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President Peres lit the Menorah with members of the Jewish community of Mexico

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Chabad of RARA takes Jewish outreach to isolated communitiesABC Online

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Jewish Home MK: Partnership with Yesh Atid ‘a Mistake’Arutz Sheva

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TORAH STUDIES: Chanukah Select Section Shiurim: 24JEWISH ALERTS large selection videos and feeds in each section

Miketz Part 1 (english)   Miketz  Part 2 (hebrew)  

Parashat Miketz  Part 3 (spanish, portugeese, italian, german, russian,  turkish)

 Miketz Part 4 (YOUTH/TEEN)       Miketz   The Jewish Woman

Kislev 24, 5774 · November 27, 2013

In this Sicha, the Rebbe explains the Mitzvah of the Chanukah lights, and concentrates on two of their features, that they are to be placed by the door of one’s house that is adjacent to the street, or the public domain, and that they must be placed on the left-hand side of the door. These features have a deep symbolism: The “left-hand side” and the “public domain” both stand for the realm of the profane, and by placing the lights there, we are, as it were, bringing the Divine light into the area of existence which is normally most resistant to it. The Sicha goes on to explain the difference between the positive and negative commandments in their effect on the world, and concludes with a comparison between the Chanukah lights and tefillin.

1. The Chanukah Lights and the Mezuzah

The Mitzvah of the Chanukah lights is similar in two respects to that of the mezuzah: Both have to be placed by the side of the door of a house or a courtyard, and both must be set on the outside.1 But there are also two significant differences between them. The mezuzah must be fixed on the right-hand side of the door, and the Chanukah lights set on the left.2 And though both are placed outside, in the case of the mezuzah, this is only to signify where the house or the courtyard begin—to mark the entrance. On the other hand the Chanukah lights are intended specifically to illuminate the outside, the public domain. The mezuzah, as it were, points inward while the Menorah shines outward.

These two points of difference may be connected. For the “public domain” (reshut ha-rabim; literally, “the domain of the many”) suggests the idea of multiplicity or lack of unity; and the “left-hand side” is the name for the source of that life in which there is separation and disunity. “Public domain” and “left-hand side” are therefore related by being symbolic names for the dimension of division and alienation from G-d.3

2. The Mezuzah and the Other Commandments

The precept of mezuzah is said to be equal in importance to all the other Mitzvot together: It is said to include them all within itself.4 So we would expect to find them all sharing the two features which characterize the mezuzah—the idea of the right hand, and of being directed inward rather than towards the outside.

And almost all of them do.

Most have to be performed with the right hand.5 Indeed, burnt offerings were vitiated if they were not offered with the right hand.6 Also, certain commandments must be performed indoors, while those which may be done outside have no integral connection with the idea of the “public domain,” since they may also be performed indoors—in short, they have no connection with place at all.

It follows that the Chanukah lights—which occupy the left-hand side, and are intended for the outside—have a different character to almost every other precept in Judaism.

3. Positive and Negative Commands

This difference between the mezuzah (and all other Mitzvot) and the Chanukah lights is analogous to another distinction—between the positive and negative commands.

The positive commands (can only be performed with objects which) belong to the domain of the permitted;7 the negative to the (non-performance of the) forbidden.

Every performance of a Mitzvah brings spiritual life to the world—in the form of “Divine light.” And the light which is drawn down by the fulfillment of a positive command is of the kind that can be internalized in the act, “clothed” or contained within it. The act “clothes” the light in the same way as the body “clothes” the soul. But a Divine light which can be contained in such a way is finite, taking on the character of that which contains it.8 It cannot descend to the realm of the impure or forbidden, for the character of the forbidden is that of a negation of G-d’s will, and this is a character which a light which emanates from G-d cannot take on.

On the other hand, the light which inhabits this and which is released by the fulfillment of a negative command, is infinite. It cannot be contained by the forbidden (or indeed by any) act, nor does it share its character, and so it can be released not by performing it, but only by refraining from it. Indeed, only an infinite light could descend this far into impurity, being, as it were, undimmed where it shines.

And the Chanukah light is of this infinite kind, because it brings light to the “left-hand side” and the “public domain”—both symbols of impurity and alienation from G-d.

In fact the Chanukah light goes beyond the negative commandment for it is, in itself, a positive command. Refraining from a forbidden act may negate it. But the Chanukah lights do not negate but illuminate and purify the world of “outside”—just as a positive command purifies the world of “inside” (i.e., the permitted).

