Study and Theory/
Chanukah

Maimonides

Chanukah laws

Mishe Torah, Laws of Megilla and Chanukah

Laws of Hanukah, Chapter 3

1. In [the era of] the Second Temple, the Greek kingdom issued decrees against the Jewish people, [attempting to] nullify their faith and refusing to allow them to observe the Torah and its commandments. They extended their hands against their property and their daughters; they entered the Sanctuary, wrought havoc within, and made the sacraments impure.
The Jews suffered great difficulties from them, for they oppressed them greatly until the God of our ancestors had mercy upon them, delivered them from their hand, and saved them. The sons of the Hasmoneans, the High Priests, overcame [them], slew them, and saved the Jews from their hand.
They appointed a king from the priests, and sovereignty returned to Israel for more than 200 years, until the destruction of the Second Temple.

 

2. When the Jews overcame their enemies and destroyed them, they entered the Sanctuary; this was on the twenty-fifth of Kislev. They could not find any pure oil in the Sanctuary, with the exception of a single cruse. It contained enough oil to burn for merely one day. They lit the arrangement of candles from it for eight days until they could crush olives and produce pure oil.

 

3. Accordingly, the Sages of that generation ordained that these eight days, which begin from the twenty-fifth of Kislev, should be commemorated to be days of happiness and praise [of God]. Candles should be lit in the evening at the entrance to the houses on each and every one of these eight nights to publicize and reveal the miracle.
These days are called Chanukah. It is forbidden to eulogize and fast on them, as on the days of Purim. Lighting the candles on these days is a Rabbinic mitzvah, like the reading of the Megillah.

 

4. Whoever is obligated to read the Megillah is also obligated to kindle the Chanukah lamp. On the first night, a person lighting [the lamp] recites three blessings. They are:
Blessed are You, God, our Lord, King of the universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments and has commanded us to light the Chanukah lamp.
"...who wrought miracles for our ancestors...." 
"...who has granted us life, sustained us...." 
When a person who did not recite a blessing [on his own Chanukah lamp] sees a lamp, he should recite the latter two blessings. On subsequent nights, a person who kindles the lamp should recite two blessings and one who sees a lamp should recite one, for the blessing Shehecheyanu is recited only on the first night. 

 

5. On each and every one of these eight days, the entire Hallel is recited. Before [its recitation], one should recite the blessing "...who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us to complete the Hallel." This applies whether the recitation is individual or communal. 
Even though the reading of the Hallel is a mitzvah ordained by the Sages, one may recite the blessing [stating] "who sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us," as one recites a blessing for the reading of the Megillah and for the erection of an eruv. A blessing should be recited for every definite obligation established by our Sages. 
In contrast, if an obligation was established by the Sages because of a doubt - e.g., tithing d'mai, - a blessing is not recited. [This principle invites a question:] Why is a blessing recited over the second day of a festival; its observance was ordained only because of doubt? [This was ordained] lest it be treated with disdain. 

 

6. It is not the recitation of Hallel on Chanukah alone that is a Rabbinic ordinance, but rather, at all times - i.e., on all the days that the complete Hallel is recited, [the obligation to do so] is a Rabbinic ordinance.
There are eighteen days during the year when it is a mitzvah to recite the entire Hallel. They are: the eight days of Sukkot, the eight days of Chanukah, the first day of Pesach, and the holiday of Shavuot. Hallel is not recited on Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur, since they are days of repentance, awe, and fear, and are not days of extra celebration. The [Sages] did not ordain the recitation of Hallel on Purim, because the reading of the Megillah [serves the purpose of Hallel].

 

7. In places where the festivals are celebrated for two days, Hallel is recited on 21 days: On the nine days of Sukkot, the eight days of Chanukah, the [first] two days of Pesach, and the two days of Shavuot. 
[In contrast,] the recitation of Hallel on Rosh Chodesh is a custom and not a mitzvah. It is observed [only] communally. [To emphasize that it is a custom,] passages are skipped when it is read. A blessing should not be recited over [this reading], since a blessing is not recited over a custom. 
A person [praying] alone should not recite [the Hallel] at all [on Rosh Chodesh]. If, however, he began its recitation, he should complete it, skipping the passages the community would skip as he reads it.
Similarly, on the other days of Pesach, [the Hallel] is read while skipping passages. 

 

8. And how should one skip? One recites from the beginning of the Hallel until the phrase chalamish lema'y'no mayim. One then skips and [begins] reciting A-donai z'charanu y'varech, [continuing] until Halleluyah. One then skips and [begins] reciting Mah ashiv lA-donai, [continuing] until Halleluyah. Afterwards, one skips and [begins] reciting Min hametzar karati Yah, [continuing] until the conclusion of the Hallel.
This is the common custom. Others skip [passages] according to a different pattern.

