Laws of Chanukkah

The Menorah that is used on Chanukkah should have branches that are of equal height and they should be arranged in a straight row. Like all mitzvos, there is significance in making the mitzvah beautiful. One should therefore endeavor to have a beautiful Menorah. If no Menorah is available one can still fulfill the mitzvah of lighting Chanukkah candles by placing candles/ cups of oil in a row.

It is ideal to use oil for lighting the Menorah. One can fulfill the mitzvah using candles. One cannot fulfill the mitzvah using an electric Menorah. If one is using oil there is an argument about using previously used wicks. Some prefer to use new wicks every night as it is more respectful while others maintain that a used wick actually burns better and is therefore preferable. Used wicks should not be disposed of in the regular fashion that one disposes waste. Because it was used for a mitzvah they should be disposed of with care. One can either burn the wicks or put them in a bag and then place the bag in the trash.

The prevalent custom outside of Israel is to light the Menorah indoors. The Menorah should be lit by the window that can be seen by the most people possible (this is not always the most convenient window). When lighting at one’s window one should light on the right side of the window (right side from the perspective of the one lighting the Menorah). However, if there is more than one person lighting the Menorah then it is best to place a space between each Menorah so that those outside can see clearly which night of Chanukkah is being celebrated.

One should light by their window even if they live in a high rise apartment. The assumption is that people from the street or people in other tall buildings will see the Menorah. When staying at a hotel on Chanukkah one’s lighting options become limited. To light at the window would be pointless because [most] hotels have blacked out windows.  To light inside near the doorway, which is the next best place, is usually very difficult as most hotel rooms open up to a narrow hallway with a bathroom on one side (can’t light there) and a closet on the other (safety hazard to light there). The best place to put the Menorah is in the area where the hall opens into the main room on the right side. If that is not feasible then lighting the Menorah anywhere in the room is fine.

If one is traveling on Chanukkah but some members of the family stay at home, one technically fulfills their obligation by having those at home light. The widespread custom is that even in such a scenario one lights wherever they are staying. In such a case, one must light before the members of one’s home are lighting. If one lights afterward one does not say the regular blessing on lighting.

As mentioned earlier, a husband and wife are one unit and only one Menorah is lit for both. That being the case, if one of the spouses will be arriving at a later time in the evening, there are two options. 1) The spouse can wait up for the other and light together. 2) The spouse who is at home can light at the appropriate time, thus fulfilling the obligation of both spouses. (In such a case, the spouse who is not at home should attempt, if possible, to hear someone else make the blessings over their own lighting.)

The appropriate time to light the Menorah is a matter of dispute. Some state that is should be lit at sunset, others argue that it should be lit at nightfall, and others suggest that a compromise be made and the candles should be lit in between, approximately 25 minutes after sunset. The most prevalent custom outside of Israel is to light at nightfall. The latest time to light the Menorah is at dawn. One may say a Bracha when lighting as long as it not yet dawn. If one missed a night of lighting, one can light the next night with a Bracha.

Even after the candles have burned for a half hour one should not extinguish them. However, if one is in a situation where there is a concern for a possible fire etc. they are allowed to extinguish the lights after 30 minutes.

The lights of the Menorah must burn for at least a half hour after nightfall. This is especially important to keep in mind on Friday afternoon when one lights the candles before candle lighting. Thus for example, in Baltimore on Friday, December 11th, 2020, Shabbos candle lighting time is 4:25 and nightfall is 5:27 PM, so one’s candles should be able to last for a little over an hour and a half (from before 4:25 PM through 5:57 PM). 

Laws of Lighting Candles Erev Yom Kippur

One is obligated to light two candles before Yom Kippur with the following two blessings: 1) Ba-ruch A-tah A-do-nai E-lo-hei-nu Me-lech ha-olam a-sher ki-deshanu be-mitz-vo-tav ve-tzvi-va-nu le-had-lik ner shel Yom Ha-Ki-pu-rim. 2) Ba-ruch A-tah Ado-nai E-lo-hei-nu Me-lech ha-o-lam she-he-che-ya-nu ve-ki-yi-ma-nu ve-hi-gi-ya-nu liz-man ha-zeh.

