Next Motzei Shabbos, December 24th we begin celebrating Chanukah, during which we make a concerted effort to bring mitzvah observance to its highest levels (i.e. “mehadrin min hamehadrin”). Let us take this opportunity to review a number of its laws:
- In the Amidah and Birchas haMazon we add `the paragraph of ‘Al HaNisim’. If it is forgotten, one does not repeat the tefilah.
- The ideal time for lighting the Chanukah candles is the time known as ‘tzais hakochavim - when the stars are visible,’ which is around 5:00 pm this time of year (approximately 25 minutes after sunset, according to many opinions). Lighting can certainly be done later, especially if that means the family will light the menorah together.
- If necessary, the lighting can be done anytime at night as long as there are people awake to participate in this mitzvah along with the person who is lighting. Similarly, if necessary, one can light even before sunset, from approximately 3:45 pm. An example of when we must light earlier than the ideal time is on Friday afternoon, when the Chanukah candles must be lit before the Shabbos candles.
- The Chanukah lights should burn for at least one half hour after tzais hakochavim. If one lights before the ideal time (e.g. at 4:00pm), the candles must still burn for a half hour after tzais hakochavim. Once again, the example of ErevShabbos comes to mind because once lit on Friday afternoon, the lights should continue to burn for at least 75 minutes.
- One should not derive benefit from any of the ChanukahNeiros (e.g. read by their light), except for the shamash. This is in stark contrast to the Shabbos candles which are intended to provide numerous benefits, including illumination.
- Once the proper time for lighting the Chanukah candles arrive, one should not eat much more than a light snack until after fulfillment of this mitzvah. Please note that there are certain circumstances under which one would be allowed to eat.
- The primary mitzvah is to light the neiros; thus, if they are lit and immediately thereafter they are accidentally extinguished, one does not need to relight them.
Have a great Shabbos and a Chanukah full of light.