This question will collect Q&As, formatted for the book, for "Chanuka - Mi Yodeya?". The concept of this book is that it will contain eight two-page sections, one for each day of Chanuka, and each section will contain one page (usually one Q&A) that is as accessible as possible to all audiences and another page that has more advanced content.

Each answer here should cover a pair of questions with their answer(s), following this template. There is no need to cover all answers in your work; choose the subset of content that you think works best for this project. Follow these style guidelines. This first submission is a good example of what the final product should look like.

Please draw your Q&A pairs from this list:

When you take a question, cross it off the list (<s> ... </s>). (Don't delete it.)

Important: The body of your answer should contain only the proposed content, ready for import into the final document. Use comments for any additional information.

Voting: If you down-vote a submission, please leave a comment saying what needs to be changed. Or edit; this is meant to be collaborative.

Please complete submissions by Wednesday, November 5 so we have time to compile the supplement in time for Chanuka.

Thank you all. Ready, set, go. :-)

Ongoing discussion about this project is taking place in a dedicated chat room.

8 Answers 8


Lighting Candles for the First Time on the Second Night

Should the Third Blessing - "Shehecheyanu" - be Said?

Ken asked1: On the first night of Chanukah, three blessings are recited:

  • Lehadlik ner, on the lights;
  • She'asa nisim, for the miracles; and
  • Shehecheyanu, for the special occasion.

On subsequent nights, the first two blessings are recited, but the third blessing of Shehecheyanu is omitted, as this blessing is reserved for the first time we do something [each year]. If the first time someone is lighting candles this year is on the second night, should they say Shehecheyanu, even though it is printed as being only for the first night?

WAF said: The Shulchan Aruch2 (OC 676:1) says that you should recite it on the second night after the regular two b'rachos (blessings). The same goes for any subsequent night if it is the first time you are lighting this year.

Gemini Man added that there are two exceptions to this rule:

First, there's a lesser-known rule that if, on any night, you know you're not going to light your own candles, and you see someone else's, you should say the She'asa nisim (second) blessing upon that seeing, since you're commemorating the miracles even though you're not lighting. If this would happen on the first night, you would also say the Shehecheyanu blessing. If this happened, and you then lit for the first time on the second night, you would not repeat the Shehecheyanu blessing on subsequent nights. See 676:3.

The second exception is based on another rule: A married person may rely on his/her spouse's lighting, and count it as his/her own. So, if a man (for example) relied on his wife's lighting on the first night, it is considered as if he lit for himself, too, and therefore he does not repeat the Shehecheyanu blessing on a subsequent night, even if it is his first time physically lighting that year. See the Mishnah Berurah's3 Comment 7 on that section of the Shulchan Aruch.

  1. Original question: "Third blessing on the second night of Channukah" mi.yodeya.com/q/66
  2. Code of Jewish Law by Rabbi Yosef Karo, 1563
  3. "‎Clarified Teaching," an early 20th Century commentary on Shulchan Aruch, by Rabbi Yisrael Meir Kagan

Advanced: How Many Candles Should be Lit?

Shmuel Brin wondered1: If one didn't light Chanuka candles until the second night, how many candles should he light?

If the reason2 that we add a candle a night is "Maalin Bakodesh" (we always add in holiness), then there is no reason to light more than one. If the reason is "Keneged [Yamim] Hayotzeim" (the number of days that have passed) one should nonetheless light two.

Do any of the Poskim (decisors) discuss the Halacha in such a situation?

Double AA answered: The Darkei Moshe (Rav Moshe Isserles's [Rema's] commentary to the Tur) discusses this issue in OC 672, Comment 3. He quotes Rabbi Menachem of Reisberg as ruling that one who missed the first night lights only one candle, as it is his first night. However, Rema eventually rules against this and in accordance with Maharil (Responsum 28) that one who missed a night should light the regular way.

YDK reasoned: Although I cannot claim to have done a lot of research on this topic, I am pretty sure that maalin bakodesh is not the exclusive reason for going from 1 through 8. Maalin bakodesh says that once you place something at a certain level of holiness, you cannot downgrade it. Lighting one candle every night would suffice to fulfill this requirement.

It seems that, even according to the second opinion, all agree that there is a mitzva to show that there is a progression of eight nights. Bais Shamai and Bais Hillel are arguing about how to show that progression. Bais Shamai held that it was more accurate to do a downward progression, showing how the oil burned. Bais Hillel said that's a great argument, but unfortunately we have a rule of maalin bakodesh v'ain moridin (add in holiness and do not diminish). Bais Shamai argued back that we have precedent from the bull offerings on Sukkot. The upshot is that all hold of the daily progression; the only question is which way.

follick suggested: I believe the active principle would be "don't separate yourself from the community." If all the other Jews in the world are lighting two, then you don't go and light one.

  1. Original question: First time lighting Chanuka candles is on second night mi.yodeya.com/q/12720
  2. Source: Talmud Bavli, Shabbat 21b

Double AA mi.yodeya.com/u/759
follick mi.yodeya.com/u/751
Gemini Man mi.yodeya.com/u/4523
Ken mi.yodeya.com/u/17
Shmuel Brin mi.yodeya.com/u/732
WAF mi.yodeya.com/u/3
YDK mi.yodeya.com/u/145