If one plans on driving to shul after lighting, one should state out loud that they are not accepting the holiness of the day through lighting the candles. They should also omit the 2nd blessing (shehechiyanu) and should say it in shul with the congregation. 

In addition to the regular holiday candles, a Yahrtzeit candle should be lit for those who say Yizkor. (One candle may be lit for all deceased family members.) 

A 25 hour candle should be lit from which to make Havdallah on after Yom Kippur. 

Some have a custom to light an additional candle for the household. 

 

Laws of Saying Selichos at Home

If one is unable to say Selichos at shul, they may say Selichos at home with the following caveats: 

  • One omits the 13 attributes of Hashem (Hashem, Hashem, Eil…) as well as the paragraph immediately preceding it (eil Melech). 
  • One omits the Aramaic passages found at the end of Selichos
  • One does not put their head down for Tachanun at home. 

If one is participating by Zoom, one may say the 13 attributes as well as the Aramaic passages but should not put their head down for Tachanun. 

Laws for Post-Tisha B’av

Usually the restrictions of the Nine Days continue through the day after Tisha B’av at midday. This year, because the day after Tisha B’av is Friday and we need to get ready for Shabbos, some of the restrictions do not apply. 

One may launder, cut hair, and bathe regularly starting Friday morning. If one will not have enough time on Friday, one may start Thursday night. 

One should not eat meat, drink wine, or listen to music until midday on Friday. In Baltimore, midday on Friday is at 1:13 PM. 

Laws of Tisha B’av

On Tisha Bav one is not supposed to do anything that can be seen as joyful.The following things are therefore forbidden:

– Eating and drinking (If one has any medical concerns please contact me before the fast)

– Intimacy

– Studying Torah that does not pertain to Tisha Bav

– Washing oneself in any way. This includes a prohibition against brushing one’s teeth. However, one may wash their fingers upon waking up. If one’s hands become dirty in any way, one can wash whatever part of their hand is dirty. If one wishes to bathe a child or wash dishes and their hands will get wet in the process it is permitted to do so.

  • This year, due to Coronavirus, if one is washing their hands after being in public etc., one may wash their entire hand regularly with soap. 

On Tisha Bav one may not wear leather shoes.

One should not greet others. If one is greeted they may respond.

One must sit on a low stool until Halachic midday, which in Baltimore will be at 1:13 PM on Tisha Bav.

One should not work for the first half of Tisha Bav. Ideally, one should not work the entire day.

There are some who sleep in a less comfortable fashion on the night of Tisha Bav. For example, if they normally sleep with two pillows they sleep with one. If they normally sleep with one pillow they sleep with none. If one can do so, it is a meaningful custom. If it will prevent them from sleeping and they will have a harder time fasting, or they have some condition which will make sleeping (or the next day) extremely uncomfortable, there is no need to do so.

The fast is over at 9:06 PM.

Purchasing Chameitz online during Chol Hamoed Pesach

It is of the utmost importance that people do not rush our local stores immediately after Pesach as this will cause crowding which we must avoid at all costs. In consultation with Rabbi Hopfer, head of the Baltimore Vaad HaRabbanim, he explained that one may, during Chol Hamoed Pesach, place an order for chameitz food with an online store or service, such as Instacart, to arrive after Pesach, provided that:

1) The store/ service does not charge the credit card upon ordering (Instacart does not charge until the food is purchased. A pending charge is okay).

2) The delivery time is well after Pesach, such as Friday morning, April 17th. This ensures that the food is not picked up on your behalf until after Pesach is over.

3) The store you are purchasing from is on this list of stores that one may shop in after Pesach – https://www.star-k.org/articles/wp-content/uploads/PostPesachStoreInfo2020.pdf

For example, using Instacart, one may place an order today from Wegman’s which includes Chameitz food. You must choose a time on Friday, April 17th, as delivery time. 

There are a number of local stores that have similar arrangements that allow for ordering now for after Pesach, such as Market Maven and Seven Mile Market. They can be found on the Jcovid website – www.Jcovid.com. Supporting local establishments is incredibly valuable at a time like this. 

If you have any questions please email me at [email protected]