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    Lighting in
    Public Places
    Chanukah lights
    are kindled in
    most shuls.
    This has also expanded to public
    Chanukah lightings in many
    cities throughout the world.
    There is also a large Chanukah lighting in the White House, attended by
    many officials.
    In addition, people light candles at
    Chanukah parties in halls and at weddings. In this issue we will discuss
    why there is a custom to light in shul
    and the halachos related to that practice, and then discuss public lightings.
    Is there a source for it, and should a
    berachah be recited?
    The Origin
    At the time of the miracle of Chanukah, there was no widespread custom to light the menorah, even in the
    home. ChanukahIt was established as
    days of joy and happiness, and candles were only lit in the Beais Hamikdaosh in front of the public. When the
    Jews were exiled they enacted to light
    candles outside. Eventually, people lit
    inside because of danger. It was instituted to light in shul, which is comparable to the lighting in the Beais
    Source – Chanukah Lighting in
    The requirement to light Chanukah
    candles is limited to the home. If one
    does not have a home there is no obligation to light. However, there is still
    a custom to light in shul, which is no
    one’s home.
    The custom to light Chanukah lights
    in shul is not mentioned in the Gemaorah, although it is mentioned by Rishonim, and many follow this custom.
    This also applies to a Babeis Memidrash designated for learning.
    There are a number of reasons given
    as to why we light Chanukah lights in
    1. It is for guests who do not have a
    home, just as Kiddush in shul on Friday night was enacted for guests.
    2. It is in order to publicize the
    miracle of Chanukah, known as pirsumei nisah. The Gra compares it to the
    recital of Hallel at the Pesach sSeder,
    which serves to publicize the miracle.
    3. The candles are lit in shul in
    order to exempt those who lack the
    knowledge or motivation to light
    candles on their own. Some question
    this reasoning; why should we light
    for those not motivated? Guests can
    contribute to the lighting of the homeowner, and those who do not have a
    place to stay are exempt. In addition,
    perhaps that is what Chanukah is all
    about, to bring people closer to Judaism with the lighting.
    4. Another reason given is a remembrance for the Beais Hamikdoash. A
    shul is like a small Beais Hamikdaosh, so we light Chanukuah candles
    there as a remembrance of the lighting in the Beais Hamikdaosh.
    5. The Rivash maintains that we
    light in shul because in our homes
    we light indoors (outside of Eretz
    Yisraoel), which limits the extent of
    publicizing the miracle. Therefore,
    we light in shul to make up for this
    It seems that most poskim assume
    that the reason for the custom is to
    publicize the miracle.
    Others say since we light in our
    homes there is no need to have lights
    in shul. However, this is not the overwhelming custom.
    Some have the custom not recite a berachah on the lighting in shul in Eretz
    Yisraoel. Since the custom there is to
    place the Chanukah menorah outside,
    this obviates one of the main reasons
    for lighting in shul.
    It is questionable if one should light in
    a hotel that is rented out for Chanukah
    and has a room reserved for davening.
    Berachah and Questions
    Many poskim debate whether or not
    to recite a berachah on lighting in
    shul. Some question how we can we
    make a berachah if it is not mentioned
    in the Gemaorah (see above).
    Some argue that no berachah is recited on a custom, such as the custom of
    aravos on Hoshanah Rabbah.
    One response is that candle lighting in shul is like Hallel on Rosh
    Chodesh which is a custom, and the
    Ashkenazim still recite a berachah on
    it. However, the Sephfardim do not
    recite a berachah on hHallel on Rosh
    Chodesh but still recite a berachah on
    Chanukah lighting. This is especially
    odd since the Shulchan Aruch himself
    rules that no berachah is recited on
    Hallel of Rosh Chodesh and a berachah is recited in shul on Chanukah.
    One answer is that lighting in shul is
    not a separate custom, but rather an
    extension of the main mitzvah. This
    logic also applies to the berachah on
    Hallel of Rosh Chodesh, since reciting Hallel is generally done for mitzvah purposes. This also explains how
    we say “v’tzivanu,” since we were
    commanded to perform the main
    Others argue that the custom of Chanukah lighting in shul is different
    since it serves to publicize the miracle, as opposed to other customs.