  • Thanks for breaking the ice! Would it be possible to bulk up the first Q&A with some more "for beginners" explanations? There's about 150 words or so of room there.
    – Isaac Moses Mod
    Commented Oct 26, 2014 at 19:12
  • I'll see what i can do. :)
    – Scimonster
    Commented Oct 26, 2014 at 19:14
  • @Issac I tried to expand it a little, is it better? I sure didn't use 150 extra words on it though.
    – Scimonster
    Commented Oct 26, 2014 at 19:51
  • I made stuff even more explicit and got it up to 388. With the bulleted list, it may even need to be edited down to fit the page now. Please see what you think.
    – Isaac Moses Mod
    Commented Oct 27, 2014 at 0:11
  • That looks fine.
    – Scimonster
    Commented Oct 27, 2014 at 6:16
  • 1
    @msh210, thanks for the dejargoning work on the second Q&A. I didn't look at that one at all yet, myself. What do you think of the way the footnotes currently stand on the first question? I know they're not MLS- (or whatever)-compliant, but do you think they provide the right information to be useful to a reader with limited background?
    – Isaac Moses Mod
    Commented Oct 27, 2014 at 13:46
  • 1
    @IsaacMoses yes, but I think "Orach Chayim 676:1" and footnote can be converted to "OC 676:1" which the uninitiated will assume is a section or some such (as it is) -- or even converted to "676:1" which the initiated will understand. The footnote on "Orach Chayim" may be TMI.
    – msh210 Mod
    Commented Oct 27, 2014 at 18:30
  • @msh210 On that note, why not change "Maschet Shabbat" to just "Shabbat"?
    – Ypnypn
    Commented Oct 27, 2014 at 20:35
  • @msh210 (on your most recent edit) Now footnotes 2 and 3 are inconsistent with each other -- one says "Code of Jewish Law," and the other says "Shulchan Aruch."
    – MTL
    Commented Oct 27, 2014 at 21:57
  • @Shokhet I think it's OK. The first time it's defining it, so it can be used the second.
    – Scimonster
    Commented Oct 27, 2014 at 21:59
  • Scimonster -- all right, then. ( cc @msh210 )
    – MTL
    Commented Oct 27, 2014 at 22:00
  • What does everyone (ping @msh210) think of the "read online" HB URLS in a print publication?
    – Isaac Moses Mod
    Commented Oct 28, 2014 at 14:47
  • @IsaacMoses I just left them in because they were in the original, but i don't mind if they're removed.
    – Scimonster
    Commented Oct 28, 2014 at 14:48
  • OK, I took them out, based on the idea that you can't click on a link on paper, and you're unlikely to copy out a long URL like that. The Intro will say something like "Click on the 'original question' links for more good stuff like links to online resources, etc."
    – Isaac Moses Mod
    Commented Oct 28, 2014 at 21:10
  • 1
    @IsaacMoses Or more like, "Type in the links". After all, you can't click a link on paper. ;)
    – Scimonster
    Commented Oct 28, 2014 at 21:14

What are we celebrating on this night?

What exactly happened on the 25th of Kislev?

not-allowed to change my name asked1: What historical event (if any) actually took place on the 25th of Kislev to cause that date to be the commencement of Chanukah?

LazerA answered: Every historical and traditional source that discusses the matter (I and II Maccabees, Josephus, the Talmud, and Megilas Taanis) agrees that the 25th of Kislev was the day that the Hasmoneans, having succeeded in driving the Greek forces out of Jerusalem, reinaugurated the Temple service.

As II Maccabees states (10:1-5):

Now Maccabeus and his followers, the Lord leading them on, recovered the temple and the city; and they tore down the altars which had been built in the public square by the foreigners, and also destroyed the sacred precincts. They purified the sanctuary, and made another altar of sacrifice; then, striking fire out of flint, they offered sacrifices, after a lapse of two years, and they burned incense and lighted lamps and set out the bread of the Presence. And when they had done this, they fell prostrate and besought the Lord that they might never again fall into such misfortunes, but that, if they should ever sin, they might be disciplined by Him with forbearance and not be handed over to blasphemous and barbarous nations. It happened that on the same day on which the sanctuary had been profaned by the foreigners, the purification of the sanctuary took place, that is, on the twenty-fifth day of the same month, which was Kislev. And they celebrated it for eight days with rejoicing, in the manner of the feast of booths, remembering how not long before, during the feast of booths, they had been wandering in the mountains and caves like wild animals.

Rabbinic sources add that the miracle of the oil took place at the same time.

sam said: This might be basic but it is quoted in almost all halachic texts. It's in Rambam, Laws of Chanukka 3:2, and the Babylonian Talmud, Shabbas 21b, as well.

וכשגברו ישראל על אויביהם ואבדום בכ״ה בחדש כסליו היה ונכנסו להיכל ולא מצאו שמן טהור במקדש אלא פך אחד ולא היה בו להדליק אלא יום אחד בלבד והדליקו ממנו נרות המערכה שמונה ימים עד שכתשו זיתים והוציאו שמן טהור׃

That is, the Jews gained control over their enemies and destroyed them on the 25th of Kislev and then found the jar of oil.

The Mishna Brurah writes that the word חנוכה (Chanukka) itself means חנו (chanu, they finished and rested) כ״ה (on the 25th).

Double AA explained: It seems construction of the Second Temple commenced on 25 Kislev, as evidenced in Chaggai 2 (particularly verses 10, 15, and 18). See articles by Rabbis Yoel Bin-Nun (long and very thorough) and Menachem Leibtag (more succinct; recommended) for more discussion on the significance of this date and the connection of the prophecies there and in Zechariah to Chanukkah. (See this answer online for links to these articles.)

Some highlights of the articles that directly address the question:

  • On the day before the building of the Second Temple was to begin (24 Kislev), Chaggai prophesies to the people, encouraging them to go ahead and rebuild the Temple and promising prosperity and victory over its enemies in its days.

  • Many years later, on 15 Kislev, various idols were erected in the Temple by the Greeks, but sacrifices were not offered to them until 25 Kislev (I Maccabees 1:54-59) which is the day the Temple began to be built. Presumably this date was chosen (by delaying the sacrifices) on purpose by the Hellenist Jews who remembered Chaggai and his prophecies.

  • 3 years later the Jews reconquer the Temple, clean the whole thing out (including removing pagan idols on 23 Cheshvan and 3 Kislev according to Megillat Taanit), and rebuild many of the vessels (see 1 Maccabees 4:41-59). Finally, on 25 Kislev, the same date it was originally defiled and the anniversary of Chaggai's prophecy that the Jews would succeed and triumph over their enemies (Chaggai 2:22), the Maccabees finally rededicate the Temple in a festive 8-day party. (Note that Rashi to Chaggai 2:6 connects his prophecies to the Maccabees.)

