CHANUKA & ITS CUSTOMS - JCC Montreal
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12 Dec CHANUKA & ITS CUSTOMS

Chanuka commences on the 25th of Kislev and continues for 8 days.

  • During this period, one doesn’t fast or carry out any eulogies except for a Torah scholar in his presence.
  • The mitzvah of lighting candles is obligatory upon all of us. Every household should have atleast one candle burning every night.
  • The custom is to use olive oil for the Chanuka menorah. If olive oil cannot be found, then regular oil can be used, provided it is Kosher certified.
  • Some people use candles to carry out the mitzvah
  • Enough oil or a long enough candle should be placed in the Menorah to last atleast ½ hour after nightfall.
  • If many menorahs are being lit in the household, one should ensure that these are separate from each other.
  • All the candles or wicks should be on the same level, none lower, or higher than the other. It should also be set up in a straight row and not in a circle.
  • For those who use wicks and oil, any leftover oil in the Menorah or used wicks, should be destroyed after Chanuka, as one may not derive benefit from them. Unused oil remaining in the bottle may be used for any purpose.
  • It is customary to have an additional candle, called the ‘shamas’ which is used to kindle the Chanuka lights. One should position it, higher than the other candles. The Shamas may not be lit from the other candles
  • One cannot derive any benefit from the lights of the Chanuka candles
  • As the Mitzvah of Chanuka is ‘pirsuma nisa’-publicizing the great miracles that happened, it is best to light the menorah in the presence of all household members.
  • On the first night of Chanuka, 3 Brachot are said ‘LeHadlik Ner shel Chanuka’, ‘She’asah Nisim la’Avosainu’ and ‘Shehecheyanu’. On the remaining seven nights, only ‘LeHadlik Ner shel Chanuka’, ‘She’asah Nisim la’Avosainu’ are said.
  • On the first night, one places the candle on the extreme right of the Menorah (diagram 1) and each night thereafter, one adds a candle to the left (diagram 2), lighting from left to right (diagram 3), with the additional candle of that night, being lit first.

 

  • The Blessings should all be said prior to lighting the candles and one should not speak from the time of making the Brachot until the end of candlelighting.
  • Some light the Menorah at sunset, some light 10 minutes after sunset and there are those that light ½ hour after sunset. Others wait until after the Ma’ariv evening service and light after nightfall.
  • On Friday evening, prior to the onset of Shabbat, one should ensure that enough oil/candles are placed in the Menorah, in order that they should burn until atleast ½ hour after nightfall. The Chanuka candles should be lit prior to the Shabbat candles.
  • On Motzei Shabbat, some light the Chanuka candles prior to the Havdala, others do it after Havdala.
  • Once the candles have been lit, the custom is that women do not carry out any work during the first half hour that the candles are burning, cooking is permitted.
  • During Chanuka, we say the full Hallel every morning during the Shacharit service, praising Hashem for the great miracles bestowed upon us.
  • During Shmonei Esrei and Birkat Hamazon, we add the prayer of Al HaNisim.
  • It is customary for children to play dreidel (spinning the Chanuka top) and to receive Chanuka gelt . The letters on the dreidel are ‘nun’, ‘gimmel’, ‘hey’, ‘shin’ or ‘pey’ indicating that a great Nes (miracle) happened here or there (Israel).
  • It is customary to eat dairy foods, as Yehudit, the daughter of Yochanan Kohen Gadol (High  Priest) was taken by the Greek ruler, who wished to defile her. She gave him cheese, causing him to be thirsty, and then wine, which caused him to get drunk, whereafter she killed him.
  • It is customary to eat food fried in oil (donuts, latkes, etc), commemorating the miracle of the Menorah.