Halacha Club

Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, Rabbi Shlomo Ganzfried

Chapter 139 : Laws of Chanukah


During the Second Temple, the Greek empire reigned (over Israel), 1 and they (the Greeks) passed decrees against the Jews and (tried) to erase their religion, and did not allow them to carry out Torah (study) or the commandments. They put their hands on their property and their daughters. They entered the Temple, destroyed and made the pure unclean. The Jews were in great distress because of them and were much oppressed, until the G-d of their fathers had mercy on them, delivering them from their hands and saving them. Then overcame, the sons of the Hasmonean High Priest, (the Greeks) and killed them and saved the Jews from their hands. They appointed a king from the Priests, and the kingdom of Israel was restored for more than 200 years until the destruction of (the) second (Temple). When the Jews overcame their enemies and destroyed them, it was the 25th of Kislev (139 B.C.E.) when they entered the Sanctuary (inner room) and did not find pure (olive) oil in the Temple, except one jar sealed with seal of the High Priest, and it did not contain enough to light except for one day only. But they lit from it the lamps of the Menorah 2 for eight days, until they could crush olives and produce a (new quantity) of pure oil. For these reasons, decreed the Sages of that generation that these eight days that begin on the 25th Kislev, will be days of joy and praise. One lights on them lamps at evening at the entrance to the houses, every evening of the eight nights to show off and demonstrate the miracle. These days are called "Hanukah" that is to say "they rested" (chanu) on the "25" ('th of the month) because on the 25th they rested from their enemies. and also because of those days they (re)-dedicated the house (Temple) which their foes had defiled. Also some say that it is a commandment to increase slightly the festive meals on Hanukah. Another reason is because the work of (building) the Sanctuary (in the desert) was completed in these days. One should tell one's children the story of the miracles that were done for our fore-fathers in those days, (see Josephus) However, these meals are not considered as part of the commandment unless one says at the meal songs of praise. One should increase charity in these Hanukah days, for this can help mend any defects in our souls. This charity, should be given particularly to poor Torah scholars.

  1. 352 B.C.E until 70 C.E.
  2. The Menorah was made of gold and had seven branches.


One does not fast during the days of Hanukah, but on the day before and the day after one can speak at a funeral or fast.


On Hanukah it is allowed to do work

1 but women are accustomed not to do work all the time the candles are lit, 2 and one should not be lenient about this. The reason why women are stricter about this (than men) is because the decrees (of the Greeks) were harsher on the Jewish women. (For) they decreed that a virgin to be married must first have relations with the (Greek) governor. Further, because of the miracle that was done by a women (Yehudit), the daughter of (Yochanan) the High Priest, who was very beautiful. The enemy king asked her to sleep with him, and she said she would agree to his request. She then fed him dishes of cheese produce so that he would become thirsty and drink (much) wine, become drunk and fall asleep, and this did happen. She (then) cut off his head (while he was asleep) and brought it to Jerusalem. When the head of the (Greek) army saw that the king was dead, they (the head and his troops) fled. Therefore some have the custom of eating dairy dishes on Hanukah. to remember the miracle which was done through dairy (dishes).
  1. That would be forbidden on Shabbat or a festival.
  2. A minimum time of 30 minutes.


All (types) of oil are valid for the Hanukah lights. However, the commandment is best carried out using olive oil, just like the miracle in the Temple that was with olive oil. If (olive oil) is not available, one should choose any oil that gives a pure and clean light, or wax candles that also give a pure light. Two (candles) should not be joined together because this resembles a torch (or fire), rather each candle should be separate. One should not use (candles) from idol worshippers temples, because (these) are considered repulsive (disgusting). Similarly, all kinds of wicks are valid for the Hanukah light, (but) the preferable way to carry out the commandment is with cotton (wicks). One does not need new wicks each night, but can relight the original ones until they are burnt up.


If one lit an earthenware light, because after being lit for one light it already becomes old, and so one does not (want) to light this on the second night because it (already looks) disgusting, and so one should have an attractive menorah made from some kind of metal. One who can afford it should buy a silver menorah, to carry out the commandment in a beautiful way.


It is generally accepted in our countries

1 that the most scrupulous practice 2 is for each one in a household to light on the first night one candle. On the second (night) two candles, and so they add, until on the eigth night they are lighting eight. One should be careful that each person has their own special place for their candles, so that they will see how many candles each has lit. They should not light in a place where candles are lit during the rest of the year, so that it is obvious these are Hanukah lights.
  1. This is the area around Hungary where Rabbi Shlomo Gantzfried, the compiler of the Kitzur, lived in the late 19th century.
  2. In Talmud times, the ordinary people lit one candle per night per household, more strict people would have a menorah and light an extra candle each night, and only the most scrupulous would have a menorah for each member of the household.


