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Chanukah 101


Wow! This year is really flying by. I can’t believe that Chanukah starts tonight. Just in case you don’t remember all the rules and regulations when it comes to lighting your menorah, here’s a review.

Lighting the Menorah:

  1. Ideally, every member of the household, including younger children capable of understanding the concept of Chanukah, should light his or her own menorah.  Married women may fulfill their obligation to light through their husbands, but may also light the menorah individually.  
  2. Those sleeping at the home of another over Chanukah should furnish their own Menorah and candles/oil. If they cannot do so, they may join in the kindling done by the household members and should contribute a small amount of money to become a partner in the lighting.  
  3. Often, people are invited out for a Chanukah party, wedding or similar event in the evening hours. If they plan on returning home later in the evening, they should light at home even if the hour is late. A visitor away from home should light in the place where he is sleeping, even if all his or her meals are eaten elsewhere and even if one will arrive home late. 
  4. Optimally, the menorah should be lit at Tzait HaKochavim (nightfall) and should continue burning for 30 minutes. Tzait HaKochavim in SF is at 5:35 P.M.  Ideally, one should not become involved in any activity within a reasonable amount of time before sunset, including eating. It is preferable to daven Maariv before this time as well.  
  5. If one must leave the house, it is permitted to extinguish the candles after they have burnt for half an hour after Tzait Hakochavim. Upon returning, there is no need to rekindle the lights though it certainly is permitted to do so. If the flames die out before the proper amount of time has elapsed, they can be rekindled without any additional blessing, but there is no obligation to do so. 
  6. If one is unable to light at the optimal time, candles may be lit until later, even if one arrives home after everyone has gone to sleep and there is no need to wake anyone up for candle lighting. 
  7. Shalom Bayit is a paramount value in Halacha, and therefore it is permissible (and even encouraged) to delay lighting Chanukah candles until one’s spouse arrives at home even if that will not take place at the halachically optimal time. 

The Candles and the Blessings:

  1. All oils and candles are permitted for use in the Menorah; however, it is preferable to light with olive oil, ideally with wicks made of cotton or linen. New wicks are not needed every night. If one is using store-bought olive oil, one should declare explicitly that it is not being used solely for Chanukah candles. Oil left over in the receptacles after the Menorah has been lit for the requisite amount of time may be thrown out or used the next night.  
  2. The candle holders or oil receptacles should be positioned in one level and on a straight line. The lights are placed in the menorah from right to left before kindling and are lit from left to right. 
  3. Menorot may be kindled anywhere inside one’s home. Optimally, they should face outside, or should be in one’s doorway (inside or outside) opposite the mezuzah. Care should be taken in the placement of the Menorah, as it is forbidden to move it once it is lit. Safety should also be a paramount concern when it comes to candle lighting, so the menorah should not be placed on or near anything flammable, precarious or otherwise dangerous. 

Erev Shabbat 

  1. On Erev Shabbat, there should be sufficient oil or candle-length, enough that the menorah can burn 30 minutes after nightfall. Because Shabbat is accepted when Shabbat candles are lit, one must light the Menorah before the Shabbat candles. 
  2. On Motzai Shabbat in shul, the Menorah is lit followed by Havdalah. In one’s home, Havdalah is recited first, followed by lighting the Chanukah candles.   


1. The prayer of Al Hanissim is inserted in both the Shemoneh Esrai and Birkat Hamazon. If it is omitted, one need not repeat either prayer.