And this is the connection between the Chanukah lights and the Torah, which is itself called a “light.”9 For the Torah also concerns itself with (specifying) the acts which are forbidden and the things which are impure. And through studying the Torah, the sparks of holiness embedded in the realm of the forbidden are released and elevated.10

4. The Chanukah Lights and Tefillin

It is known that the seven commandments which the Rabbis instituted, one of which is the command of the Chanukah lights, derive ultimately from commandments to be found in the Torah.11 So there must be amongst the Torah commandments one which is an analogue of the lights of Chanukah, one which brings the Divine light into the “left-hand side” and the “public domain.” And this is the Mitzvah of tefillin. For the hand-tefillin are worn on the left arm (the weaker arm, i.e., the left if the person is right-handed), and the reason is, as explained in the Zohar,12 that the “Evil Inclination” (the “left side of the heart”; the voice of emotional dissent to G-d’s will) should itself be “bound” into the service of G-d. And the head-tefillin must be worn uncovered and exposed so that “all the people of the earth shall see that the name of the L-rd is called upon you; and they shall be in awe of you.”13 Its purpose, then, is to reveal G-dliness to “all the people of the earth” and to cause them to be “in awe.” So it is, that the tefillin, like the Chanukah lights are directed to the “left-hand side” and the “public domain”—towards that which lies “outside” the recognition of G-d.

In the light of this we can understand the Rabbinic saying that “the whole Torah is compared to (the commandment of) tefillin.”14 The tefillin have, like Torah, the power to effect a purification even in the realm of the profane.

5. The Mitzvah of Tefillin

On Chanukah one has to give an extra amount of charity,15 “both in money and in person,”16 both material and spiritual charity. And since the Mitzvah of tefillin has, as we have seen, a special connection with the lights of Chanukah, Chanukah is itself a particularly appropriate and pressing time to devote to the work of the “tefillin campaign,” helping as many other Jews as possible to participate in the Mitzvah.

And when one brings it about that another Jew fulfills the Mitzvah of tefillin, then, as it is recorded in the Mishna, “a Mitzvah draws another Mitzvah in its train.”17 If this is true for any Mitzvah, all the more is it true of tefillin to which are compared all the other Mitzvot.18 And so from the seed of this single observance will grow, in time, the observance of all the others.

The miracle of Chanukah is apparent not only in the fact that “for Your people Israel You worked a great deliverance and redemption as at this day’’—a deliverance from a people who were “impure,” “wicked” and “arrogant,” and despite their being “strong” and “many”; but also in the result that “afterwards Your children came into Your most holy house, cleansed Your Temple, purified Your Sanctuary, and kindled lights in Your holy courtyards.”19

And so it is with tefillin. By the observance of this Mitzvah, not only is a “deliverance and redemption” achieved from “all the people of the earth”—for since they will be “in awe of you,” they will no longer stand in opposition to Israel, but will be as if “our hearts melted, and there was no courage left in any man because of you.”20 But also, and as a consequence of the Mitzvah, “Your children (will come) into Your most holy house”—into the Third Temple which will be revealed speedily on earth, as a sign of the Messianic Age.

(Source: Likkutei Sichot, Vol. V pp. 223-7)

1. Shabbat, 21b; Menachot, 33b.
2. Shabbat, 22a.
3. Torah Or, 42c. Ner Chanukah of 5643 and 5704.
4. Siddur (of Rabbi Schneur Zalman), p. 275a.
5. Cf. Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim, ch. 2.
6. Rambam, Hilchot Bi’at Hamikdash, 5:18.
7. Cf. Shabbat, 28b.
8. Torah Or, 52d. Likkutei Torah, Pekudei, 6d.
9. Proverbs 6:23.
10. Cf. also Likkutei Torah, Re’eh, 30b and 31b.
11. Tanya, Part IV, 29.
12. Part III, 283a.
13. Devarim 28:10. Berachot, 6a.
14. Kiddushin, 35a. Cf. also Midrash Tehillim (1:2): “Fulfill the Mitzvah of tefillin, and I will count it as if you had toiled in Torah by day and by night.”
15. Magen Avraham, in Shulchan Aruch, beg. Hilchot Chanukah.
16. Peri Megadim, Ibid.
17. Pirkei Avot, 4:2.
18. As is the literal meaning of the Talmud quoted in note 14, above: that the Mitzvot of the Torah are all compared to tefillin.
19. V’Al Hanissim prayer.
20. Joshuah 2:11.
Adapted by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks; From the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe    More articles…  |   RSS Listing of Newest Articles by this Author

Select Section Events, Jewish Life : 24JEWISH ALERTS large selection in each section

Six13 – The Thanksgivukkah Anthem

Send this song as a PERSONALIZED VIDEO CHANUKAH CARD to your friends and family. It’s free!!/sendcard

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One should never understate the importance and historical significance of the semi-unprecdented phenomenon that is Thanksgivukkah. Happy Thanksgiving! Or for our non-U.S. fans: Happy Thursday!

To ALL: A very happy Chanukah. Chag Sameach!

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8th day concert Glasgow Scotland


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Życzymy radosnej, pełnej  światła i dobrej energii Chanuki!

Chag Chanuka Sameach!