We should also consider the prophecies of Zechariah from the same time period as Chaggai (which is the Haftarah for Chanukkah), which center more around his visions of the Menorah, but I'll leave that for the interested reader to find himself.

  1. Original question: [What exactly happened on the 25th of Kislev?] mi.yodeya.com/q/22720

not-allowed to change my name: mi.yodeya.com/u/1561
sam mi.yodeya.com/u/1418
LazerA mi.yodeya.com/u/1216
Double AA mi.yodeya.com/u/759

  • The intention is to have the page break before DoubleAA's answer. There is some more room available on the second page (but nothing in the comment I felt should be brought in). Commented Oct 31, 2014 at 1:37
  • I was not sure what to do with the links to the two articles DoubleAA cites, so I pointed people to the links in the online answer instead of pasting in longer URLs that people probably won't type. Commented Oct 31, 2014 at 1:38
  • You could also replace them with short URLS, such as goo.gl or bit.ly.
    – Scimonster
    Commented Oct 31, 2014 at 7:46
  • I think it'd make sense to include these links, as they are a) to online-only resources and b) human-friendly URLs
    – Isaac Moses Mod
    Commented Oct 31, 2014 at 12:26
  • @IsaacMoses that's a good point. But could somebody verify the first article link? I see no article there, only a front page, and I'm not confident in my ability to find the page that DoubleAA intended. Commented Nov 2, 2014 at 1:26
  • They seem to have redone there site as the link is redirecting to the homepage. A quick search there yields ybn.webzit.co.il/luach-shana-vechagim/… which I think is the same but I should probably double check when I'm more awake.
    – Double AA Mod
    Commented Nov 2, 2014 at 7:30
  • Thanks @DoubleAA. When you've satisfied yourself that it's the correct link, could you update your answer and ping me so I can update this post? Thanks. Commented Nov 2, 2014 at 15:41

Oil - It's Not Just for Latkes

What's the best way to make wick-and-oil work for Chanukah?

Shalom asked1: I've tried lots of fancy fluffy cotton wicks that just burn out. Some people have those little metal holder things to keep the wick in place; some use bobby pins as holders. If your oil cups are plastic, the metal holder things will melt the oil cups!

I've given up and gone to floating wicks. Any other suggestions?

Sam suggested: Have you tried "Super Wicks"? The wicks are coated with a material that makes them stand straight on their own, supported only by a metal disc at the bottom. They seem to work well for me.2

Isaac Moses recounted: I've been using plain cotton wicks. I have the little glass cups that fit into standard candle holders, with cylindrical metal wick-holders in the middle. It's a little messy to do the setup each night. I use a toothpick to poke out the old wick from the wick-holder, and then to push the new wick through it. In this manner, I can re-use the cups and wick-holders indefinitely.

I have not had any problems recently with either fire or unreliability. I think using glass cups specifically, and not plastic ones, is necessary to prevent fire issues. For reliability, I have two tips, both of which probably apply similarly to "genie-esque" lamps:

  • Make sure that your wick extends all the way from the very bottom of the wick-holder to a decent height (let's say about ¼-inch) above the top of it. That way, it will draw up oil from the very bottom of the cup, will give you a large enough target for lighting from your shamash, and will produce a decent-sized flame. You can calibrate how large your flame will be (and therefore how quickly it consumes oil) by adjusting the length of wick coming out of the top.

  • Pre-saturate your wick with oil. I do this by simply setting the wicks up in the cups first, and then pouring the oil onto the tops of the wicks. When you do this, your flame will have plenty of fuel immediately when you light it; if you light a piece of wick without any oil in it, the string can burn away before it gets a chance to draw up any fuel, and you end up with a quick burn-out.

Jeremy said to get the congealed oil cups. They look like wax, but melt into oil after they are lit. They are worth the extra money – they burn bright and clear and clean!

  1. Original question: mi.yodeya.com/q/15

  2. See the original question on Mi Yodeya for some cautions about Super Wicks from other users.

What is the appropriate use of the shamash on an oil menora?

Sam asked1: It seems that with wax candle menoras, the shamash2 is generally lit first and used to light the other candles, but with an oil menora this is not possible. So should you light the shamash before the other oil lamps, or after? And what should you use instead of the shamash to light all the oil lamps?

msh210 noted that some otherwise-oil menoras have a holder for a wax-candle shamash.

Isaac Moses answered: One of the purposes of the shamash is to ensure that there is light in the vicinity of the menora other than that of the menora itself. That way, if someone reads near the menora, their reading won't be (exclusively) by the light of the menora's lights, so they won't be making mundane use of those lights. Mundane use is forbidden, as the light are supposed to serve exclusively for the mitzva.

I think you light the shamash first, so that there's always such coverage when the menora lights are lit.

To accomplish the actual lighting, use a candle, a piece of pasta3, a sparkler, or some other device that will safely hold a flame long enough to light the menora.

Imanonov witnessed: I have seen a video4 of Rav Ovadia Yosef Shlitoh lighting his menora. He used a candle, and he lit first the three lights and then the shamash.

How do you get oil residue off of a menora?

Isaac Moses asked5: When you light olive oil in a metal menora, some of the oil invariably finds its way into the cracks between parts of the menora. How do you remove this residue?

Shalom instructed: Put water and dishwashing detergent in a basin; let the entire menora soak in it.

Jeremy added: If it is silver, make sure to polish afterwards, then wrap in cloth, and store in an air-tight bag until next year.

  1. Original question: mi.yodeya.com/q/23

  2. The "helper" candle, usually set apart from the other eight on the menora.

  3. Use with caution. Not all pastas are created equally combustible.

  4. Menachem Tucker's "Siddishkeit" film (http://www.kikarhashabat.co.il/סידישקייט-טוקר-בתוכנית-לחנוכה.html).

  5. Original question: mi.yodeya.com/q/6

Imanonov mi.yodeya.com/u/2106
Isaac Moses mi.yodeya.com/u/2
Jeremy mi.yodeya.com/u/456
msh210 mi.yodeya.com/u/170
Sam mi.yodeya.com/u/9
Shalom mi.yodeya.com/u/21


Why is this holiday different?

