Friday, December 07, 2012

Ohr Yaaqov - Essential Laws of Hanukkah 5773

                                        אור יעקב
                                 קיצור הלכות חנוכה        
                          Essential Laws of Hanukkah
                                         by Rabbi J. Maroof

1. This year, Hanukkah begins on Saturday Evening, December 8th and ends on Sunday Evening, December 16th. The last candle lighting will be Saturday night, December 15th.

2. Lighting Hanukkah candles is one of the most beloved mitsvot of our tradition. One should be careful to light the Hanukkah menorah, or Hanukiyah, every one of the eight nights of the holiday.

3. The Sephardic custom is to have only one Hanukiyah per household, even for a very large family. Ashkenazim typically have a separate Hanukiyah for each member of the family.

4. On the first night, two candles are used. One should be placed to the far right of the Hanukiyah. The other serves as the shamash, the “helper candle”, and should be placed in the special location designated for it.

5. Each night, another candle is added to the Hanukiyah. The candles should be placed in the Hanukiyah from right to left. However, when lighting the Hanukiyah, we proceed from left to right, beginning with the candle that was most recently added.

6. On the first night of Hanukkah, three blessings are recited before lighting the candles – Asher Qiddeshanu Bemitsvotav Vetsivanu Lehadliq ner Hanukkah, She-asa nissim, and Sheheheyanu.. On the remaining nights, only two blessings are recited, because Sheheheyanu is omitted.

7. After the candles have been lit, we read the paragraph Hanerot Halalu, as well as a chapter of Tehillim that is printed in the Siddur. Some have the custom of singing Maoz Tsur as well.

8. The best time to light the Hanukkah candles is generally at nightfall, from fifteen minutes to a half hour after sundown.  If one cannot light at that time, one may do so at any point during the night, provided that members of the household are still awake at that time to view the candles.

9. One who is traveling during Hanukkah does not need to light any candles as long as one’s family will be lighting candles at home. However, a person who normally lives alone and is traveling during Hanukkah still has an obligation to light candles.  If staying in a hotel, he or she must light the Hanukiyah there. If staying with Jewish relatives or friends who are lighting candles themselves, one must “join in” with the family by contributing a quarter toward the cost of the oil or candles and thereby acquiring a share in the mitsvah.

10. One who attends a Hanukkah gathering and participates in a Hanukkah candle lighting in a synagogue, restaurant or friend’s home does not fulfill the mitzvah through this participation. One must light Hanukkah candles in one’s home or in the place one plans to sleep that night, as detailed in Law #9.

11. On Friday afternoon, Hanukkah candles must be lit before Shabbat candles. On Saturday night, the candles cannot be lit until after Shabbat ends and Havdalah is recited.

12. One cannot, under any circumstances, light Hanukkah candles once Shabbat has started. To light candles on Friday night after sundown would be a desecration of Shabbat and not a mitsvah at all.

13. Hanukkah candles should burn for a minimum of a half hour. On Friday nights, when we light them especially early, it is preferable to use larger candles that will burn for at least an hour and a half.

 14. If the candles become extinguished, even if a half hour has not yet elapsed, it is not necessary to relight them.

15. Our custom is that women should not do any household work as long as the candles are burning.

16. Throughout Hanukkah, we include a full Hallel and a special Torah reading in the morning service. Please join us for prayers during the holiday!