Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Tonight Is the First Night of Chanukah!

Remember to light your candle tonight. Place your candle on the far right side of the menorah (from your perspective, facing it). Recite the blessings after you have lit the shamash (helper) candle but before you light the Hanukkah candle.

If you're a visual learner, check out this video from the learning site Jewish Pathways. (I take no responsibility for cheesy music reminiscent of high school classroom videos.)

The Chabad site has all the resources for the blessings that you could ever need: a recording, the Hebrew text, a transliteration of the Hebrew into English text, an English translation, and instructions. (Warning: the sound recording of the blessings, including Hashem's name-because it's for educational purposes-will begin playing after a few second delay.) On the right sidebar of that page, there is a link to Haneirot Halalu and Maoz Tzur, two hymns you can recite or sing after lighting the chanukiah.

The Mitvah of Chanukah

The mitzvah of Chanukah is to "publicize the miracle." You should place your chanukiah in a place where it is visible to the street, if possible. Ideally, it should be beside your front door, on the right side from your perspective inside the house. Put another way, it should be to the left of the door if you are viewing the house from the street. If you don't have a public window there, use a window somewhere else in the house that does. If you have no window facing any kind of public (even just the neighbors), I'm afraid I can't help you, but maybe a commenter can. However, I think it matters if you have other household members (roommates, housemates, building neighbors) the menorah would "publicize" to if the chanukiah were placed where at least someone besides you would see it.

Only one chanukiah needs to be lit per "household." Therefore, a married couple (with or without children) only needs one. Roommates are more difficult, so I suggest asking your rabbi. It's possible that every roommate may need to light his or her own chanukiah. You may also want to ask your rabbi if you are living away from parents who would light a chanukiah, but you are still financially dependent on them. The most "machmir" opinion (and most uncommon) is that you belong to your parents' "household" until you are married. If applicable, ask how these "household" issues apply if your parents are divorced.

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