Since we are approaching the holiday of Chanukah, let us begin discussing some of its pertinent laws based on what we have written in previous years in addition to new some new ideas as well.
When Chanukah Falls Out this Year
The holiday of Chanukah lasts for eight days beginning from the 25th of Kislev, as we shall discuss. This year (5780), the 25th of Kislev will fall out next Monday. Chanukah candles will be lit for the first time next Sunday night. On Sunday night of the following week, Chanukah candles will be lit for the last time this year.
The Impact of the Miracle of Chanukah Until Today
During the days of Chanukah, there are several laws and customs observed throughout the Jewish nation out of praise and thanksgiving to Hashem commemorating the miracles He performed for our ancestors during the Second Temple era.
At that time, the spiritual and material state of the Jewish nation was quite dismal as they were being viciously persecuted by the Assyrian-Greeks who controlled the Land of Israel. The Greeks imposed many decrees upon the Jewish nation in order to prevent them from observing the Torah and Mitzvot. There were likewise many Jews who joined the Hellenistic movement and began to behave completely like non-Jews.
Nevertheless, Hashem imbued the family of the Hashmonai High Priests with a mighty spirit and they led the Jewish nation in the path of Torah and Mitzvot. Although they were very few, Hashem caused the Greeks to fall at their hands and they were victorious over their enemies. They merited renovating the Bet Hamikdash and restoring the service of the Temple offerings amid purity. Hashem also performed the miracle of the single jug of oil which remained lit for an entire eight days. Were it not for the miraculous victory of the Hashmonai family, the Torah may have been, G-d-forbid, forgotten from the Jewish nation. Only as a result of these miracles was the Torah preserved for generations to come. It is for this reason that we are especially joyful and offer thanks to Hashem in unique ways in commemoration of the miracles Hashem performed for us during this time of year, so long ago.
There are many details regarding the laws and customs of Chanukah. Below are the primary points:
- The Mitzvah to light Chanukah candles
- Adding the “Al Ha’Nissim” text to the Amida prayer and Birkat Hamazon
- Reciting “Hallel” during Chanukah following Shacharit prayers
- Reading the Torah portions of the Nesi’im every day of Chanukah
- The prohibition to fast or eulogize during Chanukah
- The custom of women not to perform work while the Chanukah candles are lit
- Holding Chanukah parties/meals where words of Torah and fear of Heaven are spoken
- The custom to partake of dairy foods and/or sweet, fried foods
Being Meticulous Regarding Lighting Chanukah Candles
One should be extremely meticulous regarding the Mitzvah of kindling the Chanukah lights, for it is a very beloved Mitzvah since through it we publicize the miracle amid thanks to Hashem. Our Sages teach us (Shabbat 23b) that one who fulfills this Mitzvah properly will merit having children who are Torah scholars. They derived this from the verse (Mishlei 6), “For a Mitzvah is a candle and Torah is light” where Rashi explains that through a candle associated with a Mitzvah (i.e. Chanukah candles) the light of Torah emanates. The Meiri further elaborates that this means that this Mitzvah must be done in a beautified and loving manner.
The Amount of Candles One Should Light
How many candles must one light on the holiday of Chanukah? According to the law, one candle per Jewish household is sufficient, whether the members of the household are few or many. However, it is customary to beautify the Mitzvah by adding one extra candle per night, such that on the last night one would be lighting eight candles (excluding the “Shamash” candle; some Syrian communities have the custom to two additional candles each night of Chanukah, one as the “Shamash” and one commemorating an unrelated miracle that they experienced).
The custom of the Sephardic and Middle Eastern Jews is in accordance with the opinion of Maran, whose rulings we have accepted, that only one member of the household lights and thus exempts the other members of the household. Ashkenazim, however, differ in their custom in that every member of the household lights Chanukah candles for themselves.