    As mentioned above, the Gra compares the berachah in shul to the berachah recited for Hallel in shul on the
    first two nights of Pesach. The same
    answer above regarding Hallel on
    Rosh Chodesh would apply to Hallel
    on Pesach night in shul.
    The consensus is to recite a berachah.
    When to Light
    The custom is to light the Chanukah
    menorah in shul between mMinchah
    and mMa’ariv. This is when everyone is present, and if we would wait
    until after mMa’ariv people would
    be delayed in getting home to light.
    Another reason is that since the menorah in the Beais Hamikdaosh was
    lit before sunset, we light then as
    well. The menorah was lit in the Beais
    Hamikdaosh after the korbaon shel
    ben ha’arbayim which corresponds to
    mMinchah. Therefore, we light after
    This applies even if one’s custom is to
    light at home after dark.
    Another reason is that the crowd
    is considered a tzibbur when they
    gather to daven in shul. However, after mMa’ariv when they are leaving
    they do not have a status of a tzibbur.
    Based on this, if people stay between
    mMinchah and mMa’ariv the menorah should be litn one should light
    then. However, if people leave after
    and then return later for mMa’ariv,
    the Chanukah menorah should be lit
    before mMa’ariv.
    One only lights at the first minyan and
    not at subsequent minyanim.
    By Day
    The practice exists to light the Chanukah lights in shul by day as well.
    None of the main sources mention
    this custom, and the reasons offered
    above only apply to night, not the
    morning. Some suggest that this is in
    remembrance of the mMenorah in the
    Beais Hamikdaosh, which was lit by
    day. Others argue that this publicizes
    the miracle, as the light does not serve
    any practical purpose other than the
    Another reason offered for lighting
    by day is that at night one generally
    does not have the candles lit for more
    than a half hour (see below). To make
    up for this, we relight candles in the
    In any case the custom is that no berachah is recited in the morning.
    Erev Shabbos
    On Erev Shabbos, one should make
    sure to light the Chanukah menorah
    in shul after everyone has arrived and
    davened mMinchah. However, the
    custom is that there is no need to wait
    for a minyan to light, since people
    will eventually come. Therefore, we
    light before mMinchah, especially if
    it is late. There is no concern of lighting for Shabbos followed by a weekday davening, as the lighting simply
    serves to publicize the miracle to the
    masses. Nonetheless, this should be
    avoided if possible.
    The above discussion is based on the
    opinion that a minyan is not required
    for the lighting. Those who do require
    a minyan would not allow the early
    lighting if no minyan is present.
    Minyan Convenes Only on Shabbos
    Even if a shul is only open for Shabbos davening the candles are lit there
    on Friday.
    Motza’ei Shabbos
    On Motza’ei Shabbos one should
    make sure to have the Chanukah menorah lit before everyone leaves the
    shul (before hHavdalah, if hHavdalah
    is made in shul). The custom is to
    light it before reciting OAleinu. Some
    question what benefit it is to light on
    Motza’ei Shabbos since everyone
    leaves after mMa’ariv. However,
    since people can come back to shul
    when they want and see the candles,
    it is publicizing the miracle.
    Where to Place It
    There are differing opinions as to
    where to place the menorah in shul.
    Some maintain to place it in the south since that is
    where the mMenorah was in the
    Beais Hamikdaosh. It can
    be placed on a
    table near the
    southern wall.
    The custom is to
    place the menorah to the right
    of the aron kodesh, and the candles
    are arranged from east to west.
    The one who is lighting should have
    his back to the south and face to the
    Some question why we don’t light the
    Chanukah candles either outside or
    at least inside near the window.? The
    answer is that the custom originated
    from the fact that we used to light
    outside but then started to light inside due to some external factors. The
    lighting is for the people inside, and
    the same concept applies to the shul.
    Being Yotzei Your Lighting
    Although the custom is to light Chanukah candles in shul, one may not
    exempt histheir obligation to light at
    home with this lighting. One reason
    is that the candles in shul are lit before the correct time. Some suggest
    that the congregants have in mind
    not to fulfill the obligation of lighting
    candles. The one who lights in shul
    can recite sShehecheiyanu at home as
    well if he lights at home to exempt his
    Who Lights
    The custom is that the shliach tzibburatz lights at least one light on the menorah. If an avel davens mMinchah
    on Erev Chanukah then someone else
    should light since a sShehecheiyanu
    is recited. However, an avel can light
    on the other nights when there is no
    Shehecheiyanu recited.