Janusz Makuch

Kasia, Kornelia, Marysia, Ela, Robert, Paweł

Festiwal Kultury Żydowskiej w Krakowie

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koncert Malox (IL), turniej rummikuba oraz Latkes Party!

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We wish you joyous Hanukkah, full of light and positive energy!

Chag Hanukkah Sameach!

Janusz Makuch

Kasia, Kornelia, Marysia, Ela, Robert, Paweł

Jewish Culture Festival in Krakow

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concert: Malox (IL), rummikub and Latkes Party!

more info on Facebook
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Select Section Tanya Shiurim: 24JEWISH ALERTS large selection videos and feeds in each section
Kislev 25, 5774 · November 28, 2013
Today’s Tanya Lesson
Likutei Amarim, end of Chapter 1

והא דאמרינן בעלמא דמחצה על מחצה מקרי בינוני ורוב זכיות מקרי צדיק

As for the well-known saying1 that one [whose deeds and misdeeds are] equally balanced is called a Beinoni, while [he who has] a majority of virtues outweighing his sins is called a tzaddik,

הוא שם המושאל

this is only a borrowed name, i.e., a figurative use of the term borrowed from its true usage in order to emphasize a particular point. Thus the names Beinoni and tzaddik,denoting a balance between merits and sins, are in fact but borrowed names

לענין שכר ועונש

used in regard to reward and punishment,

לפי שנדון אחר רובו

because one is judged according to the majority [of his deeds],

ומקרי צדיק בדינו מאחר שזוכה בדין

and he is termed “righteous” in reference to his verdict, since he is acquitted at his trial.

It is only in this legal sense that the term tzaddik is applied to one who performs more good deeds than evil.

אבל לענין אמיתת שם התואר והמעלה של מעלת ומדריגות חלוקות צדיקים ובינונים

If, however, we seek to truly define the distinct qualities and ranks oftzaddikim and Beinonim,

אמרו רבותינו ז״ל: צדיקים — יצר טוב שופטן, שנאמר: ולבי חלל בקרבי

our Sages have remarked that the righteous are “judged” i.e., motivated and ruled, solely by their good nature, as it is written,2 “And my heart is slain within me,”

שאין לו יצר הרע כי הרגו בתענית

meaning that he i.e., David, the author of this verse was devoid of an evil nature, having slain it through fasting.

David extirpated his evil nature through fasting; other ways too are possible.

We thus see from the Gemara that the definition of tzaddik in its true sense applies to the person who has rid himself of his evil nature.

אבל כל מי שלא הגיע למדרגה זו, אף שזכיותיו מרובים על עונותיו, אינו במעלת ומדריגת צדיק כלל

But whoever has not attained this degree of ridding himself of his evil nature,even though his virtues outnumber his sins, is not at all at the level and rank of tzaddik.

In fact, not only has he not reached the rank of tzaddik: he has not yet attained even the level of Beinoni, as has been demonstrated above.

ולכן אמרו רבותינו ז״ל במדרש: ראה הקדוש ברוך הוא בצדיקים שהם מועטים, עמד ושתלן ככל דור ודור וכו׳

This is why our Sages have expounded:3 “The Almighty saw that the righteous were few, so He arose and planted i.e., and spread them in every generation,”

וכמו שכתוב: וצדיק יסוד עולם

[for,] as it is written,4 “The tzaddik is the foundation of the world.”

Thus, in each generation there must be a tzaddik who serves as the “foundation of the world.”

This paucity of tzaddikim (“The righteous were few”) can be explained only if atzaddik is he who has totally rid himself of his evil nature. Were the term tzaddik to mean one whose good deeds outweigh the evil, why then do our Sages say that “the righteous were few,” when the overwhelming majority of Jews have more good deeds than evil!

אך ביאור הענין

However, the explanation of the matter, so that we better understand the levels of tzaddik and Beinoni, as well as the various gradations within their ranks,

על פי מה שכתב הרב חיים ויטאל ז״ל בשער הקדושה ובע׳ חיים שער נ׳ פרק ב׳

[is to be found] in light of what Rabbi Chayim Vital wrote in Shaar HaKedushah (and in Etz Chayim, Portal 5, ch. 2) —

דלכל איש ישראל אחד צדיק ואחד רשע יש שתי נשמות

that every Jew, whether righteous or wicked, possesses two souls,

וכדכתיב: ונשמות אני עשיתי,

as it is written,5 “And neshamot (souls) which I have made.”

Though the verse speaks of an individual Jew (as is indicated by the singular form of the word ruach (spirit) in the preceding phrase, “When the spirit of a man which emanates from Me will be humbled…”), the plural term souls is nevertheless used, indicating that every Jew possesses two souls.

שהן שתי נפשות

These are two nefashot6 — two souls and life-forces.

נפש אחת מצד הקליפה וסטרא אחרא

One soul originates in the kelipah and sitra achra.

