Frequently Asked Questions about Chanukah

With the onset of the upcoming Holiday of Chanukah, we asked a number of Chanukah related questions to our Mara D’Asra, Rav Elazar Meir Teitz Shlita, to both clarify his Halachic position and the position of bona-fide Minhag Elizabeth. We share the questions and his responses with you[1].

What is the proper time to light the Chanukah lights[2]?

The minhag in Elizabeth/Hillside is to light at Tzeis HaKochavim[3] (Approximately 5:15 pm). If that is not possible, one should light while there are still people walking in the street or at least as long as there are other members of the household that are still awake. Of course, on Friday we light candles prior to lighting the Shabbos candles[4] (i.e. prior to 4:11 pm).

How long do the lights have to burn?

There must be enough oil or wax for the lights to burn for one-half hour[5]. On Erev Shabbos,or whenever lighting is done early (see below) the lights must be able to burn until approximately 5:45 pm.

Where is the best place to position my Chanukiah?

It should be placed in an area near a window where it can be seen those passing by. [6]

If one is in an apartment building as long as there other apartments within 20 amos' height of the window it which it is lit, it should be no problem to light it in the window.[7]

I am going to a family Chanukah party in the late afternoon and I won't get home until very late at night. Should I light before I leave, after I get home or at the Chanukah party?

One may not light at the Chanukah party because one is not established there. If another member of the household (including those who travelled with you) will be awake when you return, you should light when you return. If you will be the only one awake when you get back, you should have someone light on your behalf at the proper time. If that is not possible, you may light starting at __ pm, which corresponds to Plag HaMincha. If you will be leaving after Plag HaMincha, light after Plag HaMincha. If you are leaving before Plag HaMincha, appoint someone to light on your behalf. If that is not possible, light when you return (you may only recite a beracha if there are other members of the household who are still awake[8]. If none of these solutions are possible, he should be able to be mishtatef bipruta (buy a share in the oil and fulfill obligations through the lighting of the homeowner).

I am not going to get home from work until 8:30pm. Should the rest of my family light without me[9]?

If you are of Ashkenaz practice wherein all members of the household light their own menorahs, let those who must go to sleep earlier, light the candles earlier[10] (of course, under the supervision of a responsible adult). If possible, your family should wait until you get home[11]. Where necessary, your wife can light on your behalf[12].

Those of Sefardic practice should wait for the Baal HaBayis to return. It is not necessary for those waiting for the Baal HaBayis to refrain from a full meal according to Sefardic tradition[13]

I must attend a late meeting before I get home to light candles. May I eat dinner before I light?

It is prohibited to eat a fixed meal before lighting Chanukah lights[14]. Nevertheless, some poskim[15] permit setting an alarm (on one's phone or alarm clock) as a reminder to light. The alarm should be set for a time when one intends to be home[16].

I am going out for the Friday night meal and I don't want to leave my lights unattended. Can I light at the home of my guest?

You should light in your own home[17]. If you are in a pressing situation consult with the rabbi to find a solution.

I read somewhere that there is prohibition against performing certain activities while the lights are lit. Can you please clarify?

In earlier times, women accepted the practice of refraining from melacha (activities prohibited on Shabbat) to commemorate their participation in the miracle of Chanukah[18]. This custom only applies for the first half hour that the lights are burning (or longer if one lights early).

Rav Teitz notes that neither household chores (including cooking) nor job-related work should be done during this time. .He added that a woman could use the phone, for instance, while the candles burn, even though it's a melacha on both Shabbos and Yom Tov[19]. (The guiding principle being, that we allow “Melacha” but not “work”). Rav Teitz added that he recalled Maran Harav Pinchas Teitz ztl. telling his wife (Rebbetzin Bessie Teitz A”H) not to work in the kitchen[20]. He didn’t know if it was his father’s chumra, or that he felt that it was binding even for others.)

My family is going away for Shabbos Chanukah. Should we light at home on Friday or light at our hosts? Should we light at our hosts on Saturday Night or go home and light?

On Friday, one should pay the host for a portion of the oil (Mishtatef B’Prutah) and ask him to add a little extra oil and be Motzee you[21]. He will then recite the berachot and light on your behalf. On Saturday Night, if one is staying until after the half hour of required burning time one can either be Mishtatef B’Peruta or light at home[22]. If you are not planning on waiting, than you should light at home.

I am traveling to Israel. My flight is during the day and I won't land in Israel until the next day. What should I do?

If there are members of the family who are remaining at home, they may light on your behalf[23]. If not, consult a rabbi[24].

My family is staying in a hotel (or “I Dorm”) and I don't think the hotel will let me light in the room. What should I do?

Consult a rabbi[25].[26]

I would like to leave the house after lighting the Chanukah lights, but I don't want to leave the lights unattended. May I blow out the lights after lighting them?

