Friday, December 23, 2011

Shabbat and Chanukka candles

Third day of Chanukka. Today before sunset we light the fourth candle

Every night we light Chanukka candles after sunset, but today, Friday, we should light the Chanukka candles 20-25 minutes BEFORE sunset: approximately at 4:10 PM (NY time). Why? Because at 4:14 PM we light Shabbat candles (see here), and Chanuka candles must be lit before that.

Another specific rule for Friday's Chanuka candles: while every night the candles should last at least for half an hour, on Friday, the candles should last for more time. So, make sure your candles are long enough, or have enough oil to burn for approximately one extra hour.

When Shabbat is over (after 5:20 PM, NYT), at home you should first recite the Habdala and then you light the Chanukka candles. In the Synagogue, for practical reasons, we should first light the Chanukka candles and then do the Habdala.

When spending Shabbat at your parents /in laws house etc., do you have to light your own candles in your room or at home before you leave?

If you will spend the whole Shabbat at you parents/in laws, once you're at their house, you (spouse, children) are considered part of the extended family of your parents, and since you also partake the same food, boarding, etc. you are included in their Chanukka candle-lighting without further requirements. So, you don't really need to light your own Chanukkia.

However, if you and your family are going to your parents/in laws/relatives house after Shabbat began or for dinner, then you should light Chanukka candles normally at your own house. In this case, it is recommended that you don't leave your house while the candles are lit, to avoid any fire hazard!

Shabbat Shalom and Chanukka Sameach!

Chanukka candle lighting in NY: 4:10 PM
Shabbat candle lighting in NY: 4:14 PM
Shabbat ends in NY: 5:20 PM

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Tora Reading for Chanukka

Second day of Chanukka. Tonight we light the third candle

During the eight days of Chanukka, we read the Tora in the morning.  Now, what Biblical text was chosen by the Rabbis to be read on Chanukka and why? 

Let me first explain the question. On every Jewish Holiday we read in the Tora a portion corresponding to that specific Holiday. During the eight days of Pesach, for example, we read eight Tora portions alluding to the Exodus from Egypt, the Mitzvot of Pesach, the Pesach sacrifice, etc.  But the events of Chanukka happened around the year 160 BCE, and were not recorded in the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible). The rabbis, therefore, had to choose a Biblical text to be read, which somehow will be related to Chanukka.

Our Rabbis chose the section of Naso in the book of baMidbar ('In the desert'), dealing with the inaugural offerings of the tribal leaders at the time of the dedication of the mizbeach (=altar of the Tabernacle).


1. Chanukka means 'inauguration', and it remind us that once the Greeks were defeated, the Jews rededicated the altar --which had been defiled by pagan offerings-- to HaShem. The Perasha we read is also about the dedication of the mizbeach in the Tabernacle (zot chanukkat hamizbeach).

2. The Tabernacle was completed on the 25 of Kislev. The same day we celebrate Chanukka.

3. On the last day of Chanukka, we read in beha'alotekha the paragraph dealing with the lighting of the Menora, which remind us of the miracle of the oil.

4. Me'am Lo'ez brings an additional reason. The tribe of Levi did not participate of the offerings at the time of the dedication of the altar, narrated in the Tora. During Chanukka, however, the Chashmonayim --Cohanim descendants of the tribe of Levi-- were the ones who recovered and rededicated the altar

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

CHANUKKA: Ashkenazi and sephardic traditions

There are no major differences between the Sephardic and the Ashkenazi traditions in the order of candle lighting, just a few minor variations. 

Some of them are:

1. The Ashkenazi tradition is to say the Berakha: Lehadlik ner shel Chanukka, while Sepharadim say: Lehadlik ner Chanukka, without the word "shel." (In our community, however, some families still add the word 'shel' following the Bene Tzion Siddur).

2. In the Ashkenazi Minhag, one first lights the auxiliary candle (Shamash) and with it one lights the rest of the candles.  The Sephardic Minhag is to light all the candles first, with a regular match or candle, and the Shamash is lit at the end. In this case, the Shamash is seen as auxiliary, in that it avoids benefiting from the light of the candles, not necessarily for lighting with it the other candles.  