Kelipah” means a shell or peel. G-d created forces which conceal the G-dly life-force found in all creation as a peel covers and conceals a fruit. “Sitra achra” means “the other side” — the side of creation that is the antithesis of holiness and purity. (The two terms are generally synonymous.)

והיא המתלבשת בדם האדם להחיות הגוף

It is this nefesh (which originates in the kelipah and sitra achra) that is clothed in the blood of a human being, giving life to the body;

וכדכתיב: כי נפש הבשר בדם היא

as it is written,7 “For the nefesh of the flesh (i.e., the nefesh that sustains physical and corporeal life) is in the blood.”

וממנה באות כל המדות רעות מארבעה יסודות רעים שבה

From [this nefesh] stem all the evil characteristics, deriving from the four evil elements within it.

Just as the four physical elements of Fire, Air, Water and Earth are the foundation of all physical entities, so too is this nefesh comprised of four corresponding spiritualelements. Since they derive from kelipah and evil, they themselves are evil, and from them in turn one’s evil characteristics come into being.

דהיינו: כעס וגאוה מיסוד האש שנגבה למעלה

Namely: anger and pride [emanate] from the element of Fire which rises upwards;

Once ignited by anger and pride, a man (like fire) soars aloft. Pride is the state of considering oneself superior to others. Anger too is an offshoot of pride. Would a person not be proud, he would not be angered when someone defied his will.

ותאות התענוגים מיסוד המים, כי המים מצמיחים כל מיני תענוג

the appetite for pleasures [emanates] from the element of Water, for water promotes the growth of all kinds of pleasure-giving things.

The ability of water to make pleasurable things grow indicates that concealed within it is the element of pleasure. Thus, the appetite for pleasure derives from the element of Water.

והוללות וליצנות והתפארות ודברים בטלים מיסוד הרוח

frivolity and scoffing, boasting and idle talk [emanate] from the element of Air; like air, they lack substance;

ועצלות ועצבות מיסוד העפר

and sloth and melancholy [emanate] from the element of Earth.

Earth is characterized by heaviness. A man encumbered by sloth and melancholy likewise senses a heaviness of the limbs.

וגם מדות טובות שבטבע כל ישראל בתולדותם, כמו רחמנות וגמילות חסדים, באות ממנה

From this soul stem also the good traits inherent in every Jew’s character, such as compassion and benevolence.

But since this is a nefesh of kelipah and evil, how do good characteristics come from it? This matter is now addressed.

כי בישראל נפש זו דקליפה היא מקליפת נוגה, שיש בה גם כן טוב

For in the [case of the] Jew, this soul of kelipah is derived from thekelipah called “nogah”, which also contains good; and the good within thisnefesh gives rise to these positive natural traits.

והיא מסוד ע׳ הדעת טוב ורע

[This kelipah] is from the esoteric “Tree of Knowledge” [which is comprised] of good and evil.8

מה שאין כן נפשות אומות העולם הן משאר קליפות טמאות שאין בהן טוב כלל

The souls of the nations of the world, however, emanate from the other, unclean kelipot which contain no good whatever,

כמו שכתוב בע׳ חיים שער מ״ט פרק ג׳: וכל טיבו דעבדין האומות לגרמייהו עבדין

as is written in Etz Chayim, Portal 49, ch. 3, that all the good that the nations do, is done out of selfish motives.

Since their nefesh emanates from kelipot which contain no good, it follows that any good done by them is for selfish motives.

וכדאיתא בגמרא על פסוק: וחסד לאומים חטאת — שכל צדקה וחסד שאומות העולם עושין אינן אלא להתייהר כו׳

So the Gemara9 comments on the verse,10 “The kindness of the nations is sin” — that all the charity and kindness done by the nations of the world is only for their self-glorification…

When a Jew acts in a benevolent manner he is motivated mainly out of concern for the welfare of his fellow. The proof of this is that were his fellow not to need his help, this would give him greater pleasure than the gratification derived from his act of kindness.

Concerning the nations of the world, however, this is not so. Their motivation is not the welfare of their fellow; rather, it stems from a self-serving motive — the desire for self-glorification, a feeling of gratification, and the like.

It should be noted that among the nations of the world there are also to be found those whose souls are derived from kelipat nogah.11 Called “the pious ones of the nations of the world,” these righteous individuals are benevolent not out of selfish motives but out of a genuine concern for their fellow.