    Some question why a guest does not
    light since one of the reasons for
    lighting in shul is for guests. In addition, since one of the reasons for
    lighting is as a remembrance to the
    Beais Hamikdaosh, why doesn’t a
    Kkohen light?
    Regardless, the custom seems that
    the shatz lights the menorah, or in
    some cases the Rrav. Some maintain
    that the shatz lights, since he serves
    in place of the Kkohen who offered
    During the lighting, the congregants
    should stand next to the menorah.
    Oil vs. Candles
    The custom in most places is to use
    candles for lighting the menorah in
    The poskim mention that a minyan
    should be present when lighting the
    Chanukah menorah in shul. This is
    usually not an issue during the week
    since we light between mMinchah
    and mMa’ariv. Those present do not
    have to actually be davening to be
    counted towards the ten people.
    Women and children can count towards the minyan in relation to this.
    The custom seems to be that we are
    not concerned about lighting only
    with a minyan.
    How Long Does iIt Have to Last
    The reality is that the menorah is
    lit in shul between mMinchah and
    mMa’ariv and then people leave. The
    question arises how long the lights
    should stay lit since it is not safe to
    leave the menorah unattended.
    The candles should last for a half
    hour, and if there is a safety concern
    then one may extinguish them after a
    half hour. Some base this on the reason that the candles are lit for guests
    who do not light; therefore, they must
    burn for a half hour. Some suggest
    that the lights stay lit until the last
    minyan for mMa’ariv has left, although this is not practiced.
    However, the custom is that the
    candles can be extinguished after
    mMa’ariv since the main reason
    for lighting in shul is to publicize
    the miracle for those present. In a
    shtieibel where the Rrav lives upstairs it usually is not extinguished
    since someone is around to check
    on the candles.
    It is common for a shtieibel to
    have many different rooms where
    minyanim take place. Some opine
    that every room which has an aron
    kodesh should make sure to have
    Chanukah lights lit. However, the
    custom is that only the main shul
    has the Chanukah lights lit.
    Electric Lights
    One does not fulfill his obligation
    with electric lights. Therefore, one
    should use regular lights in shul (oil
    or wax).
    Family Parties
    Many families attend Chanukah
    parties in a hall. Although some
    have the practice to recite a berachah on this lighting, it is frowned
    upon since the custom to light in
    shul was because it is a shul. This
    is particularly true according to the
    reasons that it is a remembrance of
    the Beais Hamikdaosh, and that it is
    like a Kiddush in shul.
    The same concern is true for weddings.
    Those who do recite a berachah at
    these parties follow the minority opinion that this is an act of publicizing
    the mitzvah as well, since many times
    people who come to these parties who
    are not familiar with the mitzvah per
    se and this is a chance to publicize the
    mitzvah. Nonetheless, it is preferable
    to daven mMa’ariv after the lighting
    at the party so it has a status of a quasi
    shul at least. Some permit it even if
    one does not daven there. Some maintain that even with davening no berachah should be recited.
    Public Lightings
    It has become popular to stage public
    menorah lightings during Chanukah.
    This is mainly practiced by Chabad.
    Many question doing this with a berachah since a berachah was only
    customarily said in a shul setting for
    reasons mentioned above. Even according to the Rivash that lighting in
    shul publicizes the miracle, we would
    not recite a berachah, as the shul lighting is supposed to replace the outside
    Perhaps the reason to motivate people
    would be a good reason for the public
    lightings (but this would not suffice
    for making a berachah at parties).
    Those poskim who do not allow a berachah at a party would not allow it at
    a public lighting either.
    Some explain that one can recite a berachah while lighting in a public area
    where thousands are present.
    Chabad shluchim, who lights in hundreds of locations, usually light with
    oil and then exchange it for an electric
    bulb with a candle to bulb converter.
    Lighting a Chanukah menorah at the
    Kosel with a berachah is legitimate,
    since it is a place where davening is
    Minyan at Work
    If one has a daily minyan for
    mMinchah and mMa’ariv at work he
    can light candles there as well, since
    it has a status of a set minyan even if
    it is not a shul.