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Halachoth Of Hanukka Candle Lighting

December 15, 2014

Timing: The basic understanding of  the relevant sources as presented by Maimonides, The Vilna Gaon, and the most widely used calendars in and around Jerusalem is that the proper time for candle lighting is at sunset. In December, that time is basically around 4:40 pm. This is true for weekdays, but on Fridays, the Hanukka candles should be lit before one accepts the Sabbath, which is ideally a significant amount of time before sunset, and they may not be lit after sunset. The standard practice is to light them 40 minutes before sunset on Friday. At the departure of the Sabbath, one may only light the Hanukka candles after dark, and that is a significant time after sunset. I make sure to always attend early afternoon services starting from the day before Hanukka so that I can always be home at candle lighting time.

As for the various opinions that hold that the proper lighting time is some minutes after sunset, (e.g., 15 or 30 minutes after sunset, etc.) those are all based on some permutation of the opinions that hold that the halachic sunset is the not the physically observable one, and as we noted before, those opinions have been refuted. In this regard, the printed calendars are doing a service to the community by printing the original candle lighting time as ordained by the sages. If only they would begin to also print the true first time for the monthly blessing on the new moon…

As for oils, one should make sure that his olive oil is both real and high quality. The same impurities that lower an oil’s quality and could potentially make an oil unfit for human consumption are the same impurities that prevent an oil from burning cleaner. many of the oils sold around this time that are marked specifically for lighting are also marked unfit for consumption. They are, by definition, inferior to any of the edible oils on the market, even for candle lighting.

Many modern waxes burn even cleaner than olive oil, and therefore are an even better choice for the commandment.

Technically speaking, each day’s candle may be lit before that day starts. Candle lighting is a specific commandment ordained by our sages to commemorate the miracle of the Maccabean revolt, but the main purpose of the holiday is to praise and thank God, and that is through the daily recitation of the complete Hallel, which, as the commandment specific to each and every day of Hanukka, must be performed every one of those days between sunrise and sunset. It seems, therefore, that one who for whatever reason did not recite the Sheheheyanu blessing the first night of Hanukka should do so upon recitation of Hallel on the first day.


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  1. avraham yeshaya permalink

    Thank you for all your toil to advance true Judaism.

    I personally benefit greatly, not that I agree with everything.

    What do you think of Rabbi Brand, here ( He seems to fit the line of Rabbi Bar Chaim and yourself.

  2. Yigal permalink

    1. If household head comes home later than ideal time- what should be done
    2. how many candles should be lit
    3. who lights
    4. outdoors/indoors (by a front window)

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