——— ● ———

1. See Rambam, Hilchot Teshuvah 3:1; Rashi on Rosh HaShanah 16b.
2. Tehillim 109:22. See ch. 13 for the comment of the Rebbe on the interpretation of this verse.
3. Cf. Yoma 38b.
4. Mishlei 10:25.
5. Yeshayahu 57:16.
6. The Rebbe notes: The addition of the words, “These are two nefashot,” makes it clear that the two souls possessed by every Jew are not necessarily of the soul-level of Neshamah, the third highest of the five soul-levels (viz., Nesfesh, Ruach, Neshamah, Chayah and Yechidah), for this soul-level is not necessarily found in every Jew, and certainly not in his animal soul. Rather, this refers to the essential soul-level of Nefesh possessed by every Jew.
7. Vayikra 17:11.
8. See Zohar I, 12b.
9. Bava Batra 10b.
10. Mishlei 14:34
11. See Siddur Im D’ach, Shaar Chag HaMatzot; Lekutei Biurim (By Rabbi Hillel Malisov of Paritch), 47b.
The Tanya of Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, elucidated by Rabbi Yosef Wineberg    More articles…  |   RSS Listing of Newest Articles by this Author

Translated from Yiddish by Rabbi Levy Wineberg and Rabbi Sholom B. Wineberg. Edited by Uri Kaploun.
Published and copyright by Kehot Publication Society, all rights reserved.

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Your Chanukah Guide – 2013
Editor’s Note

Chanukah begins this year on Wednesday evening, November 27, 2013, and continues through Thursday, December 5, 2013. What follows is a how-to guide to the basics of Chanukah observance.

The staff wishes you and yours a Happy Chanukah!

Chanukah in a Nutshell


Chanukah — the eight-day festival of light that begins on the eve of the 25th of the Jewish month of Kislev — celebrates the triumph oflight over darkness, of purity overadulteration, of spirituality over materiality.

More than twenty-one centuries ago, the Holy Land was ruled by the Seleucids (Syrian-Greeks), who sought to forcefully Hellenize the people of Israel. Against all odds, a small band of faithful Jews defeated one of the mightiest armies on earth, drove the Greeks from the land, reclaimed the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and rededicated it to the service of G-d.

When they sought to light the Temple’s menorah (the seven branched candelabrum), they found only a single cruse of olive oil that had escaped contamination by the Greeks; miraculously, the one-day supply burned for eight days, until new oil could be prepared under conditions of ritual purity.

To commemorate and publicize these miracles, the sages instituted the festival of Chanukah. At the heart of the festival is the nightly menorah (candelabrum) lighting: a single flame on the first night, two on the second evening, and so on till the eighth night of Chanukah, when all eight lights are kindled.

On Chanukah we also add the Hallel and Al HaNissim in our daily prayers to offer praise and thanksgiving to G-d for “delivering the strong into the hands of theweak, the many into the hands of the few… the wicked into the hands of therighteous.”

Chanukah customs include eating foods fried in oil — latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganiot (doughnuts); playing with the dreidel (a spinning top on which are inscribed the Hebrew letters nungimmelhei and shin, an acronym for Nes Gadol Hayah Sham, “a great miracle happened there”); and the giving ofChanukah gelt, gifts of money, to children.

Click here for the complete story of Chanukah, and here for a comprehensive “How To” guide for the observances and customs of Chanukah.

The Menorah

The basic elements of a kosher menorah are eight holders for oil or candles and an additional holder, set apart from the rest, for theshamash (“attendant”) candle.

The Chanukah lights can either be candle flames or oil-fueled. Since the miracle of Chanukah happened with olive oil – the little cruse of oil that lasted for eight days – an oil menorah is preferable to a candle one, and olive oil is the ideal fuel. Cotton wicks are preferred because of the smooth flame they produce.

Whenever purchasing a mitzvah article, we try to buy the most beautiful one that is within our means. So, if at all possible, go for the silver menorah. Beautifying a mitzvah is our way of expressing our appreciation to G‑d, and showing how dearly we hold His commandments.

The eight candles of the menorah must be arranged in a straight, even line, not in a zigzag or with some lights higher than others. If it is an oil menorah, the oil cups must hold enough oil to burn for the required time – at least 30 minutes on weeknights, and up to one-and-a-half hours on Friday evening (see Special Shabbat Rules). If it is a candle menorah, the candles should be large enough to burn for the required time.

Electric menorahs are great for display purposes, and are a wonderful medium for publicizing the Chanukah miracle. But the Chanukah lights used to fulfill the mitzvah should be real flames fueled by wax or oil – like the flames in the Holy Temple.


The Shamash

The shamash – the “attendant” candle that is used to kindle the other lights – sits a bit higher or lower than the other candles, on the ninth branch of the menorah. Many Jews have a tradition to use a beeswax candle for the shamash.

Though the shamash’s primary function has been served once the candles have been lit, we don’t extinguish the shamash. Instead, we set it in its place adjacent to the other lights, ready to “serve” in case a candle blows out. Another reason why we leave the shamash lit is because it is forbidden to use the Chanukah lights for any practical reason. This way, if a candle is needed, the shamash is available for use, preserving the sanctity of the mitzvah lights.


Men and women alike are obligated to participate in the menorah lighting. In some families, the head of the household lights the family menorah while everyone else listens to the blessings and answers, “Amen.” In many other families, all members of the household, including children, light their own menorahs. Either way, it is important for everyone to be present and involved when the Chanukah miracle is festively commemorated.


