Learning the Halachos of Chanukah
- “הלכות חג בחג.” Moshe Rabbeinu decreed that everyone learn the halachos of each Yom Tov on that Yom Tov (גמ’ מגילה דף ד’ ע”א). One must also speak about the idea of Chanukah before and during Chanukah (פנ”י שם ד”ה בפרש”י). More specifically, everyone should speak about and learn the many practical halachos of Chanukah (שו”ת שלמת חיים סי’ שפ”ז).
- הרגיל בנר וכו’ בנים ת”ח. The Gemara in Shabbos (דף כ”ג ע”ב) says, “One who is familiar with ‘the ner’ will have sons that are talmidei chachamim.” The meforshim explain that “the ner” refers to the Chanukah candles. This begs the question: everyone lights Chanukah candles, yet not everyone has sons who are talmidei chachamim! The answer is that while it is true that everyone is yotzei the mitzvah to light, only a very small percentage of people are careful to fulfill every aspect and detail of the mitzvah. Only a person who is careful about every aspect and detail of the mitzvah will utilize its power and ability to produce sons who are talmidei chachamim (רבי יצחק סגי נהור בן הראב”ד, נדפס בס’ הזכרון לר”י הוטנר זצ”ל). It is only possible to fulfill the mitzvah with all its details after learning and studying the halachos.
When Should I Light the Menorah?
Earliest Zman to Light
- The poskim argue regarding the earliest lechatchilah zman to light. There are multiple opinions and each person should follow the minhag of his family and rebbeim. There are three primary opinions:
- Shekiyah. Some say the zman to light starts at shekiyah. The Gra’s talmidim lit precisely at shekiyah so they would not miss any time from the mitzvah (יש מפרשים בדעת רמב”ם פ”ד ה”ה, ביאור הגר”א סי’ תרע”ב סק”ב). This was also the Brisker Rov’s minhag.
- Tzeis. Others say the zman to light is at the end of shekiyah, i.e., at tzeis hakochavim (רא”ש, טור). There is a well-known machlokes as to when exactly tzeis is: the Geonim held it is the amount of time after shekiyah that it takes to walk 3/4 of a mil (מ”ב סי’ רס”א סקכ”ג), or about 18 minutes after shekiyah on Eretz Yisroel’s horizon. In other places in the world, it is when 3 average-sized stars appear (מ”ב שם) – the exact time is listed in each community’s zmanim calendar.
- Rabbeinu Tam’s opinion is that tzeis is the amount of time after shekiyah that it takes to walk four mil, or 72 minutes. The Mechaber writes that the zman to light Chanukah candles is at the end of shekiyah, i.e., at tzeis (סי’ תרע”ב ס”א). Based on what he writes in hilchos Shabbos, he seems to agree with Rabbeinu Tam’s opinion about tzeis (סי’ רס”א ס”ב).
- Someone who is machmir for Rabbeinu Tam’s opinion when it comes to Shabbos but does not hold it is the main halacha may light earlier than Rabbeinu Tam tzeis on Chanukah. On Motzei Shabbos, though, he should end Shabbos when he normally does and not light earlier than that (שו”ת אג”מ ח”ד סי’ ס”ב). This is because the shiur of עד שתכלה (see below, 9 and on) does not apply on Motzei Shabbos (Issue 70, paragraph 14, חת”ס שבת, הגרי”ז הלוי), and there is no reason to be meikel with Shabbos, which is strict, for a hiddur with Chanukah, which is derabanan.
- Rabbeinu Tam shekiyah. Some say the zman to light the Chanukah candles is at the second shekiyah – Rabbeinu Tam shekiyah – which is about 13 minutes before Rabbeinu Tam tzeis (ר”ן, רשב”א, מאירי, הוזכר במ”ב סי’ תרע”ב סק”א).
End of the Zman to Light
- Lighting outdoors. Some say the mitzvah to light Chanukah candles can only be fulfilled “עד שתכלה רגל מן השוק,” which is about a half hour or more after the beginning of the zman to light, and one should not light after that time (רמב”ם פ”ד ה”ה).
- However, most poskim hold that while one should make sure to light before עד שתכלה to satisfy all opinions, if he did not get a chance to light before then, bedieved he may light the whole night, i.e., until amud hashachar (מ”ב סקי”א). This is the ruling of the Shulchan Aruch (סי’ תרע”ב ס”ב).
- As far as the brachah, if there are still passersby outside, one may say the brachah when lighting outdoors. If there are no more passersby, one should not say a brachah when lighting outdoors (ע”פ מ”ב שם, הגריש”א, שבות יצחק חנוכה פ”ד עמ’ פ”ג).