Nine days of Chanukah?

SimchasTorah asked1: All Yomim Tovim (holidays) (except Yom Kippur) we celebrate in Chutz Laretz (exile) an extra day because of uncertainty regarding the date. Why do we not do the same for Chanukah?

Alex answered: Minchas Chinuch argues that indeed, when the Sanhedrin was functioning and we used an observation-based calendar, Chanukah in outlying places would have had to have been celebrated for nine days. "When the Beis Hamikdash is rebuilt, speedily in our days," he says, "and we go back to sanctifying the months based on observation -- then faraway places (for Eretz Yisrael will spread out to include all other lands) will surely have to keep Chanukah for nine days."

Isaac Moses wondered: Whoa, how many candles do you light during a nine-day Chanuka? It matters because part of lighting in this manner is to provide a recognizable account of which day it is -- if we are unsure which day it is, how could we do so?

Gershon Gold said: We only add an extra day for a d’oraisa (Biblical) commandment like the Sholosh Regalim (three festivals - Pesach, Shavuos, Sukkos). Chanukah is a d’rabbanan (Rabbinic law). See Taamei Minhagim 864 in the name of the Avudraham.

In addition, as Chanukah starts on the 25th day of the Hebrew month we can presume that the messengers from the Beis Din in Jerusalem would have arrived and everyone would know when it actually began.

SimchasTorah later reported in the name of the Sfas Emes: Being that Chanuka and Purim happened relatively recently we relate to them better. Hence we are able to achieve the spiritual boost from these holidays in a shorter time relative to the Biblical holidays which happened in the more distant past, to which we are less connected.

  1. Original question: [9 Days of Chanukah] mi.yodeya.com/q/4247

Advanced: Why aren't Purim and Channuka considered a violation of לֹא תֹסִפוּ?

Ephraim asked1: It says in Devarim 4:2:

Do not add to the word which I command you, nor diminish from it, to observe the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you.

Now, I understand that the rabbis can make halachot that are either guards on another halacha (e.g. the concept of muktza) or interpretations of a halacha in Torah (e.g. not using electricity on Shabbat). However, Chanukah and Purim are not guards on mitzvot, nor are they interpretations of what a mitzva means. They are entirely new mitzvot! So why don't Purim and Chanukah fall into the category of לֹא תֹסִפוּ -- do not add?

At this point, I am usually given the answer: "Purim and Chanukah are mitzvot derrabannun (rabbinical) and since they don't claim that it is a mitzva deoraita (Biblical) they were allowed to establish it".

However, when we say the special blessings for these days we say asher kidshanu b'mitzvotav, praising G-d who has commanded us. But He didn't.

But, I am usually told, the Torah says to listen to the rabbis, so since the rabbis say to light candles on Chanukah, that means G-d indirectly commanded it so it's ok. But they could have worded the blessing mentioning that it is rabbinical, but they didn't. Aren't they, and we, putting words in G-d's mouth? And isn't that even worse than putting words in our teacher's mouth, against which Masechet B'rachot (27b) warns us?

I don't want to start accusing the Rabbanim of directly violating the laws of the Torah; however, I'm having a hard time understanding how they could create these holidays in the way they did without doing so. So what did allow them to do it like this?

YDK answered: The mitzvos of Purim and Chanuka definitely fit the bill for the violation of lo sosifu according to the Ramban (Vaeschanan 4:2). More specifically, the Yerushalmi quotes a different pasuk: These are the mitzvos that Hashem commanded Moshe. Lo sosifu refers to adding in general, but the former pasuk forbids adding even through prophecy.

Both the Bavli (Megila 14a) and the Yerushalmi (Megila 6b) take issue with Purim. The Bavli allows Purim based on a kal v'chomer drash from the Torah: If we establish a day of praise for Hashem freeing us from bondage, certainly we can do so for His saving our lives. The Ritva applies the same logic to Chanuka.

I would guess that once the Holiday had a leg to stand on, any mitzvos that are ancillary to the holiday would be permitted as well.

I'm not bothered by the brachos. The Sages try to keep things uniform so that the masses would not get confused. As long as the Sages are not instituting a text that is false, best practice is to keep the same format as other blessings.

  1. Original question: [Why aren't Purim and Channuka considered a violation of לֹא תֹסִפוּ?] mi.yodeya.com/q/15509

SimchasTorah mi.yodeya.com/u/87
Alex mi.yodeya.com/u/37
Isaac Moses mi.yodeya.com/u/2
Gershon Gold mi.yodeya.com/u/200
Ephraim mi.yodeya.com/u/781
YDK mi.yodeya.com/u/145

  • I wanted to also bring in Alex's answer on the second one, but I couldn't cut enough to make room. I've already cut the question down fairly substantially, but maybe more can be done here? Commented Oct 29, 2014 at 2:31
  • 1
    I haven't looked at the content yet, but at minimum, we can put a note in the first footnote that there's another excellent answer there along the lines of ...
    – Isaac Moses Mod
    Commented Oct 29, 2014 at 3:05
  • This might need more cutting - it's over 900 words!
    – Scimonster
    Commented Nov 11, 2014 at 13:03
  • @Scimonster oops, how did that happen? (I was checking -- but apparently I made some later edits.) The part about the wording of the b'racha (most of the penultimate paragraph of the question and the last paragraph of the answer) could be dropped if needed; it's kind of tangential. Also, the quote in the question could be condensed a little, formatting-wise (the citation doesn't need its own line). Commented Nov 11, 2014 at 13:52
  • 1
    Well, it's now just over 800 words, so hopefully that's better.
    – Scimonster
    Commented Nov 11, 2014 at 20:55

History of the Chanukiah

How old is the chanukiyah?