 

9. It is appropriate to recite Hallel throughout the entire day. A person who reads Hallel in improper sequence does not fulfill his obligation. If a person reads and pauses, reads and pauses, even if he pauses for a time long enough to complete the entire [Hallel], he fulfills his obligation.
On the days when the entire Hallel is recited, one may make an interruption between chapters. Within a [single] chapter, however, one may not make an interruption. On the days when Hallel is read while skipping portions, one may make an interruption even within a chapter.

 

10. On all the days when the complete Hallel is recited,26 a blessing should be recited before Hallel. In places where it is customary to recite a blessing afterwards, a blessing should be recited [on these days]. 
What blessing is recited?
God our Lord, all Your works will praise You, and the righteous and Your pious ones, who carry out Your will, and Your nation, the House of Israel, will joyously praise Your name. For it is good to praise You, O God, and it is is pleasant to sing to Your name. From the [spiritual] worlds to the [physical] world, You are the Almighty. Blessed are You, God, the King who is extolled and praised, who is glorified, living and enduring. May He reign at all times and for eternity. 

 

11. There are places which follow the custom of repeating each verse from od'cha ki anitani (Psalms 118:21) until the conclusion of the Hallel. Each verse is read a second time. In places where this repetition is customary, the verses should be repeated. In places where it it is customary not to repeat, they should not be repeated. 

 

12. This is the custom according to which Hallel was recited in the days of the early Sages: After reciting the blessing, an adult begins reciting the Halleland says, Halleluyah. All the people respond Halleluyah.
He then reads, Hallelu avdei A-donai, and all the people respond, Halleluyah. He then reads, Hallelu et shem A-donai and all the people respond, Halleluyah. He then reads, Yehi shem A-donai mevorach me'atah v'ad olam, and all the people respond, Halleluyah.
Similarly, after every bar [of the Hallel, the people respond Halleluyah]. Thus, they respond Halleluyah 123 times throughout the entire Hallel; a sign to remember this: the years of Aaron's life. 

 

13. [It is] also [customary that] when the reader reaches the beginning of each and every chapter, the people repeat the line he recited. What is implied? When he recites the line B'tzeit Yisrael miMitzrayim,38 the people repeat the line B'tzeit Yisrael miMitzrayim.
The reader then recites beit Yaakov me'am lo'ez and all the people respond, Halleluyah. [They continue to respond Halleluyah after each bar] until the reader reads, Ahavti ki yishma A-donai et koli tachanunai, to which the people all respond, Ahavti ki yishma A-donai.... Similarly, when the reader reads Hallelu et A-donai kol goyim, the people all respond, Hallelu et A-donai kol goyim.

 

14. The reader should read, Anna A-donai hoshi'ah na, and [the people] should repeat Anna A-donai hoshi'ah na, although it is not the beginning of a chapter. He [then] reads Anna A-donai hatzlichah na, and they repeat Anna A-donai hatzlichah na. He reads Baruch haba... and they respond Baruch haba.... 
If the person reading the Hallel was a minor, a slave, or a woman, [the people] should repeat the entire Hallel after them word by word. The above represents the custom followed in the early ages and it is fitting to adhere to it. At present, however, I have seen different customs in all places with regard to the reading of [the Hallel] and the responses of the people, not one of them resembling another.


Chapter 4

 

1. How many candles should one light on Chanukah? The mitzvah is that a single candle should be lit in each and every house, regardless of whether there are many members of the household, or merely one person [lives] there.
A person who performs the mitzvah in a beautiful and conscientious manner should light candles for every member of the household, whether male or female.
A person who is even more conscientious in his performance of the mitzvah than this and observes the mitzvah in the most desirable manner should light candles for every member of his household, a candle for each individual, whether male or female, on the first night. On each subsequent night, he should add a candle [for each of the members of the household].


2. What does the above imply? When there are ten members of a household, on the first night one lights ten candles, on the second night - twenty, on the third night - thirty, until on the eighth night, one lights eighty candles.

 

3. It is common custom in all of our cities in Spain that a single candle is lit for all the members of the household on the first night. We proceed to add a new candle on each and every night, until on the eighth night eight candles are lit. [This practice is followed] regardless of whether there are many members of the household or only one man [is lighting candles]. 

 

4. When a candleholder has two openings, it can be counted for two individuals.
[The following rules apply when] one fills a bowl with oil and surrounds it with wicks: If one covers it with a utensil, each of the wicks is considered to be a separate candle. If one does not cover it with a utensil, it is considered to be a large fire, and is not counted even as a single candle.

 

5. The Chanukah candles should not be kindled before sunset. Instead, [they should be kindled] at sunset. One should not light later or earlier.
Should one forget, or even if one purposely did not light at sunset, one may light afterwards until there are no longer any passersby in the marketplace.
How long a duration of time is this? Approximately half an hour or slightly more than that. Should this time pass, one should not kindle the lights.
One should place enough oil in the lamp so that it will continue burning until there are no longer any passersby in the marketplace. If one lit it and it became extinguished, one need not light it a second time. If it remained burning until there are no longer passersby in the marketplace, one may extinguish it or remove it if one desires.

