Friday, November 29, 2013

Shabbat And Hanukka Candles

FRIDAY, BEFORE SHABBAT BEGINS: Every night we light Hanukka candles at or after sundown, but today, Friday, we should light the Hanukka candles before sunset (sunset in NYC is today at 4:28). Moreover, we should light Hanukka candles before we light Shabbat candles. Today, in NYC the time to light Shabbat candles is 4:10pm. Therefore we should light Hanukka candles a few minutes before that time.  

There is another rule for Hanukka candles on Friday: while every night the candles should last at least for half an hour, if you light at nightfall, on Shabbat eve Hanukka candles should be prepared to last for more time, because we want the candles to be visible at nightfall. So, make sure your candles are long enough, or have enough oil to burn for at least one hour and a half.

In Synagogue we should light candles ideally after Minha. But if that is not possible or if it might get too close to sunset time, candles should be lit before Minha. 

SATURDAY NIGHT: Once Shabbat is over (after 5:10 pm. NYT), at home you should first recite the Habdala and then you should light the Hanukka candles. In the Synagogue, for practical reasons, we first light the Hanukka candles and then we recite the Habdala.

SPENDING SHABBAT OUTIf you are spending the whole Shabbat at your parents/in laws, etc., once you are at their house, you (and 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 Hanukka candle-lighting without any further requirements. So, you don't really need to light your own Hanukkia.

However, if you and your family are going to your parents/in laws/relatives house after Shabbat began, for dinner, then you should light Hanukka 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 Hanukka Sameah!

Shabbat candle lighting in NYC           4:10 pm
Shabbat ends in NYC                               5:10 pm 

  (Psalm 120:7) אני שלום וכי אדבר המה למלחמה 

Nine resolutions against Israel pass in one day at U.N. General Assembly meeting * Interpreter, believing microphone to be off, says Israel is the only focus when bad things are happening all over the world * Awkward laughter ensues

Thursday, November 28, 2013

SPECIAL EDITION: Celebrating Thanksgiving, a Sephardic perspective

For Rabbi Sabato Morais (1823-1897), one of the most prominent orthodox Rabbis in 19th century America (see this), celebrating Thanksgiving was a no-brainer. In his view Thanksgiving is "a national holiday which connects Jewish people to their country and to their fellow Americans, irrespective of their creed." (D.H).

Thanks to Mr. Daniel Harari, a passionate student of Rabbi Sabato's works, and to Mr. Arthur Kiron, the Curator of Judaica Collections at the Penn Library, I got a copy of the original"Sermon delivered on Thanksgiving Day, Nov 27th 1851 by the Rev. Sabato Morais, Minister of the Congregation Mikvé Israel Philadelphia" which was published in the journal "The Asmonean" (החשמונאי).  I'm presenting here some selected paragraphs of it and a link to the full article. 

A Sermon delivered on Thanksgiving Day, Nov 27th 1851 by the Rev. Sabato Morais, Minister of the Congregation Mikvé Israel Philadelphia. 

"...On the day which the inhabitants of this land have set apart to the Lord, let not Israel be found reluctant in responding to the religious call. True, we do not assemble to commemorate an event peculiar to us, yet, even as members of the house of Jacob, the present occasion must call forth our deepest feelings of gratitude toward God our benefactor.....  Everything around us beams with joy: Nature, obedient to her creator has smiled on the earth, the fields teem with productions, no unpropitious rains destroy our plants, nor have the scorching rays of the sun blighted our fruits. The invaluable blessing of plenty has been showered on us and we and our children reap the benefits thereof.  It is therefore to sing together in unison of voice and thoughts the praises of our merciful Father, that we have repaired to His holy mansion- to offer the sacrifice of a grateful heart, that we have foregone our daily occupations and flocked to his sacred altar....  A century has nearly elapsed since the scattered children of Judah here found a home of security and peace; here they have thriven and acquired wealth; no internal adversary has ever molested them, nor has the rod of tyranny reached these shores; here they have but to prove themselves worthy and they will rise as high as any free man can aspire; no disabilities, no legal impediments militate against them; what felicity is that of which you are made to partake! Dear brethren, the boundless field of knowledge is unclosed to you, you may enter it, and freely gather its delightful fruits... unimpeded in the exercise of your religious duties, in accordance with Jewish doctrine, you are not merely tolerated, but regarded with respect; for you also form part of glorious whole that constitutes the American Republic." 

"Sovereign of all ages [=רבונו של עולם], ... bless this country, this people, their homes, their fields, their commerce, their productions; maintain among them harmony of feelings, indissoluble brotherhood, and unity of power, now and evermore.   Bless all of them, of whatever nation or creed, who have this day like us gathered to thank thy abundant goodness... and over their old and young, over the rich and poor, over their wardens and officers, over their schools and teachers, unfold Oh God, the pavilion of thy peace, may their religious conduct and future progress in the path of true wisdom, shine brilliantly over America and on Israel thy chosen ones. Amen. " 

Read the full Thanksgiving Sermon 
of Rabbi Sabato Morais here

To read this article you will have to zoom it x 3.  This copy is also very special because Rabbi Morais would publish his articles and "then correct them after publication as a keepsake in his ledger. The annotations in pencil are his own corrections." (D.H.)