Light Up Your Home

Light the menorah in your own home. If you are traveling out of town, set up your menorah wherever you will be staying for the night. If you will be spending the night in a Jewish home, you have the option of giving your host a dollar or so, a symbolic contribution towards the menorah expenses, and then you are covered by his/her menorah lighting – or better yet, light your own menorah too. Two candles are more powerful than one!

Students who live in dormitories or their own apartments should kindle menorahs in their own rooms or in a communal dining area. In places where this is prohibited, a rabbi should be consulted as to where to kindle the menorah.

Window or Door

In the home, there are two preferred locations for the menorah.

You can set up the menorah in a central doorway. Place it on a chair or small table near the doorpost that is opposite the mezuzah. This way, when you pass through the doorway, you are surrounded by two mitzvot – the mezuzah and the menorah. Ideally, the menorah lights should be between 12 and 40 inches off the ground.

Or you can set up your menorah on a windowsill facing the street. This option should only be exercised if the window is less than thirty feet above ground-level.


The Chanukah lights are kindled every night of Chanukah. The Maccabees chased away the forces of darkness with swords; we do it with light.

The custom of many communities (and such is the Chabad-Lubavitch custom) is to light the menorah shortly after sunset. In other communities, the menorah is kindled after nightfall (approximately thirty minutes after sunset). Either way, the menorah must contain enough fuel to burn for at least thirty minutes after nightfall. Note: The standard Chanukah candles only last approximately 30 minutes. If using those candles, then light after nightfall every night (aside for Friday).

Regardless of the custom you follow on other Chanukah nights, on Friday night the menorah is lit before sunset, and on Saturday night it is lit after nightfall. SeeSpecial Shabbat Rules for more information.

Ideally, you should light the menorah at the earliest possible opportunity. Only delay if you are awaiting the arrival of family members who wish to be present when the menorah is lit. The Chanukah lights may be lit as long as there are people in the streets, or as long as there is another family member awake to participate – but no later than one half hour before dawn. (If no other household member is awake and the streets are already quiet, light the menorah without reciting the blessing.)

Lighting the Menorah

1. Arrange the lights on the menorah. Ensure that there is enough oil, or that the candles are big enough, for the lights to burn until half an hour after nightfall (or, if lighting after nightfall, for one half hour). On the first night, set one candle to the far right of the menorah. On the following night, add a second light to the left of the first one, and then add one light each night of Chanukah – moving from right to left.

2. Gather everyone in the house around the menorah.

3. Light the shamash candle. Then hold it in your right hand (unless you are left-handed).

4. While standing, recite the appropriate blessings.

5. Light the candles. Each night, light the newest (left-most) candle first and continue lighting from left to right. (We add lights to the menorah from right to left, while we light from left to right.)

The Blessings

Before lighting the Chanukah candles, we thank G‑d for giving us this special mitzvah, and for the incredible Chanukah miracles:

Ba-ruch A-tah Ado-nai E-lo-he-nu Me-lech ha-olam a-sher ki-de-sha-nu be-mitz-vo-tav ve-tzi-va-nu le-had-lik ner Chanukah.

Ba-ruch A-tah Ado-nai E-lo-hei-nu Me-lech ha-olam she-a-sa ni-sim la-avo-te-nu ba-ya-mim ha-hem bi-z’man ha-zeh.

[Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments, and commanded us to kindle the Chanukah light.

Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, who performed miracles for our forefathers in those days, at this time.]

On the first night of Chanukah, Wednesday November 27, 2013 (or the first time on Chanukah you perform this mitzvah), add the following blessing:

Ba-ruch A-tah Ado-nai E-lo-he-nu Me-lech ha-olam she-heche-ya-nu ve-ki-yi-ma-nu ve-higi-a-nu liz-man ha-zeh.

[Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, who has granted us life, sustained us, and enabled us to reach this occasion.]

Relish the Lights

After you finish kindling the menorah lights, place the shamash candle in its designated place on the menorah. At this point it is traditional to sing Chanukah hymns such as Haneirot Halaluand orMaoz Tzur.

Linger around the menorah for about half an hour (aside for Friday afternoon, when Shabbat preparations are in full gear). Share some Chanukah stories with your family, enjoy a draidel game and indulge in some traditional hot latkes(fried potato pancakes) orsufganiot (fried donuts)! (See Chanukah Foods.)

For the first half hour after the candles are lit (or until half an hour after nightfall, if the menorah was lit before dark) the menorah should not be transferred from its place. If a flame dies out during this time, it is best to relight it. After this time, the menorah can be moved if necessary, and there’s no need to rekindle extinguished flames.

Many women refrain from performing household chores during the first half hour that the lights are burning, to honor the brave Jewish women who played a significant role in the Chanukah victory.