The commandment of Hanukah lights (is fulfilled) by lighting in the entrance next to the street because of (the requirement) to publicise the miracle. This was how it was done in the time of the Mishna and Gemara.

1 At this time, when we live among the gentiles, one lights inside the house where one lives, 2 if there is a window that looks out to the street one lights there. If not, one lights by the entrance (inside). It is a commandment to place them within a hand-breadths 3 of the entrance left side, so that the mezuzah is on the right and the Hanukah lights on the left, making one surrounded by commandments. It is preferable to place them between the doorposts.
  1. As is done in Israel today, with Hanukah candles outside in a glass box.
  2. The custom of lighting inside may have developed due to the windy weather in Europe and North America, or due to fear of anti-semitism, or of being stolen.
  3. Between 8 and 10cm or 3 to 4 inches.


It is a commandment to place them (at least) three hand-breadths above the ground, and below 10 hand-breadths. If one put them above 10 it is still valid, but if one put them more than 20 cubits

2 high it is invalid, because above 20 cubits one does not usually look. One who lives on an upper floor can put them by a window, even though it is higher than 10 hand-breadths. However, if the window is higher than 20 cubits from the public ground level, it is not within eyesight of passers-by on the street. In this case, it is better to put them by the doorway.
  1. A distance of less than 3 hand-breadths is halachicly considered as not existing. Over 10 hand-breadths is the normal height for the house lights so the Menorah would not stand out.
  2. One cubit is about 48 to 60cm or 20 to 24 inches.


The candles should be in one row at the same (height) not one higher and one lower. There should be a gap

1 from one candle to the (next) candle, so that the flame of one does not approach to the next one and make (it look like) a torch 2 (bonfire). Candles made (from) (bees)wax should be separated, so that they do not heat up each other causing the wax to melt and (the candles) to be ruined. (If) one filled a dish with oil and placed wicks round it, (then) if one covers it with a (perforated) cover 3 so that each wick is considered as an individual candle. If it was not covered by this cover even as one candle it is invalid, because they look like a torch. A lamp with two or more openings should not be lit by two people, even on the first night, because it is not obvious how many candles (each) is lighting.
  1. The width of a thumb, about 2.24 to 2.48 cm or 0.885 to 0.98 inches.
  2. Having two or more flames together and so invalid for the commandment of Hanukah lights.
  3. A cover which has a separate hole for each wick.


The time to light them is immediately after the appearance of (three) stars and no later. It is forbidden to do anything before lighting them even (Torah) learning. But if one has not yet prayed the evening service one should (first) pray and after that light. Before one lights, one gathers together all the members of ones household, in order to publicise the lighting. One needs to put (enough) oil to (enable them) to stay alight at least half an hour. After the event, if one did not light immediately, one can light with a blessing all the time that the household members are still awake but after the household members are asleep, there is no publicizing of the miracle, and one lights without a blessing. If one did not have the oppurtunity to light at night, one can make it earlier and light from "Plug Hamincha" 1 or later, that is to say 1 hour and a quarter before the (first) appearance of the stars. (these are seasonal hours according to the length of the day. 2 On the days of Hanukah, the days are short, and the length of the day is 10 normal hours, then "Plug Hamincha" is 1 hour and two minutes רגעים (minutes) 3 and a half.) as long as one puts enough oil so that they stay alight until half an hour after the appearance of (three) stars. If they do not stay alight this long, the commandment has not been fulfilled.

  1. This is the latest time for saying the afternoon service.
  2. A "seasonal hour" is one twelfth of the time between dawn and the appearance of the stars. Some authorities say between sunrise and sunset. See Ch. 69:2}
  3. The Kitzur uses the yiddish word "minuten" and then gives the hebrew word in brackets.


The order of lighting them according to our custom is: On the first night one lights the candle to ones right. On the second night one adds to this (another) candle on its left. Similarly, on each night one adds (a candle) on its left. The one that one adds is lit first, and then continue on lighting to the right.