Wednesday, November 27, 2013


WHEN YOU ARE A GUEST: As we explained yesterday, the Sephardic custom is to light one Hanukkia per household, not per individual. An extension of this principle is the case of the akhsana-i, a guest. If I'm spending some days or Shabbat in a relative's or in a friend's house I should not light my own Hanukkia even if I'm in that house with the rest of my family and even if I was given my own private room in the house. When I'm a guest I don't have to light my own candles. I should be part of the candle lighting of the host. Why? Because to the effects of Hanukka, when I spend a day or a few days at someone's home, eating and sleeping there as a guest, I'm considered part of that household. Therefore we keep following the rule of "one Hanukkia per household". 

WHAT SHOULD WE DO TONIGHT? The parent or the person in charge of the household recites the following three blessings before lighting the candle. (On all subsequent nights, only the first and second blessings are recited).

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה' אֱ-לֹהֵֽינוּ מֶֽלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, אֲשֶׁר קִדְּשָֽׁנוּ בְּמִצְוֹתָיו, וְצִוָּֽנוּ לְהַדְלִיק נֵר חֲנֻכָּה

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה' אֱ-לֹהֵֽינוּ מֶֽלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, שֶׁעָשָׂה נִסִּים לַאֲבוֹתֵֽינוּ בַּיָּמִים הָהֵם בַּזְּמַן הַזֶּה

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה' אֱ-לֹהֵֽינוּ מֶֽלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, שֶׁהֶחֱיָֽנוּ וְקִיְּמָֽנוּ וְהִגִּיעָֽנוּ לַזְּמַן הַזֶּה

As we will explain tomorrow, BH, the Sephardic custom is to light the Hanukka candle first and then the shamash or accessory candle. 

After we light the shamash we recite the text "HANEROT HALALU" .

"We kindle these lights for the miracles, the salvation and the wonders that You performed for our ancestors in those days, at this time (of the year), through Your holy priests. And during all eight days of Hanukka these lights are sacred, and we are not permitted to make ordinary use of them, but only look at them in order to express our gratitude to Your great Name for your miracles, Your wonders and Your salvations".

Then we recite: Mizmor Shir Hanukkat haBayit leDavid


Tuesday, November 26, 2013

HANUKA TUTORIAL: Oil or candles? Where to light? Who has to light?

OIL or CANDLES?  The candles to be used in Hanuka could be made of wax, paraffin, etc. but ideally one should use olive oil candles, because the miracle of Hanuka happened with olive oil. Moreover, oil candles will usually last for a longer time than regular or small wax candles.  The Mitsva of Hanuka candles cannot be performed with 'electrical candles', even when real candles are not available. An electrical Hanukia, however, can be placed in the house or in the Synagogue in addition to the regular Hanukia, especially during day-time. 
WHERE? Ideally the Hanukia should be placed outside the house's main entrance door, on the opposite side of the Mezuza. Nowadays, however, most families place the Hanuka candles inside the house. Since part of this Mitsva is pirsume nisa (to publicize the miracle performed to our ancestors) when lighting the candles inside the house we should place the Hanukia behind a window, in a spot visible from outside.

HOW MANY CANDLES?  Technically, it is enough to light one single candle (and the shamash or accessory candle) each night of Hanuka. The traditional custom anyways is to add one extra candle each night. However, in some cases where one cannot light additional candles, for example, if one is on a trip or in a Hotel room, etc., lighting one candle any night will be enough.

A FAMILY MITSVA: Unlike most Mitsvot (=Jewish religious commandments), Hanuka is not an individual Mitsva like Tefila or Tsedaqa, but a family Mitsva. In some ways it is similar (but not identical) to the Mitsva of lighting Shabbat candles, which is not a requirement for each individual but for the family as a whole.  Following, I will present some illustrations that will help us understand the practical aspect of this particularity. 

1. If one's son or daughter lives overseas, and she is financially dependent on her parents, she does not need to light her own Hanuka candles. To this effect, a son or daughter are considered part of the family while they are financially dependent on their parents (somekh al shulhan abiv). However, if a son, even an unmarried son, lives on his own house and he is financially independent from his parents he should light his own candles with Berakha, etc. 

2. If the husband is in a business trip, he is technically included in the candle lighting done at home by his wife and children. In other words, he does not have to light his own individual Hanukia in his hotel room.  However, if he still wants to light the candles in his room, he could do it, but without saying a Berakha. 

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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