Who Should Light Your Menorah and at What Time?
During the holiday of Hanukkah, it can become a bit confusing when it comes to who should light the menorah in each home and what time is the most preferable. Here is a clear answer to everyone's questions about the Halachot of Hanukkah.
It is preferable that candle lighting take place 20 minutes after sunset (approximately 4:50 p.m). The candles must burn for a minimum of a half hour following tz’ait ha’kochavim - the time that the stars come out (approximately 5:45 p.m).
If the person who is lighting is unable to light at that time, then he may light all night until approximately 6:18 a.m.
One should not light the Hanukkah candles early before sunset. If you do not have any alternative but to light then, you may light after Plag HaMinhah, but without a Beracha, provided that he has suffiecient oil to burn for a half hour following tz’ait ha’kochavim. If you accidentally lit before Plag Haminhah, you must extinguish the candles afterwards and relight with a Beracha at the proper time.
It is permissible to extinguish the candles a half hour after the stars appear. If they extinguished on their own before the prescribed time, it is not obligatory to relight them. However, it is proper that he be stringent in his observances of the mitzvah and relight the candles. This particularly applies on Friday, erev Shabbat when we light before sunset. The aforementioned refers to a situation where conditions existed for the candles to remain burning for the prescribed time. However, if the candles were in a windy place and were snuffed out, then he certainly must relight them.
If you returned home very late and everyone is already asleep, you must try to awaken two family members. Then you may light and recite the berachot. However, in the event that you are unable to awaken anyone, you must light without a Beracha. It is preferable if when you know in advance that you will return late that you appoint someone else to light at the proper time.
One who returns home later than the prescribed time to initially light and everyone is awake presents us with a situation and a difference of opinions among the Poskim: Is it preferable for one’s wife to light on time or for the husband to light later? Hagaon Rav Ovadiah Yosef says that it is preferable for the mitzvah to be done on time and therefore one’s wife should light for him.
Friday, erev Shabbat, is an exception to the rule. Then, the husband lights before sunset and recites the Beracha.
Rabbi Yosef Churba is the founder of Sephardic.Org as well as Rosh Yeshiva of Magen Avraham Yeshiva in Brooklyn NY. It is with his guidance that this amazing website remains on the correct path in order to inspire Jewish people around the world.