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Sefer Haminhagim

The Book of Chabad Customs

Cf. Siddur, p. 339

Boys begin lighting the Chanukah lights some time before their bar- mitzvah. [622] Girls do not light separately. A married woman fulfills her obligation through her husband's kindling. [623]

Olive oil is used for the actual lights, and beeswax for the shamash. [624]

The menorah is placed against the doorpost of the entrance to the room. [625]

We do not make a point of placing it in either a north-south or east- west direction. [626]

It is placed on a chair, not necessarily higher than seven tefachim [seven handsbreadths, viz., 56cm.] [627] nor necessarily approximating a height of three tefachim [viz., 24cm.]. [628]

A gartl is worn for the lighting, but otherwise one wears one's usual [weekday] hat and clothes. [629]

The lights are kindled between Minchah and Maariv. [630]

There was no minyan present at the kindling of the lights in the household of the [Previous] Rebbe, nor was an effort made to kindle in the presence of the largest possible number of people. [631]

The first berachah ends with the words: L'hadlik Ner Chanukah. [632]

One begins to light after having recited all the blessings. [633]

On the first night we kindle the wick at the extreme right. On the second night and thereafter one lights additional wicks to its left, kindling from left to right. [634]

The shamash is placed higher than the Chanukah lights proper. [635]

The menorah once had to be moved a tefach or two closer to the [Previous] Rebbe so that he would be able to light it, and it was t hen replaced in its position. Nevertheless the Rebbe recited the blessing and lit the lights. [636]

HaNeiros Hallalu (Siddur, p. 339) is said [or sung] only after all the lights have been kindled. [637]

The text for HaNeiros Hallalu and Al HaNissim (ibid., p. 59) is as printed in the Alter Rebbe's Siddur. [638]

One makes a point of having the lights burn for at least fifty minutes. [639]

One remains close to the lights for about half an hour (except for erev Shabbos).

There are those who replace the wicks every day, [640] while others hold that this is not necessary, [641] since used wicks are in fact easier to kindle. [642] "To date I have not been able to determine the preferred custom of the [Previous] Rebbe."

A light that went out before its required time should be relit [except Friday after sunset when Shabbos begins]. [643] After the menorah has been alight for the required time, it may be moved even if the lights are still aflame. [644] [Except on Shabbos.]

After this period of time [approx 1/2 hour] one may perform all manner of work, though not in full view of the burning lights. [645] This applies even to the first and last nights of Chanukah. [646]

On erev Shabbos the order of events is as follows:

  1. Minchah (Siddur, p. 96), [647]
  2. Chanukah lights (p. 339),
  3. Shabbos lights (p. 127).

At the conclusion of Shabbos the order is:

  1. Havdalah (p. 234),
  2. Chanukah lights (p. 339),
  3. VeYiten Lecha (p. 235).

In the synagogue the order is:

  1. Chanukah lights, followed by
  2. Havdalah. [648]

A mourner may lead the services on Chanukah, except for the reading of Hallel. [649] On Rosh Chodesh, however, and likewise on any day on which Mussaf is said, he does not lead the services, even at Minchah or Maariv. [650]

The Torah is read daily according to the order set out in the Siddur of R. Avraham David Lavut [and reprinted in Siddur Tehillat HaShem, p. 368ff.].

On Shabbos, and likewise on Rosh Chodesh [Teves], the additional reading for Chanukah consists of only one of the paragraphs describing the princely offerings (in Bamidbar, ch. 7, known as "the nesi'im"). [651]

The [Previous] Rebbe would distribute coins for `Chanukah gelt' (gifts of pocket money) on the fourth or fifth night of Chanukah. [652]

One should NOT omit V'al Hanisim (Siddur, p. 59) in order to complete the Shemoneh Esreh in time to join in the congregational responses of Kedushah (p. 52) and Modim (p. 58) during its repetition. [653]

The eighth day of Chanukah is called Zos Chanukah. [654]

Some people are accustomed to give more charity than usual during Chanukah. [655]

Gimmel DeChanukah

On the third day of Chanukah, in the year 5561 (1800) the Alter Rebbe was released from his second imprisonment. This was a victory for the teachings and spiritual lifestyle of Chassidus, far more so than the liberation [on Yud-Tes Kislev] two years earlier.

For the libel of 5559 (1798) had been aimed primarily against the Alter Rebbe; in 5561 the main libel was directed against the teachings of Chassidus and against the chassidic way of life. [656]


  1. (Back to text) See sichah of the Rebbe Rayatz, Shabbos Chanukah 5706, in the supplement to the maamar beginning Baruch SheAsah Nissim, p. 20, sec. 8. [The footnotes to this section were compiled by the Rebbe Shlita.]