You may blow out the lights one-half-hour after lighting (if it is after 5:45 pm and of course, not on Shabbos)[27].

I light with oil and it often does not burn completely. How do I dispose of the oil?

If the oil burns for more than one-half-hour, you can dispose of the rest. However, it is preferable to have in mind that the extra oil should not become muktzeh (dedicated as Chanukah oil). If the oil did not burn for one-half-hour, you can either use it on one of the following nights or burn it after Chanukah. It may not be used for anything else[28].

On Saturday Night, should I recite Havdalah first or light the Chanukah lights first?

This has been an ongoing debate for many centuries and there is no clear resolution[29]. If you have a specific custom, you should follow it. The minhag in Elizabeth/Hillside is that in shul, candle lighting comes first[30], while at home, havdalah is first.[31]

What is the rule if I forget to insert Al HaNissim in Shemoneh Esrei or Birkat HaMazon?

Al HaNissim does not have to be repeated. If one realized his mistake before reciting Hashem's name in the beracha, he may return to Al HaNissim. If not, one should continue and later on, one can recite הרחמן יעשה לנו ניסים ונפלאות כשם שעשית לאבותינו בימים ההם בזמן הזה. בימי מתתיהו .... This can be added to Birkat HaMazon in the middle of the HaRachaman section or in Shemoneh Esrei before reciting "Yihiyu L'Ratzon" (at the end of Shemoneh Esrei[32]).

I went to a shiva house for Shacharit and they skipped Hallel. Should I recite it individually?

Our minhag in Elizabeth/Hillside is for the Aveilim (Mourners) to leave the room while the others say Hallel[33].

[1] The footnotes to these questions and answers have been inserted by Rav Schwartz for the benefit of those interested in looking into the matters presented more fully. Rav Teitz’s Psak is contained in the text.

[2] There is a dispute among the Rishonim regarding the proper time to light. Some Rishonim are of the opinion that the proper time is immediately after sundown and some are of the opinion that the time is at tzeit hakochavim. To complicate matters, there is a dispute between Rabbeinu Tam and the Vilna Gaon regarding the time for tzeis hakochavim and whether there is a "second sundown" that is significant for this discussion. R. Moshe Feinstein, Iggros Moshe, O.C. 4:101, writes that one should light ten minutes after sundown and place enough oil for it to last a half hour after tzeis hakochavim. Rav Ovadiah Yosef (Chazon Ovadiah on Chanukah, p. 62 ) maintains that the proper lighting time according to almost all opinions is to light at Tzeis Ha Kochavim.

In order to fulfill all opinions, Chazon Ish (cited in Teshuvot V'Hanhagot 2:334) lit twenty minutes after sundown which is akin to Tzeis HaKochavim.


[3] This position is also the position of the Mishnah Berurah, Orach Chaim, 672:1

[4] See Mishna Berurah 679:2

[5] See Shabbos 21b; Orach Chaim 672:1-2. Rav Sternbuch is cited in Moadim U’Zmanim II:141 and VI:86 that the half hour noted herein actually can be extended until 9 pm at least for “Mitzvah min HaMuvchar.”

[6] See O.C. 671:5. See Mishna Berurah 38 who recommends lighting in a window for Pirsumei Nissa. See also Aruch HaShulchan Orach Chaim 671:24 and Iggros Moshe Orach Chaim IV: 125.


[7] Mishna Berurah, Sha'ar HaTziyun 671:42, writes that if the window is higher than twenty amot from ground level, one should light next to the door. The argument here seems to be based upon whom the main intent of Pirsumei Nissa is for. The Shaar HaTziyun cited seems to build off the idea that the primary intent is for the people passing in the street. These people cannot see a menorah burning on the upper floor of an apartment (This opinion is cited in the name of Rav Eliyashiv, Ner Ish U’Beiso, 5:11) . However, R. Shmuel Vosner, Shevet HaLevi 4:65, writes that if the window faces others that are on the same level, it is preferable to light in front of the window.

[8] Rav Moshe Feinstein’s Psak as raised by Rav Shimon Eider, “Halachos of Chanukah” (p. 36 footnote 23) prefers that one either light when returning home or to leave after the candle lighting. Perhaps this is consistent with Rav Moshe’s Psak throughout, that the place where one sleeps (Iggros Moshe O.C.III: 14:5) is the place where one resides. Rav Teitz’s Psak seems to be based upon the position advanced by the Rashba (Shut HaRashba 542) . (See also Taz 677:2)

[9] See Orach Chaim 672:2

[10] This is also the position of Rav Yaakov Kamenetzsky, Emes L’Yaakov (Siman 676).

