Monday, November 25, 2013

HANUKA TUTORIAL: How many candles and when?

This coming Wednesday November 27th at night we will begin the celebration of Hanuka by lighting the first candle.  

TIME OF LIGHTING THE CANDLES: Hanuka candles are kindled in the evening (except Friday). The general custom is to light the candles at nightfall (tset hakokhabim). According to Rabbi Obadia Yosef z"l (as per, see this) nightfall in NYC is at 4.40 pm. (11minutes after sunset, at this time of the year).  Many communities, however, follow the opinion of Maimonides (and the Gemara) which indicates lighting the candles right at sunset (4.29 NYT).  In either case, the candles must contain enough oil to burn for 30 minutes after nightfall. 
If one did not light the candles at these times,  the candles can be kindled later, when the family is home.  

HOW MANY CANDLES? Maimonides (MT, Hilkhot Megila vaHanuka 4:1) explains that the Mitsva of Hanuka candle-lighting is technically fulfilled by lighting just one candle per family.  Those who wish to beautify (hidur) this Mitsva, encourage each member of the family to light their own candle. And those who want to excel in the fulfillment of this commandment (Mitsva min hamubhar) add an additional candle each night.  The custom in Sephardic communities is to light one Hanukia for the entire family, not per each member of the family. The Ashkenazi tradition, however, is to light one Hanukia for each member of the family. 
Question from a parent: Should I light the candles at nightfall or wait until my son comes from high school at 7.00 pm? 

Rabbi Eliezer Melamed (see here) refers to this question and explains this case is different for Sephardim and Ashkenazim. Following the Ashkenazi custom (one Hanukia for each family member) one Hanukia should be lit at nightfall and then, when the son comes from school at 7.00pm he should light his Hanukia with Berakha. While following the Sephardic custom (one Hanukia per family) the family might wait for the son (especially if the son or the daughter are already Bene Mitsva) and light all together at 7.00 pm. 


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