  2. (Back to text) The question has been asked as to why only men and not women light separately; the answer has been proposed that one's wife is virtually identical with oneself (Menachos 93b), and it would not be proper for a daughter to light a menorah when her mother does not. I find this reasoning highly improbable. More plausible is the observation in Mishmeres Shalom 48:2, that since many women are unable to recite the blessings, it became the custom that women in general fulfill this obligation through others. (Cf. the Acharonim at the end of sec. 675 and sec. 677 of the Shulchan Aruch.) Shiltei HaGibborim cites the view of Machatzis HaShekel 677:8: `The custom of mehadrin (i.e., the best way to fulfill the mitzvah) is that each individual, man and woman, lights his own lamp...' See also sec. 7 of the above-mentioned sichah, p. 20.

  3. (Back to text) This could be simply explained in the light of the statement in the beginning of sec. 673 in the Shulchan Aruch, that beeswax is the next priority after olive oil. (See Darchei Moshe there.) Olive oil is however not used for the shamash because oil and a wick are less convenient to handle than is a candle. Besides, the above usage provides an additional distinction between the shamash and the actual Chanukah lights. See also Kehillas Yaakov, s.v. shaavah.

  4. (Back to text) [In the original, `against the width of the doorpost, in the space of the doorway of the room.'] This is the wording of the Alter Rebbe's Siddur. See also Shaar HaKollel there. [For the significance of this particular location as explained by Chassidus, see the English translation of the maamar by the Rebbe Rashab, entitled Tanu Rabbanan: Ner Chanukah (Sichos In English, N.Y., 1990).]

  5. (Back to text) In shul, by contrast, we make the lights correspond to the orientation of the Menorah in the Beis HaMikdash (Rama, sec. 671:7; [viz., along an east-west axis]). It remains to be explained why this is not the preferred practice at home likewise, if it is possible to arrange.

  6. (Back to text) This practice differs from the view of Tur Barekes. See Shaarei Teshuvah 671:8.

  7. (Back to text) This is the view of Shomer Emunim, Responsa 65.

  8. (Back to text) Others, by contrast, are accustomed to wear Shabbos clothes or a Shabbos hat for the kindling of the lights, or even throughout the days of Chanukah. (These customs are cited in Darchei Chayim VeShalom 812; Likkutei Maharich, Vol. III; Likkutei Meir: Inyanei Chanukah, sec. 66.)

  9. (Back to text) For the various opinions on this, see Tur Shulchan Aruch 672 and its commentaries.

  10. (Back to text) Why this case should differ from the publicity given to the reading of Megillas Esther requires explanation. One possible answer is that since each individual lights at his own doorway, the Sages did not require people to assemble at this time. Further elucidation is still needed.

    In contrast, it will be noted that [R. Chayim of Zanz,] the author of Divrei Chayim, and several of the tzaddikim of Poland and other lands, used to light a little later than usual in order to be able to do so in the presence of a large multitude. (This custom is cited in Nimukei Orach Chayim, sec. 672, and in Mishmeres Shalom.)

  11. (Back to text) This is the wording in the Alter Rebbe's Siddur. This too is the wording of: the Rokeiach; Shulchan Aruch, beginning of sec. 676; the AriZal in Shaar HaKavanos and Pri Etz Chayim; the Siddur of the AriZal; Siddur Yaavetz; Birchei Yosef; and the author of Shnei Luchos HaBris - as he writes in the section entitled Torah Or on Chanukah (p. 259a), as opposed to the wording proposed by his father, (cited in the section entitled Ner Mitzvah), in which the final word Chanukah is replaced by Shelchanukah pronounced as one word. See also Sdei Chemed, Aseifas Dinim: Chanukah, sec. 120.

  12. (Back to text) The Alter Rebbe's Siddur, based on the Maharil as cited in Rama 676:2.

  13. (Back to text) The Alter Rebbe's Siddur. See also Shulchan Aruch, end of sec. 676 and its commentaries; the Responsa of the Tzemach Tzedek, Orach Chayim, sec. 67; and Shaar HaKollel, loc. cit.

  14. (Back to text) The Maharil; Kav HaYashar, sec. 96; Acharonim, end of 673:1.

  15. (Back to text) This practice differs from the view cited on the authority of the Responsa entitled Lev Chayim, Vol. III, sec. 146, that in such a case it is preferable for someone else to light.

  16. (Back to text) See Pri Megadim, sec. 676: Mishbetzos Zahav, para. 5; sec. 672: Eshel Avraham, para. 3. So too the Siddur of the Alter Rebbe specifies: `...after one has kindled the lights.'

  17. (Back to text) On the precise wording of the text see Shaar HaKollel, end of sec. 46. Various other texts are cited in Keser Shem Tov by R. Shem-Tov Ganin, pp. 527-9, and in Siddur Otzar HaTefillos. On the words Kodesh Hem see Sdei Chemed, Aseifas Dinim: Chanukah, sec. 9.