Monica Cellio asked1: Another question (below) asks about the differentiation between the words "chanukiyah" and "menorah" when referring to the special 8-branched (+1 for the shamash - helper light) candelabra for Chanukah. An answer there suggests:

All of the rest of their references to the Chanukah lights indeed use the term נר(ות) חנוכה. I'd guess that indeed the average person in those days didn't have a specially-designed candelabra for this purpose (or if they did, it wasn't branched like the original menorah)...

This seems plausible; I can't recall seeing older writings that refer to a special device, just references to lights. So my question is: How old is the chanukiyah, meaning a special candelabra that we use only for Chanukah and that has the correct number of wicks/candles? I'm interested in any evidence, whether from halachic literature, art, or known artifacts.

Gershon Gold provided: Neroth Shabath - #952 shows a picture of a Chanuka menora from the 15th century in Sicily.

The Jewish Art Museum of Minessota3 has 2 pictures of menoras from the 13th century: one from Avignon, and the other from Germany/Northern France.

According to a press release4, The Living Torah Museum5 has the oldest known Chanuka menora on display. I spoke to Rabbi Shaul Shimon Deutsch, the owner of the museum. He said they did a test on this Chanuka menora and they carbon-dated and certified it as dating to 60 years after the miracle of Chanuka in the 1st century!

During a recent archaeological excavation in Jerusalem, one of the workers uncovered an unusual artifact that was brought to the attention of the office of Antiquities. Crafted from hand pottery and small enough to be held in the palm of an adult's hand, this ancient discovery has been determined to be what is known to be the world’s oldest recorded Hanukkah Menorah known to mankind since the establishment of the Hanukkah holiday. Accompanied by a certified letter of authenticity, issued by the Head of Antiquities, this Menorah has found its way through a private donor to a museum based in the Orthodox Jewish community of Boro Park, located in Brooklyn New York.

  1. Original question: mi.yodeya.com/q/45097
  2. Bi-weekly periodical about the Sabbath by R' Mordechai Ha-Cohen, Jerusalem, 1946. View image online: goo.gl/2YZuNO
  3. View images online: goo.gl/ZSkJ55
  4. Read online: goo.gl/p16eok
  5. In Brooklyn, NY. torahmuseum.com

Calling the Chanukah lights a "menorah" or "chanukiyah"

msh210 inquired1: My kid came home from school one day insisting that the thing we light on Chanuka is not a m'nora but a chanukiya. I replied that that's the word most Israelis use now but that m'nora is a perfectly good word for it anyway. I then took out an Aruch Hashulchan2 to point out the word m'nora — but didn't find it. (He seems to use neros ("lights") exclusively. I might have missed it, though: I didn't look very thoroughly.) So my question is this: am I right? I mean, I know I'm right that m'nora has long been used to mean a Chanuka-thing, but (1) what's the earliest it's attested in print and (2) what's the earliest the word chanukiya is attested in print? (And any other information about the prevalence of the two words.)

Alex said: I don't know the earliest attestation of menorah for what we light on Chanukah, but it is mentioned parenthetically in Shulchan Aruch3, OC 671:7 (and from there in Aruch Hashulchan 671:25), where it's talking about how to set up the menorah in a synagogue. All of the rest of their references to the Chanukah lights indeed use the term "נר(ות) חנוכה" ("Chanuka lights"). I'd guess that indeed the average person in those days didn't have a specially-designed candelabra for this purpose (or if they did, it wasn't branched like the original menorah), whereas the community as a whole might have one for use in the synagogue, hence the terminology.

As for chanukiyah, Hebrew Wikipedia said that this term was coined by Eliezer Ben-Yehuda's wife Hemda in the late 19th century.

Gershon Gold said: Sedei Haaretz Volume 3, OC #38 was published in the year 5544 (1784 CE). This was written by Rabbi Avraham Bar Shmuel Meyuchos, Zatzal who was a rabbi in Jerusalem in his times. In Siman 38, he has a question from Rabbi Eliezer Nachum, Zatzal, of Constantinople, who was the author of Chazon Nachum. In the question he asks regarding something which is called a chanukia:

ראובן היה לו פמוט של־נחושת, שקורין אותו חנוקיאה

Reuven had a copper candlestick that they call a "chanukia."

You see from here that the word chanukia was in use in 1784, and there was no issue with calling a menora a chanukia. This usage of the word, however, may have come from Ladino.

  1. Original question: "'m'nora' on Chanuka" mi.yodeya.com/q/4493
  2. The Table is Set, a restatement of and commentary on the Code of Jewish Law, by R' Yechiel Michel Epstein, late 19th Century.
  3. Code of Jewish Law by Rabbi Yosef Karo, 1563

Monica Cellio mi.yodeya.com/u/472
Gershon Gold mi.yodeya.com/u/200
msh210 mi.yodeya.com/u/170
Alex mi.yodeya.com/u/37

  • I'm currently using shortened goo.gl links for the images in the first answer. We're currently discussing in chat about adding the images into the post itself.
    – Scimonster
    Commented Nov 10, 2014 at 14:47

Song and Celebration

Were Haman's possessions really hung on a tree?

SimchasTorah asked1: In Maoz Tzur ("Rock of Ages"), a song traditionally sung when the Chanuka candles are lit, we sing

רב בניו וקנייניו על העץ תלית

His many sons and his possessions, You hung on a tree

Did we really hang Haman's possessions on a tree?

Alex answered: According to the Sifsei Chachamim2 on Tractate Megillah (p. 50b), this refers to a medallion that Haman wore on his chest, listing all of his treasures (see also Talmud Bavli, Megillah 15b). Presumably, he wore this medallion to the two feasts that Esther made; and since he was taken directly from the second one to be hanged, his "treasures" were hanged together with him, in microcosm.

Yosef added: Most translations I've seen translate these lines differently than you did, mostly referring to his sons as his treasures. For example:

From Koren/Sacks:

His many sons and his household You hanged on the gallows.

From Artscroll:

His numerous progeny -- his possessions -- on the gallows You hanged.

From Rödelheim/Bamberger:

Der Söhne Schar, sein teurer Schatz, an seinem Galgen aufgeknüpft.

which means: "His multitude of sons, his dear treasure, were hung on his own gallows."

