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Chanukah FAQs

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1. When is the proper time to light Chanukah lights?

There is a long-standing debate, dating back to the time of the Rishonim, whether the proper time to light Chanukah lights begins at sunset (1) or at tzeit ha’kochavim (2). While this dispute has not been definitively resolved, Aruch Hashulchan (3) writes that the generally accepted practice is to light Chanukah lights at the later time, but he does note that some do follow Rambam’s position and still light from sunset. While there still is great debate on this subject most poskim are of the opinion that Chanukah lights should be lit approximately 10- 20 minutes after sunset and remain burning for at least 30 minutes. If that is not possible, one should light while there are still people walking in the street (4). If that is not possible, one may light until dawn. There is a debate amongst the poskim as to whether one may still recite a blessing on the lighting when there is no one awake in the household (5).

2. How long do the lights have to burn?

There must be enough oil or wax for the lights to burn for one half hour (6). On Erev Shabbat, the lights must be able to burn until approximately one half hour after tzeit ha’kochavim (7).

3. Where is the best place to position the Chanukiah?

The Chanukiah should be placed in an area near a window where it can be seen by those passing by. If there is no window and it will not be seen by a passerby, it should be placed in the doorway of the home opposite the mezuzah (8). If the window is more than twenty amot (approximately 36 feet high) and it faces others that are on the same level, some poskim write that it is preferable to light in front of the window, but it should still be placed in an area of the house where it will be visible to members of the household (9).

4. I am going to a family Chanukah party in the late afternoon, and I won’t get home until very late at night. Should I light before I leave, after I get home, or at the Chanukah party?

You may not light at the Chanukah party because you are not established there (10). If another member of the household will be awake when you return, you should light when you return. If you will be the only one awake when you return, you should have someone light on your behalf at the proper time. If that is not possible, you may light as early as Plag HaMincha (11). If you will be leaving for the party after Plag HaMincha, light after Plag HaMincha. If you will be leaving home before Plag HaMincha, appoint someone light on your behalf. If that is not possible, light when you return.

5. I am not going to get home from work until late in the evening. Should the rest of my family light without me? May I eat dinner before I light?

While there is great debate regarding this issue, your family should wait until you get home; if there are children who need to go to sleep, they should light on their own (12). It is prohibited to eat a fixed meal before lighting Chanukah lights (13). Nevertheless, some poskim permit setting an alarm as a reminder to light (14); the alarm should be set for a time when one intends to be home.

6. I am going out for dinner on Friday night, and I don’t want to leave my lit Chanukiah unattended. Can I light at the home of my guest?

You should light in your own home (15). If truly concerned a person may light on the kitchen table away from flammable objects (16), or light one candle (17).

7. Is there a prohibition against performing certain activities while the lights are lit?

In earlier times, women accepted the practice of refraining from melacha to commemorate their participation in the miracle of Chanukah (18). This custom only applies for the first half hour that the lights are burning (or longer if one lights early) (19). Some poskim write that the only activities which are prohibited on Yom Tov are included in this custom; therefore, food preparation is permissible (20). Others write that only activities that involve real labor, such as sewing, and laundering are included in this minhag (21).

8. My family is staying at someone else’s home for Shabbat Chanukah. Should we light at home on Friday or light at our host’s home?

On Friday, you should light at the home of your host (22). On Saturday night, you should return home as quickly as possible and light (23) or remain at the host’s home until Sunday and light there.

9. I am traveling to Israel during Chanukah. My flight is during the day and I won’t land in Israel until the next day. What should I do?

Technically, a person can fulfill the mitzvah on the airplane since they are eating and sleeping there (24) (although, from a practical standpoint it might not be such a good idea!). If there are members of the family who are remaining at home, they may light on your behalf (25). If there is no one to light on your behalf, one may use a battery operated incandescent Chanukiah and “light” without reciting a bracha (26). Rabbi Ahron Soloveichik was of the opinion that a bracha may be made on a such a Chanukiah as long as the filament is visible (27).

10. I will be staying in a hotel and the hotel will not let me light in the room. What should I do?

A person should not light in the room under any circumstances. According to Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv lighting in a place that violates hotel policy is a form of theft (28). If a person eats most of their meals in the dining room of the hotel, they should light in the dining room (29). Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach writes that in a pressing situation, a yeshiva student can light anywhere in the yeshiva building that is used for activities that one would perform in one’s home (30). It would therefore seem plausible that in a hotel, a person could light in the lobby.

