From the Rav’s Desk: According to Chabad custom when should one initially light the Menorah

  1. Question: [Tuesday, 22nd Kisleiv 5781]

According to the Chabad custom, when should we initially light the candles? I’ve heard so many different things such as immediately after sunset or anytime between sunset and nightfall or immediately before nightfall or 10 minutes after nightfall. Which one is correct?



According to the Chabad custom, the candles are to be lit approximately 20 minutes before nightfall in one’s geographic location, making sure to put in at least 50 minutes worth of oil, so that it is lit for 20 minutes during Bein Hashmashos, and at least a ½ hour past nightfall. Thus, in Eretz Yisrael, one is to light immediately after sunset, which is approximately twenty minutes before nightfall, while in New York, one is to light approximately 10-15 minutes after sunset, which is approximately twenty minutes before nightfall.

Explanation: There is a well-known debate in the Rishonim and Poskim regarding if one is to light immediately after sunset or after nightfall. The Chabad custom is to light between Mincha and Maariv, in order to fulfill one’s obligation according to all opinions. This between “Mincha and Maariv” is interpreted to mean between sunset and nightfall. Now, regarding the question of when after sunset one is to light, from the fact that our custom is to make sure to place at least 50 minutes worth of oil so that it lights at least 30 minutes after nightfall one can deduce that it is initially lit 20 minutes before nightfall, and not exactly immediately after sunset, even though this is required according to the second opinion. Seemingly, the reason for this is because we would like the first half-hour of the lighting to include the times of both opinions and therefore purposely light it at a time that is still valid for the first opinion [i.e. within ½ hour after sunset] and likewise includes part of the time that it is valid according to the second opinion. This concept is also recorded in some of the Poskim of today who rule to light candles 20 minutes after sunset in order so he be within the half-hour of nightfall of the second opinion. Practically, when we addressed this question to Rabbi Groner A”H, who was one of the co-authors of Sefer Haminhagim, he replied as above that our custom in New York is to light about ten-fifteen minutes after the Shekia in order to let the candles burn for fifty minutes, and have it burn a half-hour after nightfall. Thus, in essence he is testifying that is to be lit 20 minutes before nightfall in all areas, each in their geographical location. Likewise, Rav Eliyahu Landa Shlita, related to us that the custom of Anash in Israel, and so was the custom of his father Rav Yaakov Landau who was very particular in this to the very minute, is to light immediately after sunset. Now, in Israel there is approximately 20 minutes between sunset and nightfall during the winter months, and hence once again we see that we are particular to light it 20 minutes before nightfall. To note, that in Israel there is an added advantage being that 20 minutes before nightfall is also immediately after sunset and therefore one fulfills his obligation perfectly according to the second opinion above.

Sources: lighting after nightfall: Beis Yosef; Bach; Magen Avraham 672:1; Elya Raba 672:1; Kneses Hagedola 672:1; Mamar Mordechai 672:1; Chayeh Adam 154:18; Derech Hachaim 2; Ben Ish Chaiy Vayeishev 7; M”B 672:1; Kitzur SH”A 139:10; Kaf Hachaim 672:2; lighting after sunset: Bahag; Ran; Rashba; Meiri; brought in Gr”a, Peri Chadash 672:1; Custom of Kneses Hagedola on Tur; M”B 672:1; See Biur Halacha 672:1 “Velo Makdimim”; The custom of Jerusalem Jewry [Yishuv Hayashan] based on the Gr”a is to light immediately after sunset; Chabad custom: Sefer Haminhagim p. 158 [English]; Hayom Yom 25th Kisleiv; Igros Kodesh 14:184; 10:153 [printed in Shulchan Menachem 3:265]; Luach Kolel Chabad; Hiskashrus 908 Poskim who rule to light 10/20 minutes after sunset: Igros Moshe 4:101; Az Nidbaru 7:70; Piskeiy Teshuvos 672:1 footnote 5

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