[11] See Rabbi Eider, P. 34 (Chapter IV:A:2)

[12] Sefer Chovas HaDar, Ner Chanukah 1:9 and footnote 40

[13] See Chazon Ovadiah al Chanukah, p. 68

[14] Mishna Berurah 672:10. The concern here is that you might get too involved and forget to light. Any Heteirim that result, result from the understanding that you’ve done something to prevent your forgetting.

[15] Rabbi Eider, p. 22, footnote 37, Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, Halichot Shlomo, Mo'adei HaShanah page 299, Rav Ovadiah Yosef, Chazon Ovadiah, Chanukah, p. 68.

[16] Mishna Berurah 235:1, allows appointing someone else to remind someone to recite Ma'ariv if one wants to eat before Ma'ariv. R. Shlomo Z. Auerbach, Halichot Shlomo, Tefillah page 16, rules that an alarm has the same status as reminding someone else.

[17] Mishna Berurah 677:12

[18] Orach Chaim 670:1. Rav Yaakov Emden (Siddur Yaavetz) notes that there were places where the men accepted the custom as well. The reason supplied, namely to commemorate celebration is cited by the Levush O.C. 670. The Mishna Berurah cited a different reason, namely to protect Women from using the candle light for other purposes. Mogen Avraham (670:2) argues that according to the reasoning of the Levush one would not be able to work as long as the candles were burning – even if up to midnight.

[19] This is consistent with the position of Rav Shlomo Z. Auerbach, Halichot Shlomo, Mo'adei HaShanah page 299

[20] A similar position is advanced as Minhag Yirushalayim in the name of Dayan Fisher of the Eidah HaChareidis in Shut Rivivos Efraim, I:436.

[21] Sefer Piskei Teshuvos 677:4

[22] The decision here is consistent with the debate earlier – See footnote 8. It should be noted that Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Kovetz Yimei Chanukah) felt one could light at the home of the host on Motzai Shabbos as a result of the fact that until one leaves, he is still Kavua there from Shabbos.

[23] Mishna Berurah 677:2

[24] Teshuvot Maharsham 4:146, writes that one may light on a train. R. Shlomo Z. Auerbach, Halichot Shlomo, Mo'adei HaShanah page 260, applies this to airplanes. R. Ovadia Yosef, Yabia Omer, O.C. 3:35, rules that if one is in a situation where the only option is to light with electric lights, he should light without reciting a beracha because there is a dispute among the Poskim whether electric lights are valid.

[25] R. Moshe Feinstein, Igrot Moshe, Y.D. 3:14 (5), rules that yeshiva students who sleep in a dormitory and they all eat in the same dining room must light in their dorm room because it is a more private location. This is also the opinion of R. Hershel Schachter, B'Ikvei HaTzon no. 20. A hotel is similar to a dormitory in that everyone has private rooms but there is a common dining room where everyone eats together. R. Yosef S. Elyashiv (cited in P'ninei Chanukah page 53) adds that lighting in a place that violates hotel policy is a form of gezel. Rav Ovadiah Yosef (Chazon Ovadiah p. 148) reminds us that one could be Someich Al Shulchan Aviv when dorming and Harav Schachter advised us to follow suit and be mishtatef with our parents while in YU’s dorms. Rav Teitz added that in Telshe Yeshiva (Cleveland), the Rashei Yeshiva paskened that lighting was done in the beis medrash, and not in individual rooms.

[26] Rabbi Eider, p. 37 footnote 32 cites Rav Aharon Kotler who notes that Yeshiva boys should light in the dining room. R. Shlomo Z. Auerbach, Halichot Shlomo, Mo'adei HaShanah page 274, writes that in a pressing situation, a yeshiva student can light anywhere in the building that is used for activities that one would perform in one's home.

[27] See 672:1.

[28] Shulchan Aruch O.C. 677:4 and see Mishna Berurah 18.

[29] Mishna Berurah 681:3. Michaber and Rema lead the charge for the recitation of Havdala first based on the understanding that one cannot engage in Melacha prior to reciting Havdala. Taz argues noting that we delay the ending of Shabbos as long as possible. See Chazon Ovadiah p. 182 for a beautiful summation of all the positions of this disagreement.

[30] In order to achieve maximum Pirsumei Nissa especially via those who might leave early.

[31] This positon is also true for Sefaradim – See Chazon Ovadiah p. 182.

[32] See Shulchan Aruch and Rema 682:1 and Mishna Berurah, 4.


[33] See Sha'arei Teshuva 683:1 referenced by Mishna Berurah 683:1. In regard to the Minhag of Sefardic Jews, Rav Ovadiah Yosef (Shut Yabia Omer IV: Yoreh Deah 33) holds that the Avel himself should recite Hallel with the Tzibbur on Chanukah as opposed to a non Chanukah Rosh Chodesh when the recitation of Hallel is only a minhag and he would not.