11. I would like to leave the house after lighting the Chanukah lights, but I don’t want to leave the lights unattended. May I blow out the lights after lighting them?

You may blow out the lights one-‐half hour after lighting (31).

12. I light with oil and it usually does not burn completely. How should I dispose of the oil?

If the oil burns for more than one-‐half hour, you can dispose of the leftover oil (32). However, it is preferable to have in mind that the extra oil should not become dedicated as Chanukah oil (33). If the oil did not burn for one-‐half hour, you can either use it on one of the following nights or burn it after Chanukah. It may not be used for anything else.

13. On Saturday night, should I recite Havdalah first or light the Chanukah lights first?

The Shulchan Aruch rules that Chanukah lights should be lit in the shul before Havdalah. The Rama adds that one should do the same at home (34). However, the Taz (35) argues vigorously and at great length, that one should first say Havdalah when lighting at home. The Mishna Berura concludes that this dispute remains unresolved and therefore one may follow either opinion (36). Rabbi David Zvi Hoffman records that the custom in Germany was to follow the Taz and perform havdalah first (37). Aruch Hashulchan writes that the practice in Lithuania was to perform havdalah first, unless it was already heard in Shul (38).

14. What should I do if I forget to recite “Al HaNissim” in Shemoneh Esrei or in Birkat HaMazon?

Al HaNissim does not have to be repeated. If one realized their mistake before reciting G‐d’s name in the beracha, they may return to Al HaNissim (39). If not, one should continue and later on one can recite the following:

הרחמן הוא יעשה לנו נסים ונפלאות כאשר עשה לאבותינו בימים ההם בזמן הזה

and then continue with the section of בימי מתיתיהו (40). This can be added to Birkat HaMazon in the middle of the HaRachaman section, or in Shemoneh Esrei before reciting “Yihiyu L’Ratzon” at the end of Shemoneh Esrei (41).

If you have any more Chanukah related questions, please contact the Shul office: (773)‐761-4000

1 Rambam, Hilchot Chanukah 4:5
2 Tur O.C. 672 and Shulchan Aruch O.C. 672:1
3 Aruch HaShulchan O.C. 672:4
4 Rama O.C. 672:2
5 Mishna Berura 672:11
6 Shulchan Aruch O.C. 672:2 and Mishna Berura 672:5
7 Mishna Berurah 679:2
8 Mishna Berurah 671:38 and Igrot Moshe O.C. 4:125
9 Shevet HaLevi 4:65
10 Mishna Berurah 677:12
11 Shevet HaLevi 4:66
12 R’ Shimon Eider, Halachos of Chanukah, page 28
13 Mishna Berurah 672:10
14 R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, Halichot Shlomo, TeLilah, page 16
15 Mishna Berurah 677:12
16 Shulchan Aruch O.C. 671:5
17 Mishna Berurah 671:4
18 Mishna Berurah 670:3
19 Mishna Berurah 670:4
20 Piskei Teshuvot 670:2
21 R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, Halichot Shlomo, Mo’adei HaShanah page 299
22 Piskei Teshuvot 670:2
23 R’ Shaul Yisraeli quoted in Mikraei Kodesh, Hilchot Chanukah 4:12
24 Teshuvot Maharsham 4:146, writes that one may light on a train
25 Mishna Berurah 677:2
26 R’ Ovadiah Yosef, Yabia Omer, O.C. 3:35
27 Telephone correspondence with Rabbi Moshe Soloveichik
28 P’ninei Chanukah page 53
29 R’ Moshe Shternbuch, Moadim U’Zmanim 6:88
30 Halichot Shlomo, Mo’adei HaShanah page 274 31 Shulchan Aruch O.C. 672:2
32 Shulchan Aruch O.C. 677:4
33 Mishna Berurah 677:18
34 Shulchan Aruch O.C. 681:2
35 Taz O.C. 681:1
36 Mishna Berurah 681:3
37 Teshuvot Melamed Le’hoil 1:122
38 Aruch HaShulchan O.C. 681:2
39 Shulchan Aruch O.C. 682:1
40 Rama O.C. 682:1
41 Mishna Berura 682:4

Thu, January 27 2022 25 Shevat 5782