On the first night the one who lights should bless, before lighting, three blessings: "...to light the light of Hanukah", "...who worked miracles for our fathers..." and "...who has kept us in life..." and on the rest of the nights one does not say "who has kept us in life". After saying the blessings one lights one candle, and while lighting the others one says "We light these lights on account of the miracles..." etc. A convert says "who worked miracles for Israel" and if he says "for our fathers" it is valid. An "onen"

1 , Heaven have mercy on him, if there is another (present) then the other lights with the blessings and the "onen" responds Amen. If there is no other present, he should light (himself), but without the blessings.
  1. One who has lost a close relative, and the funeral has not yet taken place. See also Ch. 196.


Carrying out the (act of) lighting performs the commandment, that is to say, the lighting is the commandment. (So) at the time of lighting the candles need to be in the right place and having enough (oil). In contrast, if one lit below three hand-breadths or above twenty 1 cubits, and afterwards, when they are alight, put them into the (correct) location, this is invalid. Also, if at the time of lighting, there was not enough oil (to stay alight the required time) and afterwards added (oil) it does not help. Also, if one put them in place of much wind, where they will likely be blown out, one has not carried out the commandment and must light them again, but without blessing. However, if one put them in a proper place and by accident they went out, the commandment has been fulfilled. In any event, the custom is to relight them (if they go out). It is customary not to light one candle from (another already lit) candle, rather light from the "shamash" 2 or from another (ordinary) candle.

  1. The Hebrew text in some editions says 4 cubits but this is probably a printer's error, putting "daled" instead of "chuf".
  2. This is an extra candle, just used for lighting the Hanukah lights, and has a separate place on the menorah.


All the time of the commandment, namely half an hour, it is forbidden to have benefit from their light, therefore it is customary to put by them the "shamash" that was used for lighting, so that if one did some activity by them one is using the light of the "shamash". One needs to place it slightly higher than the (other) lights, so that it is obvious it is not one of the (Hanukah) candles.


The Hanukah candles are lit in the synagogue to publicize the miracle and one blesses over them. They are placed against the south wall and lit between the afternoon and evening (services). A person does not fulfill (the commandment) by the lights in the synagogue, but needs to go and light in his home. One who is a mourner 1 , Heaven forbid, should not light the first night in the synagogue, because one would have to say "who has kept us in life", and a mourner should not say "who has kept us in life" in public, but, in his home, he can bless "who has kept us in life".

  1. For a parent within 12 months after the death, or for a wife, brother, sister, son or daughter within the first 30 days after the death.


Women are obligated to (light) Hanukah lights, because they were (also) part of the same miracle. A women can (therefore) light for her household. A child who has reached the (age of) training

1 also is obligated. A blind person, if he can join to another בפרוטה מוטב by (paying even as little as) a "perutah" 2 (to have a share in the candles or oil) should do so. If he has a wife, she lights for him (and he responds amen to her blessing). If he has no wife and lives (alone) in an appartment, where he has no one he can join in with, he should light (himself) with the help of some one else.
  1. Training in carrying out commandments.
  2. A "perutah" was the lowest value coin in Talmudic times.


On Friday afternoon one lights first the Hanukah lights, and after that the Shabbat lights, however, it must be after "Plug Hamincha", (so) one should pray first the afternoon service. There needs to be (enough) oil so that they stay alight up to half an hour after the appearance of the stars, and if one did not do so this is considered a blessing (said) in vain. If one lit in the doorway, one needs to be careful and place something between them and the door, so that they are not extinguished by the wind on opening and closing the door.


On out Shabbat (one first) makes the Havdolah "who makes a distinction" prayers, and then lights Hanukah candles.

1 In the synagogue one (should) light before (saying) "And G-d give you of the dew of heaven"
  1. Some authorities hold the reverse.


One who is not at home, but in another place, if he knows that his wife is lighting at his home, he should light at that place, but without the blessings. 1 It is preferable, if possible, that he should listen first to the blessings of someone (else) who is lighting there, and intend to fulfil his obligation from that ones blessings and respond Amen. And afterwards light without blessings. If his wife does not light at his home, and also (for) students in (a household where they are lodging, (they both) need to light with the blessings. Or, they may join in with the head of the household by giving him (even as little as) a "Peruta", so that they also have a share in the oil and wicks. The head of the household should add a little (more) oil, above the normal amount, (to allow) for their shares. However, they should do their best to light each one by himself. One who is in his own city, but in another house, when the time comes to light, should return to his (own) home and light (there).