Special Shabbat Rules

It is forbidden to light a fire on Shabbat, which extends from sunset on Friday evening until nightfall of Saturday night. Therefore, on Friday afternoon, light the menorah before the Shabbat candles. Shabbat candles are traditionally lit eighteen minutes before sundown. Use additional oil or larger candles for the Friday night Chanukah lights, as they must remain lit until one half hour after nightfall – approximately 1½ hours after the Friday afternoon lighting time. Note: The standard 30-minute Chanukah candles cannot be used on Friday.

For the duration of Shabbat, do not relight any flames that have gone out or move the menorah, nor should you prepare the Saturday night Chanukah lights during the Day of Rest.

On Saturday night, light the menorah after Shabbat ends at nightfall. Traditionally, the menorah is kindled immediately after the havdalah service.


Blessings on the Kindling of the Menorah

Click here for the blessings in Hebrew, transliteration and translation of the blessings on the kindling of the menorah.

V’al Hanissim

During the eight days of Chanukah, we add the V’al Hanissim (“And for the miracles…”) section in the amidah (daily silent prayers) and in the Grace after Meals. In this section we summarize the miracles of the Maccabee victory, and thank G‑d for the “miracles, redemption, mighty deeds, saving acts and wonders” that He wrought for our ancestors.

Click here for the Hebrew text of the V’al Hanissim, as well as an English translation.


Every day of Chanukah, we recite the complete Hallel in the course of the morning prayers. The Hallel is a sequence of praise and gratitude-themed psalms (Psalms 113-118) that is recited on Jewish holidays.

Torah Reading

The Torah is read every day immediately following the Hallel. The Chanukah readings are from the Book of Numbers (7:1-8:4), and discuss the dedication of the Tabernacle, the gifts that the tribal leaders brought in honor of the inauguration, and the command to Aaron to kindle the Tabernacle Menorah daily.

On Chanukah, too, we celebrate the dedication (or, to be precise, the re-dedication) of the Temple by the Maccabees after it had been defiled and contaminated by the Greeks. And the command to Aaron to kindle the Menorah is also an allusion to the Chanukah Menorah, a mitzvah that we have thanks to the bravery of Aaron’s descendants—the priestly Hasmonean family that led the Maccabeean armies in battle against the Greeks.

Click here for the Chanukah readings along with commentary and contemporary insights.

Chanukah Hymns

Various hymns have been composed in honor of Chanukah. The two most popular ones are Maoz Tzur and Haneirot Halalu, which are traditionally sung after the lighting of the Menorah.

Chanukah Gelt

During Chanukah it is customary to give gelt(money) to children, so that we can teach them to give some of it to charity—and just to keep things festive and happy. Some have the admirable custom of gelt-giving each weeknight of Chanukah. In Chabad, it is customary to give gelt every night, but to hand out a heftier sum on the fourth or fifth night.

Click here for some deeper reasons for the Chanukah gelt custom.

On Chanukah, it is also customary to increase one’s daily disbursement to charity.

Chanukah Foods

Oil played a significant role in the Chanukah story—the small jug of oil that miraculously provided fuel for the Temple Menorah for eight days. It is a Jewish tradition to eat foods that reflect the significance of a holiday – such as matzah on Passover, and apple dipped in honey on Rosh Hashanah – and Chanukah is no exception. For at least the last thousand years, Jews have traditionally eaten oily foods on Chanukah.

Among the most popular Chanukah dishes are potato latkes (pancakes) and sufganiot(deep-fried doughnuts).

Actually, oil is also symbolic of the spiritual war waged by the Maccabees. SeeThe War Is All About The Oil for more on this topic.

It is also customary to eat dairy foods on Chanukah, in commemoration of the bravery of Yehudit. Click here to read the story of this brave woman whose daring courage led to a great Maccabee victory.

Click here for traditional Chanukah recipes.

Dreidel Playing Guide

The traditional Chanukah dreidel(spinning top) is a throwback to the times when the Greek armies of King Antiochus controlled the Holy Land, before the Maccabees defeated them and sent them packing. The powerful regime passed a series of laws outlawing the study of Torah and many of the mitzvot. The Jews were compelled to take their Torah learning “underground,” for they knew that a Jew without Torah is like a fish out of water.

Jewish children resorted to learning Torah in outlying areas and forests. Even this plan was not foolproof, for the enemy had many patrols. The children therefore brought along small tops that they would quickly pull out and play with after secreting away their texts, so that they could pretend to be merely playing games.

Our Chanukah dreidel games are a salute to these Jewish heroes of yore.


The classic dreidel is a four sided spinning top made of wood, plastic, or the proverbial clay. On the four sides of the dreidel appear four letters from the Hebrew alphabet—nun (נ), gimmel (ג), hey (ה)and shin (ש). These four letters are an acronym for “nes gadol hayah sham”—“a great miracle happened there.”