- Lighting indoors. Nowadays that we light indoors and the pirsumei nisa is mainly for one’s family, there is no need to make sure to light before שתכלה רגל מן השוק; one may light until alos hashachar. Still, it is best to light before שתכלה רגל מן השוק even today (רמ”א שם).
- When lighting after שתכלה רגל מן השוק, one may make a brachah if his family members are awake. If they are sleeping or he is home alone, he should light without a brachah. Still, it is best to wake up two or three (שעה”צ סקי”ז), two (כפה”ח סקכ”ו בשם הבן איש חי), or at least one family member – even below bar/bas mitzvah (ערוה”ש ס”ז) – in order to light with a brachah (מ”ב סקי”א).
- Nevertheless, if someone wants to say a brachah after שתכלה רגל מן השוק even though no one else is present, there are poskim he can rely on (שער ציון שם); this is the common minhag (הגר”ש וואזנר, קובץ מבית לוי ח”י עמ’ ב’ אות ו’).
Which Comes First, Maariv or Lighting Chanukah Candles?
- The poskim discuss whether it is better to daven Maariv before lighting Chanukah candles when lighting after tzeis or whether it is better to light Chanukah candles first.
- Lighting indoors. When lighting indoors, the pirsumei nisa is for family members, and if someone is in shul at or near tzeis, it is best for him to first daven Maariv and then light to fulfill the deoraisa mitzvah of Keriyas Shema (שע”ת) and due to the rule of תדיר ושאינו תדיר, תדיר קודם (מ”ב סק”א). If one is home at tzeis, it is best to light first since that mitzvah is in front of him, and we do not pass over mitzvos.
- Lighting outdoors. When lighting outdoors – in which case the pirsumei nisa is for the people on the street – there is more reason to light first so that the lighting is before שתכלה רקל מן השוק, after which the Rambam holds one is not yotzei (see above, 9). If one davens Maariv first, he should make sure to put oil in the menorah before davening Maariv so that he can light immediately after Maariv. If he does everything after davening, there is certainly reason to fear he will miss the main zman, i.e., a half hour, which is the halacha from the Gemara (מ”ב סוף סק”א).
- Set minyan for Maariv. If a person has a set Maariv he goes to at a later hour, he may light Chanukah candles at tzeis and daven Maariv later since the rule of תדיר ושאינו תדיר, תדיר קודם only applies in a case where one wants to do two mitzvos at the same time (הגרשז”א שלמי מועד פמ”ז עמ’ ריט, הגר”ש וואזנר קובץ מבית לוי ח”י עמ’ א).
When to Light in Eretz Yisroel
- In Eretz Yisroel, bein hashemashos [the time between the beginning of shekiyah and tzeis] is very short, about 18 minutes. Therefore, many people light exactly 20 minutes after shekiyah but before Maariv, thereby satisfying most opinions: it is within a half hour from shekiyah, satisfying the Rambam and Gra (above, 4, 9), and it is after the Geonim’s tzeis (above, 5). The Chazon Ish did this (חוט שני חנוכה עמ’ שי”ח) as well as the Rebbes of Ger (שו”ת תשובות והנהגות ח”ב סי’ של”ד).
Lighting Starting from Plag Haminchah
- Someone who is busy and will not be able to light the menorah after shekiyah may light starting from plag haminchah if necessary (שו”ע סי’ תרע”ב ס”א). Plag haminchah is 11/4 halachic hours before tzeis (מ”ב סק”ג). He may even say the brachah (מ”ב שם).
- Traveling. Similarly, if someone is leaving his home and when he reaches his destination, it will be too late or impossible to light, he may light at home before setting out starting at plag. Even though he will not be sleeping at home that night, he may light at home since that is where he was established until now (הגר”נ קרליץ, נר חנוכה פ”ב סי”א).
- From plag or late at night? If one has a choice of either lighting after plag or late at night, if he is lighting outdoors, it is better to light after plag; if he is lighting indoors and no one will be in the house at the regular zman to light – shekiyah or tzeis – it is better to light at home late at night (הגריש”א, פניני חנוכה עמ’ ק”ע).
How Long Do the Candles Need to Burn?
- From plag. When lighting after plag, one must use enough oil for the candles to burn until a half hour after tzeis (שו”ע שם). The same is true when lighting on Erev Shabbos (מ”ב סי’ תרע”ט סק”ב).
- From shekiyah. Those who light at shekiyah must use enough oil for the candles to burn for a half hour. If one lights outdoors, say, ten minutes after shekiyah, strictly speaking, he only needs to use enough oil for the candles to stay lit for 20 minutes, which is until שתכלה רגל מן השוק of the Gemara (מ”ב סי’ תרע”ב סק”ה). However, it is proper to be machmir and use enough oil for the candles to burn until there are actually no more passersby outside. When lighting indoors, there must always be enough oil to last at least a half hour (מ”ב שם).
