Who is Obligated
- Women are obligated to light Chanukah candles. Even though it is a Mitzvat assay she’hazman grama (a time-bound positive command,) since women were part of the miracle, they too are obligated. Thus, a man who is away traveling should have his wife light at home for him to fulfill his obligation.
- For a married couple, only one spouse needs to light.
- Children at the age of Chinuch should light their own candles.
Earliest and Latest Time to Light
- One should not light until 45 minutes after sunset. (Sunset is approximately 4:28, so the earliest would be 5:13.) One who lights at this time should be careful to place sufficient fuel to burn for 30 minutes after nightfall (approximately 5:43.)
- If there are extenuating circumstances (e.g. one will not be able to light later) one may light starting at approximately 4:11, but there still must be enough fuel to last until about 5:43.
- On Erev Shabbat, one may light starting at 3:31, but there still must be enough fuel to last until about 5:43. One should try to light Chanukah candles as close as possible to sunset, and therefore should light immediately before lighting Shabbat candles.
- One should not delay lighting until after a half hour after nightfall (approximately 5:43 PM.) If that time has passed, one may light the entire night until dawn (approximately 5:44 AM.) When lighting then, one may recite a Bracha even if no other member of one’s household is awake.
- After Shabbat, there are different practices as to whether Chanukah candles are lit before performing Havdala, or vice versa. In any event, one must at least say the words “Baruch hamavdil bein kodesh l’chol” before lighting Chanukah candles. One should conduct himself according to one’s family custom. If one has no specific custom, one should first perform Havdala and then light Chanukah candles. In Shul, the custom is to light Chanukah lights first.
Placement of the Chanukia
- In Talmudic times, the Mitzvah was to place the Chanukia outdoors, at the entrance of the house. This was done to publicize the miracle of Chanukah. Historically, due to antisemitism, the custom became to light indoors, which is acceptable because the primary Mitzvah is to publicize the miracle to the members of one’s household.
- Nowadays, when the custom has developed to light indoors, one should light in the safest possible location with the most publicity.
- The Chanukia should not be placed in a location where it can be extinguished by the wind.
Setting Up the Candles and Lighting
- The widespread custom is to first light the leftmost candle, and then the rest of the candles are lit proceeding from left to right.
- The candles should be set up in a straight row and not in a semi-circular position. The reason for this is that it would appear like a torch, rather than a lamp.
- On the first night of Chanukah, three Brachot at recited: “L’hadlik neir,” “She’assa nissim,” and “Shehechiyanu.” On subsequent nights, only the former two Brachot are recited.
- One should recite all of the Brachot before lighting the candles. The Shamash, however, should be lit before reciting the Brachot.
- If one forgot to recite the Brachot and began lighting, one may recite them as long as one candle remains to be lit. If all were lit, “L’hadlik neir” can no longer be said, but “She’assa nissim” and “Shehechiyanu” can be recited as long as the lights are still burning.
- One should not speak between the Brachot and the beginning of the lighting of the candles. If one did speak, and the conversation did not concern the lighting, one must repeat the Brachot.
- “Haneirot halalu” is said immediately after lighting the first candle. The remaining lights are lit while it is recited.
- After “Haneirot halalu,” the minhag of Ashkenazim is to say “Maoz Tzur.”
- The candles need enough fuel to burn for a minimum of 30 minutes after nightfall. (This year, nightfall is approximately 5:13 pm, so the candles should have fuel to burn for at least 30 minutes after that time.) If at the time of lighting, the Chanukia did not contain the minimum amount of oil and additional oil was added later, one has not fulfilled the requirement.
- If there is enough fuel to last for those 30 minutes, then even if the candles go out before the 30 minutes have passed, one is not required to relight them (though if one wishes to, one may, without a Bracha.) However, if one extinguished them intentionally, one is required to relight them, without a Bracha.
- Even on Erev Shabbat when one lights candles earlier, if the candles go out before sunset, one is not required to relight them. Though in this situation, if one has not yet accepted Shabbat, it is preferable to relight them.
- The custom is not to kindle one Chanukah candle from another.
- Each Chanukia should have its own Shamash. If the Shamash was extinguished, it may not be relit from any of the Chanukah lights. The Shamash should be placed apart from the other lights so that it not be confused with them. Therefore, it should be made longer, or placed higher or further away from the other lights.
- If a Chanukia contains space for eight candles, two people are permitted to light, one at either end.
- One who is ill and cannot go to the place of lighting to light by oneself may appoint a representative. The ill person may recite the Brachot and the representative should light immediately.
Oils, Candles and Wicks
- Although one may use all oils and candles for the Chanukah lights, the preferred practice is to use olive oil.
- Electric and gas lights may not be used to fulfill the Mitzvah.
Deriving Benefit From the Chanukah Lights
- It is forbidden to use the Chanukah lights for any purpose. Even an occasional use, such as to count money by its light is prohibited.
- Most Poskim hold that one may not even use the lights for a mitzvah purpose, such as to learn Torah.
- The reason for the custom to light the additional light, the Shamash, is so that if a person would use the light of the Chanukia, he would be benefitting from this additional light and not the light of the Chanukah candles.
- If the Shamash was extinguished, it may not be relit from any of the Chanukah lights.
- Even after the 30 minute required period has passed, some Poskim say one still should not benefit from the lights.
- Oil which was placed in the Chanukia for use one day but was not consumed may be used another day.
- Oil which was placed in the Chanukia for use on the eighth day but was not consumed, should be burned in such a manner whereby one does not derive benefit from it. This only applies to oil that was placed in the Chanukia and was lit. However, oil that was purchased for use for Chanukah but remains in its bottle may be used for any other purpose.
Doing an Activity Before Lighting Candles
- When the time to light comes, one must stop all activities to go and light. This obligation extends even to learning Torah, and of course to eating and other work activities.
- A person may not eat a meal of more than a k’beitza of bread or mezonot before lighting, but less than that amount of bread or mezonot is allowed. One may eat other foods.
One Who is Away From Home
- Each person should, preferably, kindle the lights oneself. Therefore, one should make an effort to be home at candle lighting time in order to light by oneself.
- If one is not able to be home personally during candle lighting time, and will return home when all members of the family are asleep, then one should instruct one’s spouse or another adult member of one’s household to light for him/her. If members of the family will be awake when he returns home, one should wait to get home and light oneself.
- If one’s spouse or a member of one’s household lights for him/her, one fulfills one’s requirement even if one is far from home. However, even in this circumstance, one should try to light candles wherever one is, without a Bracha.
- If one has two options: light before sunset or have a representative light for him after sunset, it is preferable to have the representative light for him after sunset.
- One who is invited out for dinner in the same city where one lives, must return home and light there.
- Guests in a hotel or motel should light in the safe, designated place for lighting.
- A person traveling by plane the entire night is considered like a renter of a room for the evening, and therefore may light as he/she travels and recite the Brachot. It is preferable to only light one candle so as not to arouse suspicion of other travelers and risk not performing it at all.
- A guest, that is, one who sleeps in someone else’s home temporarily, is required to light on one’s own or become a partner in one’s host’s lighting. One way to become a partner is by paying the host an amount of money as small as a pruta (approximately 5 cents.) When giving the host the money, one should state that one is giving its to him to acquire a share in the oil and wicks of the Chanukah lights that he will light tonight, and the host should respond that he is transferring to him, with the acceptance of this money, a portion of the Chanukah lights that he will light tonight. The guest should stand near the host during the Brachot, and each part should intend that the guest fulfills his requirement. Alternatively, the host may present a portion of the oil to the guest as a gift, by then having the guest lift up the oil.