By Rabbi Ari Enkin / Although the mitzva of lighting the Chanuka menora can only be discharged in one’s home, there is a universal custom to light a menora in the synagogue along with the accompanying blessings, as well. The primary reason that the sages instituted a synagogue lighting was in order to increase the pirsumei nisa aspect of the mitzva, the mitzva of publicizing the miracles of Chanuka. According to some authorities, the blessing...

Chanuka – Lighting in Shul

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By: Rabbi Ari Enkin

Although the mitzva of lighting the Chanuka menora can only be discharged in one’s home, there is a universal custom to light a menora in the synagogue along with the accompanying blessings, as well.  The primary reason that the sages instituted a synagogue lighting was in order to increase the pirsumei nisa aspect of the mitzva, the mitzva of publicizing the miracles of Chanuka.[1] According to some authorities, the blessing is only recited in the synagogue if a minyan is present at the time of the lighting while others allow doing so even without a minyan as long as a minyan is expected to arrive shortly.[2] It is also explained that the synagogue lighting serves to discharge the mitzva on behalf of those, who for whatever reason, are unable to light a menora themselves.[3] It is considered ideal for the menora in the synagogue to remain burning until midnight[4] and if possible, throughout the night and into the next morning.[5] The synagogue menora should also be lit at the start of the shacharit prayers but a blessing is not recited at this time.[6] 

According to most customs, the menora is placed along the southern wall of the synagogue with the candles positioned from east to west as it was arranged in the Beit Hamikdash.[7] The one who lights the menora should stand in front of it with his back facing northwards. The leftmost candle is lit first.[8] The regular order of blessings is recited when lighting the menora in the synagogue, just as it is done at home. This includes the recitation of “shehecheyanu” on the first night of Chanuka.[9] The one who lit the menora in the synagogue is required to light the menora again at home along with the accompanying blessings as no one fulfills the mitzva with the synagogue lighting.[10] The kotel is considered to be a synagogue for this purpose and a public menora lighting is held there every night of Chanuka.[11] 

On weekdays, the menora is lit in the synagogue between mincha and ma’ariv.[12] At the conclusion of Shabbat the menora is lit before havdalla though many have the custom to reverse the order when lighting at home.[13] Although the menora is required to burn for at least thirty minutes into the night it is permitted to extinguish the synagogue menora even before this time if everyone has gone home.[14] A child should not be given the honor of lighting the menora in the synagogue.[15] In some communities the “Bameh Madlikin” which is normally recited every Friday night is omitted on Shabbat-Chanuka.[16] 


[1] Beit Yosef, OC 671; Meiri, Shabbat 23a.

[2] Mishna Berura 671:47; Rivevot Ephraim 7:191:10

[3] Beit Yosef, OC 671; Orchot Chaim Chanuka 17; Kol Bo 44.

[4] Magen Avraham 670:2.

[5] Melamed L’hoil 1:121; Shaarei Halacha Uminhag 2:280.

[6] Pri Megadim 670:1.

[7] OC 671:7. Other sources seem to indicate that the menora was positioned from north to south. See Rambam, Hilchot Beit Habechira 2:12.

[8] Mishna Berura 676:11.

[9] OC 671:7.

[10] Rema, OC 671:7.

[11] Teshuvot V’hanhagot 1:391; Rivevot Ephraim 4:163:63.

[12] Rema, OC 671:7.

[13] OC 681:2.

[14] Rivevot Ephraim 5:29.

[15] Rivevot Ephraim 8:273:2.

[16] Minhagei Eretz Yisrael (Gallis) 34:2.

About Ari Enkin

Rabbi Ari N. Enkin, a resident of Ramat Beit Shemesh, is a researcher and writer of contemporary halachic issues. He is the author of the “Dalet Amot of Halacha” series (8 volumes), Rabbinic Director of United with Israel and a RA"M at a number of yeshivot. www.rabbienkin.com

12 comments

  1. Saul Mashbaum

    >>>”The primary reason that the sages instituted a synagogue lighting…”

    Better: “The primary reason for the custom of synagogue lighting…”

  2. At the beginning of Chanukah this year, I saw a curious event take place on the news.

    I was watching the morning news on Channel 10 (Israel). On the large desk, along with the obligatory papers and coffee mugs, stood a standard-issue Chanukiyah, with two candles (plus a shamash) inserted.

