit before the appearance of stars, though sometimes, they may be lit even one and a half hour before sunset. They may be lit as long as
there are people walking in the street. Whether lighting with candles or oil, one should be certain that they will continue to burn for at least one half hour after the stars appear. This is especially true when lighting on Friday, the eve of Shabbos, since they are lit long before their required time.
Since the Mitzvah is performed only while lighting, all the necessary requirements must be in place at that time. If the Chanukiya was placed higher or lower than it should, or if there was only a little oil in it at the time, one has to light it again properly. The oil, wicks and candles should all be in place before reciting the Berachos, which are said before one begins to light the candles.
On the first night, three Berachos are recited. Asher Kidshanu B’Mitzvosav, Sheasa Nissim and SheHechiyanu. On the other nights, only the first two Berachos are recited. If one did not recite the SheHechiyanu on the first night, it may be said on any other night.
Where there are more than one person lighting Chanukiyos, they should be placed far away from each other so that it does not look like one Chanukiya. One who is visiting during Chanukah or is in a hotel, and cannot light his own candles, should ask the one who lights that he be allowed to participate in the lighting by contributing to the cost.
On Friday, the Chanukiyah is lit before the Shabbos candles. On Shabbos night, in the Shul the Chanukiya is lit before reciting the Havdallah. At home, one may light the Chanukiya either before or after the Havdallah, based on one’s custom.
Oil, wicks and wax that were in the Chanukiyah and were not consumed during Chanukah, should be gathered and burned. Many Shuls have the custom of lighting a Chanukiya before the Arvis prayers, after reciting the Berachos. These candles are only for the purpose of Pirsumay Nissa, publicizing the miracle, and not for private use. Therefore, one cannot use these candles as having fulfilled his obligation of lighting the candles.
One may not enjoy the light emanating from the Chanukiya for any purpose. Prayers said or omitted Every day of Chanukah, one adds Al Hanissim in the Amidah and in the
Benching, the grace after meals. If one forgot Al hanissiom and finished the Amidah and/or the Benching, he does not have to repeat them. Every day, the complete Hallel is recited during Shachris. Following Hallel a Sefer Torah is placed on the Bima and three people are called for an Aliyah. The part of the Torah which describes the presents and Korbonos the Nesiim brought to the dedication of the Mishkan (Bamidbar 7:1-89), is read. On Shabbos, an additional Sefer is prepared from which the Chanukah Aliyah is read following the usual reading of the weekly Parsha. If Rosh Chodesh falls on Shabbos, three Sifrei Torah are removed, one for the reading of Rosh Chodesh. No Tachnun, penitential prayers, are said during Shachris or Mincha.