Lighting to Avoid Suspicion
Back in the Day
- Two entrances on different sides of the house. If a courtyard or house has two main (הג’ חכמת שלמה) entrances on different sides – e.g., one on the north side and one on the east side (ביאה”ל ד”ה שיש) – that cannot be seen simultaneously, a menorah must be lit in both entrances to avoid suspicion (שו”ע סי’ תרע”א ס”ח). In other words, there is a concern that when people in the city only see the entrance to the house that does not have a menorah, they will think that just like the owner of the house did not light in this entrance, he did not light in the entrance on the other side. If a house has two entrances on the same side, there is no need to light in both entrances since people know both entrances go into the same house.
- No brachah. When lighting to avoid suspicion, no brachah is said on the second menorah since it is only to avoid mar’is ayin (רמ”א שם).
- Windows on different sides. Even if a house has windows on different sides that cannot be seen simultaneously, there is no need to light candles in windows on both sides since everyone knows houses have many windows. Similarly, if a house has an entrance on one side and windows on another, there is no need to light in both the entrance and the windows (הגר”נ קרליץ, חוט שני חנוכה עמ’ שי”ד).
- A main entrance and a side entrance. If a house has a main entrance and a side or secondary entrance, e.g., one entrance facing the street and a second one facing an alley, there is no need to light in the side entrance to avoid suspicion since it is obvious to everyone that the person lit in the main entrance (הג’ חכמת שלמה).
- Chutz la’aretz. Since everyone today lights indoors, out of the view of the general public, even if a courtyard or house has many entrances on different sides, one only needs to light once inside. This is the common minhag (רמ”א שם).
- Eretz Yisroel. Many people in Eretz Yisroel today light outdoors. Some poskim say there is a chiyuv to light in two entrances on different sides to avoid suspicion (הגריש”א, אשרי האיש ח”ג פל”ה אות ו’).
- However, most poskim hold there is no need to light on both sides to avoid suspicion today. The reason for this is that since there are people who light indoors, people will now suspect that someone did not light at all (הגרשז”א, הליכות שלמה חנוכה פי”ג דבה”ל אות י”א). Also, not everyone lights in the same spot outside or at the same time. Accordingly, there is no chiyuv to light an extra menorah today to avoid suspicion (הגר”ש וואזנר, קובץ מבית לוי ח”י עמ’ ה’, הגר”נ קרליץ, חוט שני חנוכה עמ’ שט”ו).
Away from Home for Multiple Nights
- If a person will be away from home for multiple nights, e.g., he is going to his parents for Shabbos Chanukah, etc., some poskim say he must ask a neighbor to light for him outside his house to avoid suspicion (בשם החזו”א).
- However, most poskim hold that when one is away from home, there is no chiyuv to have a menorah lit outside his home (שו”ת אג”מ יו”ד ח”ג סי’ י”ד אות ה’) since people will only suspect him of not lighting if they see him around his house or yard and there is no menorah lit, e.g., when there are two entrances. Even back in the day, we do not find that a person was obligated to light to avoid suspicion when he was not home. Obviously this is because people will assume he went somewhere away from home (פר”ח סי’ תרע”ז, הובא בביאה”ל שם ד”ה במקום). Nowadays that everyone lights in different spots and at different times (see above, 31), and many people go to their parents’ homes, etc., there is certainly no need to light to avoid suspicion when traveling away from home.
My Candles Went Out – Do I Need to Relight Them?
- If one’s candles went out before the required zman but they had enough oil to burn for the minimum amount of time, he does not need to relight them since the mitzvah is fulfilled at the moment the candles are lit (שו”ע תרע”ג ס”ב). Nonetheless, it is proper to be machmir and relight them (מ”ב סקכ”ז).
- Sees an extinguished menorah. Some poskim say that if someone’s candles go out, he does not need to worry about people suspecting he did not light a menorah since they will just assume he has not yet lit them, but he will soon (שו”ת שואל ומשיב מהדו”ת כ”ב סי’ ע”א ד”ה ומה שהקשה). According to this, he would need to leave the unlit menorah in a spot where people will see it. However, this is a novel idea that was never suggested before (כ”ק מרן גאב”ד ירושלים שליט”א).
- Only during the zman. Another reason he would not need to worry about people’s suspicions is because this halacha only applies when a person is coming to light the menorah. If, when one lit his menorah, he had no reason to be concerned about people’s suspicions, even if such a concern subsequently arose, Chazal did not require him to light to avoid suspicion (הגרשז”א, הליכות שלמה חנוכה פי”ג דבר הלכה י”ח).
- Others say in such a case, one does need to relight his menorah to avoid suspicion (בית הלוי פ’ מקץ חנוכה ד”ה שם כבתה זקוק לה).