    One of the reporters asked if anyone would like to light the Chanukiyah.

    Another reporter said he would, but he didn’t want to do so without first putting on a kipah. The rest of the roundtable discussion group encouraged him to simply cover his head with one hand, while lighting the Chanukiyah with the other.

    He did exactly that. At 8:30am, on Israeli national television, he made the two brachot and lit the chanukiyah.

    My first reaction was that of gratitude and pride. Gratitude to Hashem for returning our people to our land, and pride that the above event is so commonplace among secular Israeli Jews, that the news reporters felt it appropriate to interrupt their discussion to light a chanukiyah.

    My second reaction was more “lumdish”. Oy, nebuch, he lit during the day, using shem hashem, bracha levatala, etc.

    After reading Rabbi Enkin’s post, I wonder if there is any room to consider this action a mitzvah.

    We light in shul, with brachot, only for pirsumei nisa. Granted this was in the morning, but tens of thousands of Israelis watch this newscast every day, six days a week. This is major miracle publicity!

    Any thoughts?

  3. Saul-

    I just might make that change in the original. Thanks foor the idea.

    Ari Enkin

  4. Adam-

    Lighting during the day is certainly a bracha levatala, according to all accounts.

    There is one issue worthy of discussion though-

    Is there a mitzva of pirsumei nissa during the day? For example, is there ANY mitzva of pirsumei nissa when the Chabadmobiles drive around with a “lit” menorah all day long?

    From a traditional textual perspective, no there isnt. However, I did see once a “limud zechus” on how there might be some benefit to publicizing the miracle all day long in different ways. Clearly the Rebbe thought this way.

    Ari Enkin

  5. Lighting at the southern wall is done in most shuls. But I think its correct to light at the southern side of the ark not at the wall.
    If one does not light oneself for whatever reason, (like his wife lights for him) there may be a din that he has to see the lights and make the one brocho. If he sees in a house then its only the first half an hour but in a shul it can be perhaps all night since the half hour din does not apply.
    Today chasidish rebbes light in shul where they dont live, it may be pirsumei nisa but they are not yotsai the mitsva.

  6. why has my post been deleted

  7. my apologies

  8. MiMedinat HaYam

    1. my shul has a custom (and i’ve seen it in many places) specifically to have children light the shul menora.

    2. one can light during plag hamincha as long as enough oil / wax will remain lit for 30 mins at night (however you define night)

    3. if you forgot / couldnt light at nite, you still lite during that day.

    so that presenter / anchorman definitely did do right, though the bracha might be a question. either way, it definitely was pirsumei nisa, esp to those litvish that complain about chabad’s menora’s saying pirsumei nissa is only for jews (besides the arabs and obama’s spies / state dept watching israeli tv for anti arab programming (correction: those spies are probably jewish, unfortunataely.)

    3. is the “bameh madlikim” issue only in israel (per the foobnote) or outside. i know differing minhagim, and actually looked it up in SA which gives both opinions,and a definite opinion that is noncommittal. MB gives the reason since the laws of the wicks and the oil are the same (?) for shabbat and for chanukkah.

  9. I think there is no pirsumei nisa ONLY if you are using candles, which give completely negligible light during the day. If you are using bright electric light, or on a TV show where the focus is on the candles, then there IS pirsumei nisa during the day.

    Of course, the brachot are still levatala, as are any brachot not instituted by Chazal (or to a certain extent by ancient custom).

  10. Women can also be included in the “minyan” since this is an issue of having enough people for pirsumei nissah and not an actual quorum.

  11. JID-

    Yes. According to many but not all poskim. Ditto for the Megilla on Purim.

    Ari Enkin

  12. Mimedinat-

    1. Ok. but not pashut.

    2. Not lechatchila!

    3. Different minhagim

    Ari Enkin

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