This coming Saturday night, once Shabbat ends, Hanukka, the festival of lights, begins. The celebration of Hanukka is expressed mainly through the lightening of the Hanukka candles. Below we present the basic laws and customs of the lighting of Hanukka candles.
HANUKKA and HABDALA
This year, 5777, the first candle of Hanukka will be lit this Saturday, December 24th, at night. Once Shabbat is over, in the Synagogue we first light the Hanukka candles and then we recite the Habdala. In this way we promote the miracle of Hanukka in front of more people (pirsume nisa). If we would say the Habdala first, most people would probably leave the Synagogue before we get to light the Hanukka candles.
In our houses, however, we will first recite the Habdala and then light the first candle of Hanukka.
The father or the person in charge of the family recites the following three blessings before lighting the first candle. During the following nights, only the first and second blessings will be recited.
בָּרוּך אַתָּה ה ‘ אֱ-לֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, אֲשֶׁר קִדְּשָׁנוּ בְּמִצְוֹתָיו וְצִוָּנוּ לְהַדְלִיק נֵר (של) חֲנוּכָּה
בָּרוּך אַתָּה ה ‘ אֱ-לֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, שֶׁעָשָׂה נִסִּים לַאֲבוֹתֵינוּ, בַּיָּמִים הָהֵם
בָּרוּך אַתָּה ה ‘ אֱ-לֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, שֶׁהֶחֱיָנוּ וְקִיְמָנוּ וְהִגִּעָנוּ לַזְּמַן הַזֶּה
After lighting the candles we say “Hanerot Halalu”. “We light these candles to [celebrate] the miracles and the salvation and the wonders and portents … that You granted to our ancestors in those days at this time of the year, through Your holy priests. The eight days of Hanukka, these lights are consecrated [for the Mitsva] and we are not allowed to make an ordinary use of them. [These lights] are just for us to look at in order to express our gratitude and praise to Your great Name for Your miracles, Your wonders and Your salvation. “
To finalize we recite: Mizmor Shir Hanukkat haBayit leDavid (Tehilim 30)
WHERE SHOULD WE LIGHT THE HANUKKA CANDLES?
We light the Hanukka candles as a public declaration of appreciation and gratitude to HaShem for the miracles He performed to our ancestors. That is why we try to make the Hanukka candles as visible as possible. This is called pirsume nisa, that is, to make public the miracle of Hanukka and our gratitude to HaShem. In the days of the Gemara, when these Halakhot were legislated, the cities were very small and had only one main street. The houses were low and even. In those times the candles was placed outside the entrance door of the house, at a height of about 2.7ft. from the ground, on the opposite side of the Mezuza. This was the best way for the Hanukka candles to be visible to those who came home from work. And so the Halakha instructs us to do in the Shulhan ‘Arukh, etc.
Nowadays, however, many families place the Hanukka candles inside their residences, especially if they live in apartments. And to fulfill the obligation of pirsume nisa, when they light the candles inside the house, they place the candle behind a window that is visible from the outside.
HOW MANY CANDLES and HANUKKIOT SHOULD WE LIGHT?
The custom in the Sephardic communities is to light one Hanukkia per family, and not one Hanukkia for each member of the family.
In many Ashkenazi communities the tradition is that each member of the family lights his or her own Hanukkia.
Althought today we all add an adtional candle every night, technically, it is enough to light a single candle (plus the shamash or accessory candle) per family, every night of Hanukka. Therefore, in the event that one can not light the additional candles, lighting one candle per night would suffice.
OIL OR CANDLES?
The candles that are used in Hanukka can be made of wax, paraffin, etc. But the ideal is to use candles (glass recipients) with olive oil, since originally the miracle of Hanukka happened with a jug of olive oil that lasted for eight days.
Additionally, oil candles usually last longer than normal candles, especially more than the small wax candles (or birthday candles).
The Mitsva of Hanukka candles cannot be performed with electric lights. An electric Menora serves only as decoration, but not to fulfill the mitzvah.
In honor of the new baby born today to Dr. Adam Harari and my daughter Orit.