In Israel, the actual setting of the Chanukah miracle, the last letter,shin, is substituted with a pey (פ), which stands for “po”—”here.”


  1. All players sit around the playing area.
  2. The “ante” is equally divided amongst all players.
  3. Everyone takes a turn at spinning the dreidel; the one with the highest spin has first turn. (Nun is highest, then gimmel,hey, and shin.) If there is a tie for highest, those who tied spin again.
  4. Everyone puts one unit of the ante (penny, nut, etc.) into the pot.
  5. The one who has first turn is followed in clockwise direction by all the others.
  6. Player A spins the dreidel while everyone waits in utter suspense (in the interest of speeding up the game, some knock down the dreidel mid-spin instead of waiting for it to come to a rest).

If the dreidel lands on a…

Nun – נ

You’ve just wasted your time. Absolutely nothing happens. You may as well have taken a bathroom break instead of that useless spin. Better luck next time!

Nun stands for the Yiddish word nul, which means zero, nothing, nil. After your exercise in futility it’s time now for the player to your left to take a spin.

If however your dreidel landed on a…

Gimmel – ג

Wow! Amazing! You did it! You get to take the whole pot! Take it quick and then do a little victory dance around the room. Pay no attention to the envious stares you are getting. You are an absolute dreidel pro!

Gimmel stands for gantz, which means whole. Everyone, including you, now puts another unit of the ante into the pot, and the person to your left tries his luck at spinning.

But, it’s hard to be so lucky every time. Sometimes your dreidel will land on a…

Hey – ה

Okay, you could have done better, but you could have done worse. You get to take half of the pot. If the pot has an odd amount of units, don’t try to split that penny, nut, or piece of chocolate in half. Leave it there. Take the high road. Let the others believe that it is beneath you to care…

Hey stands for halb, half. The pot has now been diminished, and it’s time for the player to your left to take a stab at riches.

But don’t complain. The dreidel could have landed on a…

Shin – ש

The absolute worst. The dregs. You now have to put another unit into the pot! You better figure out how to improve your spinning technique before you will be forced to take out a second mortgage on your home.

Shin is for shenk; yes, that means give. Your hope now is that the pot will still be around next time it is your turn to spin. Maybe then you’ll get a gimmel and recoup your losses…


The absolute worst. The dregs. You now have to put another unit into the pot! You better figure out how to improve your spinning technique before you will be forced to take out a second mortgage on your home.

Shin is for shenk; yes, that means give. Your hope now is that the pot will still be around next time it is your turn to spin. Maybe then you’ll get a gimmel and recoup your losses…

Useful Chanukah Links

How-To and Tools

Global Chanukah Event Search

Holiday E-Greeting Cards

Chanukah 2013 Calendar

Menorah Lighting Guide

Menorah Lighting Guide (Video)

Chanukah Kids’ Zone

Chanukah Recipes

Chanukah Shopping

Chanukah Study

Chanukah FAQ

Story of Chanukah

Chanukah Stories

Insights & Inspiration

Chanukah Videos

Holiday Songs

Audio Classes

Print   |   Read Online   |
Chanukah (Hanukkah)
Light Over Darkness
Chanukah - Hanukkah

Chanukah this year is Wednesday evening November 27 – Thursday, December 5.

Chanukah — the eight-day festival of light that begins on the eve of the 25th of the Jewish month of Kislev — celebrates the triumph of light over darkness, of purity overadulteration, of spirituality over materiality.

More than twenty-one centuries ago, the Holy Land was ruled by the Seleucids (Syrian-Greeks), who sought to forcefully Hellenize the people of Israel. Against all odds, a small band of faithful Jews defeated one of the mightiest armies on earth, drove the Greeks from the land, reclaimed the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and rededicated it to the service of G-d.

When they sought to light the Temple’s menorah (the seven branched candelabrum), they found only a single cruse of olive oil that had escaped contamination by the Greeks; miraculously, the one-day supply burned for eight days, until new oil could be prepared under conditions of ritual purity.

To commemorate and publicize these miracles, the sages instituted the festival of Chanukah. At the heart of the festival is the nightly menorah (candelabrum) lighting: a single flame on the first night, two on the second evening, and so on till the eighth night of Chanukah, when all eight lights are kindled.

On Chanukah we also add the Hallel and Al HaNissim in our daily prayers to offer praise and thanksgiving to G-d for “delivering the strong into the hands of the weak, the many into the hands of the few… the wicked into the hands of the righteous.”

Chanukah customs include eating foods fried in oil — latkes (potato pancakes) andsufganiot (doughnuts); playing with the dreidel (a spinning top on which are inscribed the Hebrew letters nungimmelhei and shin, an acronym for Nes Gadol Hayah Sham, “a great miracle happened there”); and the giving of Chanukah gelt, gifts of money, tochildren.

Click here for a comprehensive “How To” guide for the observances and customs of Chanukah

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