  1. He can make a condition that he is not covered by his wife's lighting at home, then he can say the blessings as well.


The oil that remains (unburnt) in the menorah after Hanukah, and also the (used) wicks, should be made into a bonfire and burnt, because they have been set aside for this commandment and it is forbidden to have any (other) benefit from them, unless one made the condition from the beginning that they are not (to be considered as) set aside, whatever will be left over.

  1. This only applies to oil or wicks which have actually been used, not to those set aside or purchased for Hanukah ut not used in the end.


During all the eight days of Hanukah, we say in the Amidah "For the miracles". If one forgot and did not say this, (then) if one remembered before saying (G-d's) name in the blessing "Whose Name is all-good" etc. one returns and starts (again) with "For the miracles", but if one did not remember until after saying (G-d's) name, one finishes the blessing and does not return.


During all the eight days of Hanukah (we say) the complete Hallel. We do not say the supplications (Tachanun), nor the "O G-d slow to anger" (prayer), nor (Psalm 20) "For the Chief Musician. A Psalm of David" nor (on Shabbat) "Your righteousness".


Three men read (in the Torah) each day, from the offerings of the princes in Parshat Naso, On the first day we begin (for) the Cohen from (Numbers 7:1) "and it was on the day that Moshe had finished setting up" up to "for the dedication of the altar". For Levi (Numbers 7:12) "and the one that offered on the first day" etc. up to "full of incense". For Yisrael (Numbers 7:15) "one young bullock" etc. up to "the son of Aminadav". On the second day (we read) for Cohen and (then repeat) for Levi (Numbers 7:18) "On the second day" etc. and for Yisrael (Numbers 7:24) "On the third day" etc. Similarly, on the rest of the days for Cohen and Levi (we say the section) connected to that day and for Yisrael (the section) for the day after that. On the eighth day for Cohen and Levi (Numbers 7:54) "On the eighth day", for Yisrael we start (Numbers 7:60) "On the ninth day", finish all the Parasha and also in Parshat Beha'alotecha (we read) up to (Numbers 8:4) "so he made the menorah".


On the Shabbat during Hanukah, we take out two Sifrei Torah, in the first we read the (regular) portion for (that) week, in the second (we read) for Maftir (the offering of the princes which corresponds to) that day of Hanukah. The Haftorah is (Zechariah 2:14) "Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion". If there is another Shabbat (during Hanukah), 1 the Haftorah is (I Kings 7:40) (which refers to) the Menorot of King Solomon. On the New Moon of Tevet which occurs on a weekday, we take out two Sifrei Torah. In one we call up three men for the (normal) New Moon reading, and afterwards the fourth (person reads) in the second Sefer Torah (the offering of the princes which corresponds to) that day of Hanukah. Because New Moon comes more often, and the principle is that when we have a more frequent and a less frequent (event), the more frequent comes first, and so we put the New Moon (reading) first. If a mistake was made and they began to read (the portion) for (the day of) Hanukah, even if they have not yet started to read, but the person called up (the Oleh) has already blessed, we don't need to stop, rather the Oleh finishes his reading (for that day of Hanukah), and afterwards we call up the remaining (three) for (the reading of) the New Moon. If the first (call-up) read for the New Moon correctly, but the fourth made a mistake and also read for the New Moon, even if they realised (the mistake) immediately after the Oleh blessed, if only one Sefer Torah had been taken out, there is no need to (call up another to) read more. However, if two Sefrei Torah were taken out, there is a concern that (people might think) there was a defect in the (second) Sefer Torah. So that they don't say it is defective, we need to read in it, (with) a fifth person, the Hanukah portion. After the fifth (person has read) we say Half Kaddish.

  1. This only happens if the first day of Hanukah was on a Shabbat as well.


When the New Moon of Tevet falls on Shabbat, we take out three Sifrei Torah. In the first, six people are called up to read the (normal) weekly portion, in the second, the seventh (person) (reads the portion) for the New Moon, starting from "and on the Sabbath day"

1 then Half Kaddish is said. In the third, the Maftir (reads the portion) for that day of Hanukah, and the Haftorah is "Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion". Even though we have the principle of the more frequent (event) comes first, 2 this only applies when reading from the Sefer Torah for two things, but with the Haftorah which is only read by one, that of the New Moon is superseded, and we read the (Haftorah of) Hanukah in order to publicize the miracle.
  1. See Ch. 78:1 and Ch. 79:1 for more details.
  2. Which would mean saying the New Moon Haftorah rather than the Hanukah Haftrorah.


The fifteen of Shevat is the New Year for trees. We do not say supplications (on this day), and it is the custom (to eat) many different varieties of fruits.