  18. (Back to text) See Pri Megadim, sec. 672: Eshel Avraham, para. 3.

  19. (Back to text) Kol-Bo and Abudraham (cited in Darchei Moshe, end of sec. 673); the author of Mishmeres Shalom records (end of sec. 48) that this was the custom of his revered forebears; so too was it the custom of the author of Darchei Teshuvah and of his son, the author of Minchas Elazar.

  20. (Back to text) Shulchan Aruch, end of sec. 673; Pri Chadash; Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 139:4; Siddur Yaavetz; and other sources.

  21. (Back to text) Levush. Moreover, Mishmeres Shalom (loc. cit.) writes that when one takes `used wicks it appears to me that one should make a point of choosing one of yesterday's wicks for the newly-added light which will be lit first today.' See the second recension of this work.

  22. (Back to text) Acharonim 673:2.

  23. (Back to text) This practice accords with the way in which Haggahos Maimunios [in sec. 4 of his commentary on Rambam, Hilchos Chanukah 4:4] interprets Tractate Sofrim [20:3]. It differs from the view of the Bach, sec. 672.

  24. (Back to text) With regard to doing work in the presence of the lights, I have not been able to establish whether the [Previous] Rebbe's household followed the view of the Shulchan Aruch (672:2) or of the Rashal.

  25. (Back to text) See Acharonim, beginning of sec. 670.

  26. (Back to text) Minchah here precedes the Chanukah lights, just as in the Beis HaMikdash the offering of the Korban Tamid [which Minchah today parallels] always preceded the lighting of the Menorah. Moreover, this order precludes an anomalous sequence of events [since the time for Minchah ends at sunset, while the Chanukah lights properly belong to the forthcoming evening].

  27. (Back to text) For the varying opinions on this subject see: Shulchan Aruch, sec. 681, and its commentaries; Sdei Chemed, Aseifas Dinim: Chanukah, sec. 19.

  28. (Back to text) For the varying opinions see: Acharonim, Orach Chayim, sec. 131, 660, 581, 582 and 671; Yoreh Deah, end of sec. 376, and elsewhere.

  29. (Back to text) See Pri Megadim on Orach Chayim, sec. 671: Mishbetzos Zahav, para. 8.

  30. (Back to text) Responsa of the Tzemach Tzedek, Orach Chayim, sec. 68.

  31. (Back to text) [At the farbrengen of Yud-Tes Kislev, 5734, the Rebbe Shlita pointed out that though it has no known source, this custom has become established throughout the ages. Indeed, the Rebbeim would give `Chanukah gelt' even to their married children.]

  32. (Back to text) Responsa of the Tzemach Tzedek, Shaar HaMiluim, sec. 11.

  33. (Back to text) [Cf. the first two words of this day's Torah reading.] See the maamar beginning Baruch SheAsah Nissim, end of ch. 4.

  34. (Back to text) Magen Avraham, beginning of Hilchos Chanukah, cited by Divrei Nechemiah in the Appendix to the Alter Rebbe's Shulchan Aruch, end of sec. 670.

    However, this still requires further clarification, for I never saw any hint of this in the practice of my revered father-in-law, the Rebbe. It is true that `not having seen is no proof' [Zevachim 103b] - particularly with charity, which is best when undetected. Nevertheless, it is surely significant that (except for an allusion to tzedakah [...] in the maamar in Torah Or beginning BeChaf-Hei BeKislev, further discussed in Shaarei Orah and Or HaTorah,) no maamar, sichah or letter of any one of our Rebbeim (as far as I have seen to date) has occasion to mention any particular emphasis on tzedakah during Chanukah. This is particularly striking when so very many aspects of Chanukah are discussed and expounded there in detail. Moreover, this subject does find a place in the chassidic literature of Poland and other regions. (Anyone finding a mention of this subject in the writings of our Rebbeim will no doubt inform me, and I hereby offer my wholehearted thanks in advance.)

    It will be noted that the compiler of Siddur Maharid (though perhaps this passage was written by the Tzemach Tzedek) writes that on Chanukah `money is distributed to the paupers who go about from door to door - `in the doorway, facing outward' [i.e., in the location of the Chanukah lights; Shabbos 21b] - and thus one fulfills the teaching of the Sages, that (`with all your might'; Devarim 6:5) implies (`with all your money'; Berachos 9:5).' (From a letter of the Rebbe Shlita [published in honor of Chanukah 5725 (1966), and reprinted in Teshuvos U'Biurim, p. 235].)

  35. (Back to text) HaYom Yom, p. 7. See at length On Learning Chassidus, ch. 6.

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