(Adapted and translated from Hilchos Chanuka by Rav Yoel Schwartz Shlit"a)

THE MITZVAH OF KINDLING CHANUKAH LIGHTS

The Mitzvah to kindle Chanukah lights was established by our sages in order to publicize the miracle of Chanuka. For this reason, the Chanukah menorah should be placed in a public location where all can observe the lights, such as the entrance to the house or next to a window.

Before kindling the Chanukah lights one is to recite two brachos. 1) L’hadlik ner shel Chanuka. 2) She’osoh nisim lavosainu bayomim hohaim bazman hazeh. On the first night, the brocha of She’he’cheyanu is also recited.

In the event that a person will not light Chanukah candles on that a particular night (and no one is lighting for him back home) he is to say the brocha of She’osoh nisim, when seeing Chanukah candles lit by others. On the first night She’he’cheyanu is also said.

The Gemora in Shabbos says "The minimal mitzvah of Chanukah lights, is to kindle one light each night per household. Those ‘mehadrin’ (people wish to beautify the mitzvah), have each member of the household light one candle per night. Those ‘mehadrin min hamehadrin’ ( people who wish to beautify the mitzvah even more) add one light each night." (Kindle one light on the first night, two on the second night etc..)

There are different opinions among the posskim whether the case of ‘mehadrin min hamehadrin’ applies to all members of the household, or does only one member of the household do the lighting. Tosfos accepts the latter view, with the following reasoning. The purpose of adding a light each night is to publicize the extra miracle of the night. (The fact that the original jug of oil, lasted another night.) If every member of the household will kindle lights together, an observer will have no idea which night it is. (Does six lights mean it is the sixth night, or maybe three people lit two lights, or maybe two people lit three lights?)

The Rambam on the other hand maintains that each member of the household may kindle his own lights, and light an additional light each night.

The Sefaradi custom follows the opinion of Tosfos. Only one member of the household kindles lights adding an additional light each night.

The Ashkanzi custom follows the ruling of the Rambam. Each member of the household kindles his own lights, adding an additional light each night. The menoros are placed at a separate location, enabling all observers to detect how many lights are in each menorah.

Kindling Chanukah lights in shule. The custom is to also kindle Chanukah lights in shule and recite the brachos. Nobody fulfills his obligation with these lights, and must light at home. (The person who kindled the lights in shule is required to kindle again at home and recite the brachos again. On the first night he should not repeat the brocha of She’he’cheyanu, unless he is also lighting for other members of his household.)

Who is obligated to light? The obligation to kindle Chanukah lights applies to men and women alike. This includes boys from the age of bar mitzvah (13) and girls from the age of Bas mitzvah). When kindling one menorah for the entire household, any of the above (if they are members of the household) can light the menorah.

The custom is not to have a woman light for the entire household, unless the husband is not home. Likewise, if all members of the household kindle their own lights, the females do not kindle their own menoros. They fulfill their obligation with the lighting of the head of the household.

Children under bar mitzvah: The custom is to have a child under bar mitzvah (who reached the age of chinuch (6-7), kindle his own lights. He cannot however light for, or include in his lighting, people over the age of bar/bat mitzvah.

Mourner: A mourner is obligated to kindle Chanukah lights and to recite all the brachos including She’he’cheyanu. (However a mourner should not be the one to recite She’he’cheyanu when lighting in shule. This includes a person who lost a parent within the past twelve months.)

Onain: (A person who just lost a direct member of the family, is exempt from all mitzvos until after the burial.) If he is the only one at home, he should kindle the lights without reciting the brochas. If other members of the household are present, and they aren’t onanim (direct relatives of the deceased), one of them should kindle the lights and recite the brochas. (The posskim differ as to whether or not the onain should answer Amen to the brochas.)

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