From Rödelheim/Wilhelm:

Hans dyraste egendom, hans många söner, lät du hänga i galgen.

which means: "His most precious property, his many sons, You let hang on the gallows."

msh210 added: Rabbi Efrayim Greenblatt suggests3 that it may refer to Haman's slaves.

wolf2191 suggested: Perhaps this should be read differently: "You wiped out the enemy of his name (including) his many children and possessions, You hung him on a tree."

  1. Original question: "Were Haman's possessions hung on a tree?" mi.yodeya.com/q/4519
  2. "Lips of the Wise," a late 20th-Centrury commentary on Talmud by R' Avraham Abba Hertzel
  3. Riv'vos Efrayim, vol. 8, number 267

What does Purim have to do with Maoz Tzur?

SimchasTorah asked1: The song Maoz Tzur contains references to Purim, such as in the fourth stanza:

כְּרוֹת קוֹמַת בְּרוֹשׁ בִּקֵּשׁ אֲגָגִי בֶּן הַמְּדָתָא

[Haman] the Aggagite, the son of Hamedasa, attempted to cut down the cypress [Mordechai]

What does this have to do with Chanuka, and why is it placed in Maoz Tzur?

Gershon Gold answered: Maoz Tzur actually mentions all four exiles. The second stanza discusses the exile in Egypt:

חַיַּי מָרְרוּ בְּקוּשִׁי בְּשִׁעְבּוּד מַלְכוּת עֶגְלָה.....חֵיל פַּרְעֹה וְכָל זַרְעוֹ יָרְדוּ כְאֶבֶן בִּמְצוּלָה

They embittered my life with hard labor, in the slavery of the kindgom of the calf [Egypt]....the army of Pharaoh and all his sons, were sunk in the sea

The third stanza discusses the exile in Babylon:

קֵץ בָּבֶל זְרֻבָּבֶל לְקֵץ שִׁבְעִים נוֹשָׁעְתִּי

The end of (the exile) in Babylon ended with Zerubavel; I was save at the end of 70 years.

The fourth stanza, as you noted, discusses the exile of Madai, in which the Purim story occurred.

The fifth stanza talks about the Chanuka story:

יְוָנִים נִקְבְּצוּ עָלַי אֲזַי בִּימֵי חַשְׁמַנִּים

The Greeks gathered against me, at that time in the days of the Chasmonaim

The final stanza (which was probably by a different author), is a prayer to God to redeem us from the exile that we are currently in, that of Edom.

So we see that Maoz Tzur isn't just about Chanuka -- it's a song that lists all of exiles that we were in, and ends with a prayer for the final redemption.

  1. Original question: "Maoz Tzur & Purim" mi.yodeya.com/q/4393

Making a meal into a "Meal of Mitzvah"

Yehoshua asked1: We find that the Rama (Rabbi Moshe Isserles) writes2

וְנוֹהֲגִין לוֹמַר זְמִירוֹת וּשְׁבָחוֹת בַּסְּעֻדּוֹת שֶׁמַּרְבִּים בָּהֶם, וְאָז הָוֵי סְעֻדַּת מִצְוָה

We are accustomed to say songs and praises to the meals that we add [on Chanukah], and then they become Meals of Mitzvah.

The Magen Avraham comments on this (Comment 4), that similarly, at the wedding of the daughter of a Torah scholar to a non-learned individual, that the wedding feast can be transformed into a Meal of Mitzvah with the addition of songs and praise.

Are these the only two feasts that can be made into Meal of Mitzvah by adding "זמירות ושבחות," or can this be done at any meal?

If these feasts are unique, what is the added factor that, together with songs and praise, makes the meal into a Meal of Mitzvah?

LazerA said: After introducing the basic reasons for Chanukah, the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch3 writes:

ולכן י"א שמצוה להרבות קצת בסעודה בחנוכה, ועוד מפני שמלאכת המשכן נגמר בימים אלו, ויש לספר לב"ב ענין הניסים שנעשו לאבותנו בימים האלו, ומ"מ לא הוי סעודת מצוה אא"כ אומרים בסעודה שירות ותשבחות

Therefore, some say that there is a mitzvah to increase somewhat in feasting, and also because the work of the mishkan (Tabernacle) was completed at this time. A person should recount to his household the miracles that happened for our ancestors during these days. Nevertheless, it is not a Meal of Mitzvah unless songs and praises are said by the meal.

This implies that the meals of Chanuka are Meals of Mitzvah in their own right, but not completely -- they need the songs and praises to seal the deal.

Therefore, meals that only have the songs and praises, but don't have the added reasons of commemorating the mishkan and the miracles of Chanuka, would not be considered to be Meals of Mitzvah by just adding songs and praises.

This conclusion is supported by the Mishna Berura4, who writes5:

ואז הוי סעודת מצוה - ר"ל בצרוף זה. ... וכתב הרש"ל שכל שעושה כדי ליתן שבח למקום או לפרסם הנס או המצוה הכל סעודת מצוה

"And this is is a Meal of Mitzvah" - Meaning, in combination with this. ... And the Maharshal writes that any [meal] made to give praise to God, or to publicize the miracle, or to publicize the mitzvah, is a Meal of Mitzvah.