 

6. All oils and all wicks are acceptable for use in the Chanukah lamps, even those oils that are not drawn after the wick and even those wicks that do not hold the light well. Even on the Sabbath nights of Chanukah, it is permitted to light with oils and wicks that are forbidden to be used for the Sabbath lights.
[The reason for this leniency is that] it is forbidden to use the Chanukah candles [for one's own purposes] whether on the Sabbath or on a weekday. It is even forbidden to use their light to inspect or count coins.

 

7. It is a mitzvah to place the Chanukah lamp at the outside of the entrance to one's home, within the handbreadth that is closest to the doorway on the left side as one enters the home, so that the mezuzah will be on the right side and the Chanukah lamp on the left side.
When a person lives in a second storey apartment, he should place [the Chanukah lamp] in a window close to the public domain. If [a person] places a Chanukah lamp more than twenty cubits [above the ground], his actions are of no consequence, because [the lamp] does not attract attention [at that height].

 

8. In a time of danger, a person may place a Chanukah lamp inside his house; even if he lit it on his table, it is sufficient.
[Therefore,] another lamp must be burning in the house to provide light for one's [mundane] activities. If a fire is burning in the house, an additional candle is not necessary. For a prestigious person who does not normally use the light of a fire, an additional candle is required.

 

9. A Chanukah lamp that was kindled by a deaf-mute, a mentally incapable person, a minor, or a gentile is of no consequence. It must be kindled by a person who is obligated to light it.
Should the [Chanukah lamp] be kindled inside and then taken and placed at the entrance of one's home while it is still burning, it is of no consequence. One must light it in its place.
If one held a candle and stood in one place, it is of no consequence, since an observer will say, "He is standing there for his own purposes."
When a lamp was burning through the entire [Sabbath] day, one may extinguish the light, recite the blessings [for the mitzvah], and relight the lamp. Kindling the lamp fulfills the mitzvah and not placing it down.
It is permissible to light one Chanukah candle from another Chanukah candle.

 

10. When a courtyard has two entrances from two different directions, it requires two [Chanukah] lamps. [Were one to light at only one entrance,] the passersby from the other direction might say, "A Chanukah light had not been placed down." If, however, [two entrances to a courtyard] are located on the same side, [it is sufficient] to light at only one of them.

 

11. A guest [at another person's home, whose family] kindles [the Chanukah lights] for him at his home need not kindle [Chanukah lights] in the home where he is [temporarily] lodging. If, however, he has no home in which [Chanukah lights] are being kindled, he is required to light in the place where he is lodging. He should share in the oil [used by the owner of his lodgings].
If he is staying in a private dwelling, he is required to light in the place where he is staying, even though [Chanukah lights] are being kindled for him at home, because [of the impression created in the minds] of the passersby.

 

12. The mitzvah of kindling Chanukah lamps is very dear. A person should be very careful in its observance to publicize the miracle and thus increase our praise of God and our expression of thanks for the miracles which He wrought on our behalf. Even if a person has no resources for food except [what he receives] from charity, he should pawn or sell his garments and purchase oil and lamps to kindle them [in fulfillment of the mitzvah].
 
13. When a person has only a single prutah and he [is required to fulfill both the mitzvot of] sanctifying the [Sabbath] day and lighting the Chanukah lamp, he should give precedence to purchasing oil to kindle the Chanukah lamp over [purchasing] wine to recite kiddush. Since both [of these mitzvot] are Rabbinic in origin, it is preferable to give precedence to the kindling of the Chanukah lamp, for it commemorates the miracle.

 

14. If [a person has the opportunity to fulfill only one of two mitzvot,] lighting a lamp for one's home [i.e., Sabbath candles] or lighting a Chanukah lamp - or, alternatively, lighting a lamp for one's home or reciting kiddush - the lamp for one's home receives priority, since it generates peace within the home.
[Peace is of primary importance, as reflected by the mitzvah requiring] God's name to be blotted out to create peace between a husband and his wife. Peace is great, for the entire Torah was given to bring about peace within the world, as [Proverbs 3:17] states: "Its ways are pleasant ways and all its paths are peace."
Blessed be the Merciful One who grants assistance. This concludes the third book. 
With the help of the Lord, the number of chapters of this book, ninety seven: the laws of Shabbat, thirty chapters, the laws of the Eruv, eight chapters.
Laws of cessation of work, three chapters; laws of cessation of work on festivals, eight chapters,
Laws of leavened and unleavened bread, eight chapters; Laws of the Shofar, Sukkah and Lulav, eight chapters;
Laws of shekels; 4 chapters, Laws for the new moon, nineteen chapters,
Laws for fasts, five chapters, Laws for Megilla and Chanukah, four chapters.

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