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. However, 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 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.

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 this Friday, Shabbos candle lighting time is 4:31 PM and nightfall is 5:34 PM, so one’s candles should be able to last for a little over an hour and a half (from before 4:31 until 6:04 PM). 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.

Laws of Pesach – Digest #2

Probably the hardest area in the kitchen to kasher properly is the sink. The way to kasher the sink: One cannot kasher their sink unless it is made of stainless steel. 1) Do not use hot water in the sink for 24 hours prior to kashering. 2) Clean sink thoroughly. 3) Boil water. 3) Pour boiling water directly on every surface of one’s sink. Allowing the water to flow from one side of the sink to another does not suffice.

Refrigerator: All shelves and surfaces should be cleaned thoroughly. If it is difficult to clean shelve (due to ridges etc.) or it is an area which food touches directly (like a vegetable/fruit drawer) then one must line that area. Otherwise, no lining is necessary.

Any chameitz food that needs refrigeration should ideally be finished before Pesach. If that is not practical, one must place the food in a specific area and cover it in a way that is not so easy to access the food.

One should clean the entire stove top area thoroughly. The way to kasher the burners is as follows:

Electric – The burners should be lit until they glow red.

Gas – Turn stove top on for five minutes. The grates should be placed inside the oven with the oven at a high heat for forty minutes. The burner pans should be kashered, either in the same fashion as the grates/ by covering them with foil/ or the same way you kasher the sink.

Corning – Put the stove on the maximum setting for ten minutes.

In the stove tops listed above, one should either lightly blow-torch the area between the burners or the area must be covered (foil is a safe cover to use).

Glass top – One should put the burners on high and pour hot water over the other areas. Even after kashering, if one has a glass top stove, one should not place any food or pots in between the burners over Pesach.

Whether one can properly kasher microwaves and dishwashers for Pesach are a matter of much debate. I would therefore highly discourage doing so. There are those who rule leniently in this matter and therefore if someone feels like they need to have their microwave or dishwasher, please follow up with me via email/ call for the details as to how to do so.

Kashering ovens for Pesach –

In a regular oven one must clean all surfaces (including thermostat, window, corners, door edges, etc.). One should use a caustic cleaner such as Easy-Off to remove spots that are difficult to remove. If one uses Easy-Off twice and the spot still does not come off one need not worry about it. After cleaning the oven and racks thoroughly one should set the oven to its highest setting for 40 minutes. The broiler pan cannot be kashered but should still be cleaned thoroughly or removed.

In a self clean oven one must remove all visible food and set oven for self-clean with racks inside.

As with all kashering the oven may not be used for 24 hours prior to kashering.