  1. Original question: "Making a Seudah into a 'Seudas Mitzvah'" mi.yodeya.com/q/22726
  2. In his gloss to Shulchan Aruch OC 670:2
  3. Mid-19th Century summary of the Shulchan Aruch by R' Shlomo Ganzfried
  4. "‎Clarified Teaching," an early 20th Century commentary on Shulchan Aruch, by Rabbi Yisrael Meir Kagan
  5. Comment #9, there

SimchasTorah mi.yodeya.com/u/87
Alex mi.yodeya.com/u/37
Yosef mi.yodeya.com/u/91
msh210 mi.yodeya.com/u/170
wolf2191 mi.yodeya.com/u/99
Yehoshua mi.yodeya.com/u/1884
LazerA mi.yodeya.com/u/1216
Gershon Gold mi.yodeya.com/u/200

  • The first question is short of 400 words, but I think it's fine because of the many line breaks in Yosef's answer. Thoughts?
    – MTL
    Commented Nov 4, 2014 at 22:56
  • Also, in first blockquote (in question) -- "hung" or "hanged"?
    – MTL
    Commented Nov 4, 2014 at 23:17
  • I liked the plug for Hebrewbooks in Alex's answer!
    – Isaac Moses Mod
    Commented Nov 5, 2014 at 6:37
  • To fill out the first page, maybe also include one of these other Maoz Tzur questions? judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/22523/… judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/4393/maoz-tzur-purim
    – Isaac Moses Mod
    Commented Nov 5, 2014 at 6:39
  • @IsaacMoses You know what these publications look like better than I do -- you don't think that the very many line breaks in Yosef's answer would fill out a page?
    – MTL
    Commented Nov 6, 2014 at 19:04
  • we'll see when I paste it into Word. I'd rather have to cut then than have to add new content then.
    – Isaac Moses Mod
    Commented Nov 6, 2014 at 19:28
  • @IsaacMoses Alright. I'll see what I can do with the other questions.
    – MTL
    Commented Nov 6, 2014 at 19:29
  • @IsaacMoses Actually, the Purim one fits very nicely with the first question -- working on it now.
    – MTL
    Commented Nov 6, 2014 at 19:37
  • @IsaacMoses What do you think now? ( I'm very tempted to edit Gershon's answer on the Purim question to show all the work I did for this answer :P )
    – MTL
    Commented Nov 6, 2014 at 21:30
  • 1
    Looks good. Do feel free to edit the original post. The community is supposed to continually improve the quality of our content.
    – Isaac Moses Mod
    Commented Nov 6, 2014 at 21:33
  • So i went to do this for the second-party edits, but i don't see anything that needs to be changed. :)
    – Scimonster
    Commented Nov 16, 2014 at 8:37
  • @Scimonster Make sure all transliterations are in order? ....one reason I didn't volunteer to second-party edit was because I wasn't sure about what transliterations we'd be using ;-)
    – MTL
    Commented Nov 16, 2014 at 14:23
  • @Scimonster Internet was down for a night....this one lived on my computer as a .md file for a little while..... ;-)
    – MTL
    Commented Nov 16, 2014 at 14:59

How special is your menorah?

Can one throw out a menorah?

HodofHod asked1: Is it an issue to discard a menorah that has been used for the mitzvah of Chanuka lights?

What if the menorah is made from something not usually used for a menorah — for example, bottles, cans, or ice?

msh210 answered: Mishna B'rura2 21:1 says that once a thing used for a mitzva is no longer usable for the mitzva, it can be discarded, but should not be discarded in a degrading manner or used for a degrading purpose. He considers deliberately throwing it onto the garbage heap as an example of discarding it in a degrading manner.

I've heard recommended that such an object be put in a separate bag and then in the garbage. However, I'm not sure whether a m'nora is included in this category, since it could be used for other, non-mitzva, purposes.

Note that he only says this about something used for a mitzva and no longer usable. He does not address a still-usable object; I conecture that this is simply because such things aren't generally discarded at all, but that, if bal tashchis3 is not an issue, the same rule will apply.

Double AA reached back to the Talmud: You may discard it. The Talmud (Megillah 26b) states4:

תנו רבנן: תשמישי מצוה - נזרקין, תשמישי קדושה - נגנזין. ואלו הן תשמישי מצוה: סוכה, לולב, שופר, ציצית. ואלו הן תשמישי קדושה: דלוסקמי ספרים, תפילין ומזוזות, ותיק של ספר תורה, ונרתיק של תפילין ורצועותיהן
Our Rabbis taught: ‘Accessories of religious observances [when disused] are to be thrown away; accessories of holiness are to be stored away. The following are accessories of religious observances: a sukkah, a lulab, a shofar, fringes. The following are accessories of holiness: large sacks for keeping scrolls of the Scripture in, tefillin and mezuzoth, a mantle for a sefer torah, and a tefillin bag and tefillin straps’.

A menorah is certainly in the former category, especially considering you don't actually need a menorah as you could light candles directly on a table!

  1. Original question: mi.yodeya.com/q/12183
  2. "‎Clarified Teaching," an early 20th Century commentary on Shulchan Aruch, by Rabbi Yisrael Meir Kagan
  3. The prohibition against waste
  4. Translation from the Soncino Hebrew/English Babylonian Talmud, R' Dr. Isidore Epstein, ed.

Advanced: Is there an imperative to have a fancy menorah?

'not allowed to change my name' asked1: Is it considered a meritorious practice to have a fancy/expensive/large menorah? Normally the imperative to beautify mitzvos is related to the mitzvah item itself (e.g. talis, tefillin, esrog), so here I would assume it would just mean to have beautiful candles.

Double AA said: First of all, note that opinions cited in Avnei Nezer2 2:500 say that you need to have the candles lit in some sort of kli (vessel) and not just loose. According to these opinions, the menora itself is a mitzva object.

That said, even if you don't rule that way, we have a notion of hiddur mitzva3 even for things that aren't direct mitzva objects, such as the quill used to write Torah scrolls, tefilin and mezuzot (see Talmud - Shabbat 133b).

The Mishna Berura (673:28) does note that one should expend effort to have as nice a menorah as one can.

Cleaning a chanukia4 in a bathroom?

Michael Sandler asked: The easiest way I have found to get candle wax off a metal chanukia is with a stream of hot water. The wax melts and runs off with the water.

One kettle of hot water is not enough to clean it all, and the tap in our kitchen is not high enough above the sink to fit this particular large chanukia under it.

Can one clean the chanukia in a bath or shower, or must it not be taken into the bathroom because of its holiness?

Double AA answered: Based on my answers (above) regarding throwing out a menorah and having a fancy one, I think you can clean it in the bathroom because it has no inherent holiness.