3. For most Sepharadim, it is customary to light only one Chanukkia for all members of the family. In many Ashkenazi communities they light one Chanukkia for each member of the family. Following the Ashkenazi tradition, for example, a student who lives in his own apartment, lights his or her own Chanukkia with Berakha, even if he is still dependent on her parents (see here). Incidentally, this is also the case regarding Shabbat candles: while according to the Sephardic Minhag only the mother lights the candles, in the Ashkenazi Minhag the daughters also light their own candle, saying Berakha for it.

4. Playing with the Dreidel, spinner or sebibon is originally an Ashkenazi custom, which Sepharadim did not use to practice in the past. Same as Chanukka Gelt (money or gifts to the children).

Obviously, in these matters there is no right or wrong. Each one should follow his community and family's traditions. 


Tuesday, December 20, 2011


In our community, we light one Chanukkia per family, not per individual. Other communities have the custom to allow or encourage children and other family members to light their own Chanukkia. 

The father or the person in charge of the family, recites the following three blessings before he lights the candle. (On all subsequent nights, only blessings number 1 and 2 are recited).

Blessing #1: Barukh Ata Ado-nai Elo-henu Melekh ha-olam, Asher Kid-deshanu be-Mitzvo-tav, Ve-tzee-vanu le-had-leek Ner Chanukka.

Blessing #2: Barukh ata Ado-nai Elo-henu Melekh ha-Olam, She-asa Nee-seem la-abo-tenu, Baya-meem ha-haem baz-e-man ha-ze.

Blessing #3: Barukh ata Ado-nai Elo-henu Melekh ha-olam, Sheh-he-che-yanu ve-kee-yihemanu Ve-hee-gee-yanu laze-man ha-ze.

The following text is also read each night, after all the candles, or at least the first one, has been kindled:

Ha-nerot ha-lalu anu mad-likin Al ha-nissim ve-al hapurkan ve-al hageburot  ve-al ha-teshu-ot ve-al hanif-laot ve-al haniflaot she-asita la-abo-tenu Ba-yamim ha-hem, ba-zeman ha-zeh Al ye-de kohan-ekha hake-doshim. Ve-khol shemonat ye-me Chanukkah Ha-nerot ha-lalu kodesh hem, Ve-en lanu reshut le-heesh-tamesh ba-hem ela leer-otam bilbad Kede le-hodot li-shmekha Al ni-sekha ve-al yeshuo-tekha ve-al nifleo-tekha .

"We kindle these lights for the miracles and the wonders for the redemption and the portents, salvations and marvels which You performed for our ancestors in those days, at this time (of the year) through Your holy priests. During all eight days of Chanukka these lights are sacred and we are not permitted to make ordinary use of them, but only to look at them in order to express thanks and praise to Your great Name for your miracles, and Your salvations and Your wonders, ".

Then we recite: Mizmor shir Chanukkat haBayit leDavid



Monday, December 19, 2011

CHANUKA: A family Mitzva

Unlike most Mitzvot (Jewish religious commandments), Chanukah is not an individual Mitzva like Tefila or Tzedaka, but a family Mitzva. In some ways, similar (but not identical) to the Mitzva of lighting Shabbat candles, which is not done individually by each member of the family.  

Illustrations: If one's son (or daughter) lives overseas, and he is financially dependent on his parents, he does not need to light his own candles. To this effect, a son or daughter is considered part of the immediate family while they are financially dependent on their parents (somekh al shulchan abiv). However, if they live in their own home and are financially independent (i.e., file their own Tax-return) they should light their own candles, even if they are still single.

If the husband is in a business trip, technically, he is included in the candle lighting done at home by his wife and children.

In both cases, if those who are away from home still want to light the candles away from home, they could do it, but without saying a Berakha. 
If you are spending Shabbat in your parents' (or in-laws) home, you and your immediate family (spouse, children) are considered part of the extended family of your parents, since you also partake the same food, house, etc. So, when they light the Chanuka candles, your family is included in their Mitzva without further requirements. However, if you are going to arrive at your parent's house after Shabbat has begun, then you should light Chanuka candles at your own house. 

In case you will leave the Chanukia lit at your house, you have to take extreme precautions to avoid any fire hazard.