Navigating the delicate moments on Friday afternoon of Chanukah
1. When should one daven Mincha on erev Shabbos?
Preferably, one should daven Mincha before lighting the menorah. This is the same sequence of events as in the Holy Temple, where the menorah was lit after the afternoon offering. If this is not possible, one may daven Mincha after lighting the menorah. According to some opinions, a special effort should be made to daven Mincha before lighting when the first day of Chanukah is on Shabbos. This is because of a doubt if one should say “al haNissim” during the Amidah of Mincha once one has already lit the menorah. If this situation arises, one should not say “al haNissim.”
2. Is it preferable to daven Mincha with a minyan after lighting the menorah, or to daven alone before lighting?
It is better to daven with a minyan after lighting.
3. When should the menorah be lit on erev Shabbos?
It should be lit before kindling the Shabbos lights.
4. Why is this the correct order?
When a person kindles the Shabbos lights he usually accepts Shabbos at that time and is forbidden to do any creative activity (melacha). It would therefore be forbidden to light the menorah after the Shabbos lights.
5. What if one mistakenly kindled the Shabbos lights first?
A woman certainly may not kindle the menorah after the Shabbos lights, since she has accepted Shabbos. A man who kindles Shabbos lights (e.g. lives alone, wife is away) usually does not accept Shabbos at that time. Therefore, if he mistakenly kindled the Shabbos lights first, he should light the menorah afterwards (provided it is still before sunset). If he had in mind to accept Shabbos when kindling the Shabbos lights, he too would be forbidden to light the menorah.
6. Is there any way to light the menorah after accepting Shabbos?
One may ask another person to light the menorah on his behalf, provided that the other person has not accepted Shabbos and it is still before sunset.
7. Who should recite the blessings in this situation?
The one who lights should recite the first blessing (l’hadlik ner shel Chanukah) and the owner of the menorah may recite the second blessing (and She’he’cheyanu on the first night).
8. Should the husband light the menorah before the wife kindles the Shabbos lights?
Yes. Since the menorah is lit also on behalf of the wife, it should be kindled before she accepts Shabbos.
9. Should the wife kindle the Shabbos lights only after all the Chanukah lights have been lit?
Ideally yes, but if time is short she may kindle the Shabbos lights as soon as her husband has kindled one Chanukah light.
10. If other menorahs are also to be lit (e.g. by children, visitors) should the wife wait until all have been lit?
No, she may kindle the Shabbos lights as soon as her husband has lit his menorah.
11. If the husband is not ready to light the menorah and time is short, should the wife kindle the Shabbos lights first?
Yes. The husband may still light the menorah afterwards, provided it is still before sunset. The same applies if the wife mistakenly kindled the Shabbos lights first.
12. What is the optimal time for lighting the menorah on erev Shabbos?
The Shabbos lights should be lit at the usual time (in America, for instance, 18 minutes before sunset), preceded by the Chanukah lights.
In Jerusalem, the custom throughout the year is to kindle the Shabbos lights 40 minutes before sunset, but on erev Shabbos Chanukah they are lit 25 minutes before sunset after the lighting of the menorah. (Some Jerusalem families kindle the Shabbos lights at the usual time, preceded by the Chanukah lights.)
13. What is the earliest time for lighting the menorah?
The earliest time is plag haMincha. This is 11/4 “seasonal hours” before sunset. (In Jerusalem, plag haMincha during Chanukah is approximately 60 minutes before sunset.)
14. What if a person lit a menorah before this time?
He has not fulfilled his obligation. The menorah should be extinguished and relit at the correct time. The blessings must be repeated.
15. Until when must the lights burn?
The lights must be capable of burning until 30 (seasonal) minutes after nightfall. Therefore, one must be especially careful on erev Shabbos to use sufficient oil or long candles that can burn until this time. If the menorah can only contain a small amount of oil or small candles, an alternative should be used on erev Shabbos.
16. Must children also use long candles?
According to some opinions, one should train children to perform the mitzvah exactly as adults do. Therefore, they should preferably use long candles (e.g. Shabbos candles) on erev Shabbos, instead of the standard Chanukah candles.
17. Must all the lights burn this long?
Ideally, all the lights should be capable of burning for this length of time. In extenuating circumstances, it is sufficient to use one long candle or one larger cup of oil.
18. What if one or more of the lights go out?
If it is still before sunset and he has not yet accepted Shabbos, he should relight it without a blessing.
If he has accepted Shabbos, he should ask another person who has not accepted Shabbos to light it for him.
If it is already sunset, nothing can be done. The obligation has been fulfilled even if all the lights go out.
19. Where should the menorah be placed?
The menorah should be put in the usual position. However, extra care must be taken to avoid winds and drafts from doors and windows. It is forbidden on Shabbos to open a door or window that will cause a flame to go out or flicker significantly.
20. If one lights outside, may the menorah be brought indoors after all the lights have been extinguished?
No, the menorah is muktzeh and may not be moved. If a person is afraid that it may be stolen he should not use an expensive menorah on erev Shabbos. One may use simple cups for oil or line up a row of candles.
21. If the menorah is placed on a object (e.g. chair, table, tray), may the object be moved with the menorah on it?
No, the object is also muktzeh.
22. If an item that is not muktzeh was also placed on the object before Shabbos, can the object be moved?
No, even in this situation the object is muktzeh and cannot be moved.
23. May the menorah be brought inside in an unusual way?
Yes, one may hold it in an unusual way, e.g. between one’s arms. This is permitted only if there is no prohibition of carrying, e.g. if there is an eruv, or the menorah is inside a private enclosed yard.
Excerpted from”Guidelines” – more than 200 commonly asked questions about Chanukah (Targum/Feldheim).
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