  1. Original question: mi.yodeya.com/q/22602
  2. Collected responsa of R' Avrohom Bornsztain, a Nineteenth Century Polish Chassidic Rebbe
  3. The imperative to "beautify the commandment fulfillment"
  4. Chanuka menorah, as opposed to the seven-branched Menorah in the Holy Temple
  5. Original question: mi.yodeya.com/q/13258

Double AA mi.yodeya.com/u/759
HodofHod mi.yodeya.com/u/883
Michael Sandler mi.yodeya.com/u/641
msh210 mi.yodeya.com/u/170
'not allowed to change my name' mi.yodeya.com/u/1561

  • Note that I moved "Cleaning ..." to the second page due to space constraints on the first and space on the second.
    – Isaac Moses Mod
    Commented Nov 5, 2014 at 7:37
  • 2
    CC-BY-licensed photos that can be used to illustrate Hod's wacky list: flickr.com/photos/jmrosenfeld/3154321679/in/… flickr.com/photos/moonlightbulb/6550683205 flickr.com/photos/baroquem/5246604818/in/…
    – Isaac Moses Mod
    Commented Nov 5, 2014 at 7:38
  • 2
    The advanced side here (and on some others) is not, in retrospect, all that advanced. Maybe we shouldn't label them that way and just mention the idea in the intro? One question for everybody, then more that might be more advanced? Commented Nov 5, 2014 at 13:10
  • @MonicaCellio, I agree. That's one of a few things that the Intro can call out as "in general."
    – Isaac Moses Mod
    Commented Nov 5, 2014 at 13:31
  • Should we be using "menorah" to refer to a chanukiyah, even though that is an incorrect term?
    – Scimonster
    Commented Nov 5, 2014 at 19:57
  • @Scimonster, 1) "Chanukiyah" is not an English word, while "menorah" is an English word that can mean "chanukiya" 2) Do you have an answer for this question?
    – Isaac Moses Mod
    Commented Nov 5, 2014 at 20:10
  • 1) So perhaps use "Chanukah menorah"? 2) Nope, sorry.
    – Scimonster
    Commented Nov 5, 2014 at 20:13
  • 2) OK, so 1) there's no pressing need to. It's clear from context which definition is meant.
    – Isaac Moses Mod
    Commented Nov 5, 2014 at 20:14

Strange Placement of the Chanukiah

Lighting candles on an upper story

Monica Cellio asked1: I have learned that, to publicize the miracle, the Chanukah candles must be within 20 amot (cubits, between 1.5 and 2 feet according to most authorities) of the ground. Yet when I was in Jerusalem during Chanukah some years ago, I saw chanukiyot in windows of upper floors in buildings, leading me to wonder how people with upper-story apartments (or hotel rooms, for travelers) are supposed to fulfill the mitzvah. Another question2 about eating out during Chanukah suggests that publicizing the miracle to the members of one's family "counts"; is that correct?

If lighting on an upper floor of a building fulfills the mitzvah, does this also apply to temporary residences, like a hotel room, or only to one's permanent home? Must a traveler during Chanukah ensure that he gets a first-floor hotel room? (Perhaps we are more willing to tell a traveler to do this than to tell a resident to move house.)

msh210 said: My understanding is this:

  • The ideal is to publicize the miracle to people outside. This is accomplished by placing the chanukiah just outside an outside door, or just inside a door or window so it is visible from the outside. However, as noted in the question, visibility is restricted to twenty amos up, so this doesn't work if the window is higher than that. (People's looking at it from windows across a courtyard may help, though: I don't know. As always, consult your rabbi.) In that case, you'd need to use a less-than-ideal way of publicizing.
  • A less-than-ideal way of publicizing is to the few passersby who happen to be in your hallway. (I consider this to be the second solution based on Mishna B'rura 671:23, who implies that visibility to a courtyard is better than visibility indoors, but worse than visibility to the outside, and on the prevalent custom that a window is as good as a door. Again, please consult your rabbi for practical guidance, as I admit that this is a chidush (a new interpretation).)
  • Or, least ideally, publicize it only to people in your own room. If you're the only one there, light without saying the b'racha. (Mishna B'rura 672:11.)

I can't address "Must a traveler during Chanukah ensure that he gets a first-floor hotel room?" (though I certainly don't see the harm in his attempting to do so). Note, though, that the second floor's windowsill will usually be within twenty amos of the ground, and the third's will often be.

  1. Original question: Chanukiyah height restriction and modern architecture? mi.yodeya.com/q/29217
  2. Eating out Friday night of Chanukkah: mi.yodeya.com/q/12377

Advanced: Making Bracha on Channukah Candles in Jail

Yehoshua asked1: Someone who is in jail and is able to light Channukah candles, can/should he recite a blessing?

I don't know if being in jail is considered to be like having a home that someone would have an obligation to light candles in. This is a dira bal korcha (a forced living situation). He definitely isn't paying rent in order to be there either. Is this like a "guest"? Does the fact that he eats most of his meals there mean something as well?

Are there any poskim (decisors) that discuss this issue?

I also saw in the Beis Yosef in Siman 677 towards the end where he brings from the Mahari Abohav that someone who is in a boat or in the house of non-Jews may light with a bracha. Perhaps one may bring a proof from here to our case? Is the house of a non-Jew better/worse (in terms of being able to light with a bracha) than a jail?

Gershon Gold said: Per Rabbi Ben Zion Abba Shaul in an essay in Ohr Olam, one in prison should light and make a bracha on Chanuka candles.

A prisoner in jail should light in his cell with a bracha. And if there are several prisoners in one cell, they should join together and light Chanuka candles. And if there is a synagogue in jail, they should light there with a bracha in addition to the cell.

See also Sichos in English:

It is of particular importance to reach those Jews who are confined to hospitals and prisons, and to help them to light Chanukah candles.

  1. Original question: Making Bracha on Channukah Candles in Jail mi.yodeya.com/q/22692

Monica Cellio mi.yodeya.com/u/472
msh210 mi.yodeya.com/u/170
Yehoshua mi.yodeya.com/u/1884
Gershon Gold mi.yodeya.com/u/200


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