Lighting Chanuka Candles in the Synagogue

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Halakhic Positions of Rav Joseph B. Soloveitchik

by R. Aharon Ziegler

According to Rav Soloveitchik, the minhag of lighting the menorah in the Bet HaKnesset is an expression of Zecher L’Mikdash, and not a Halacha of Pirsumei Nisa. It is different when the Menorah is lit at some public gathering, for there it is specifically for Pirsumei Nisa, however, not so in the synagogue. Therefore, the objective of the lighting in the synagogue is not a Bet HaKnesset  concern, but rather, a Minyan concern, a Minyan which is a representative body of the entire Tzibbur of all of Klal Yisrael

The Rav continued that the term “Tzibbur” does  not mean ten individuals in a given place, but rather, it is ten individuals who are prepared to perform that which requires a Minyan-a Davar Sheh’bik’dusha. Hence, during the weeknights, all synagogues light the Menorah before Maariv- not because people disperse after Maariv, but because the concept of the Tzibbur no longer exists after Teffilat Maariv has ended. That is also why on Friday evening, before Mincha begins, the people should wait until a Minyan is present before lighting takes place.

So too, on Motza’ei  Shabbat it is preferable to light before “V’Ata Kadosh” because there is still a Kaddish to be recited, [It is the opinion of Rambam that Kedusha D’Sidra also requires a Minyan.]  It makes absolutely NO difference as to who lights the candles in the synagogue, as long as he is sent up by a  Gabbai [which is also required  for a Shali’ach Tzibbur, or receiving a Torah Aliyah] who represents the Tzibbur.  Unlike Kiddush or Havdalah in the synagogue, from which people can be Yotzei [fulfill their requirement],  regarding Chanukah lights in the synagogue NO ONE fulfills his obligation, not even the one who lit the candles.  On the first night, however, having said the Sheh’heh’cheyanu in the shul, the person who does the lighting should NOT repeat this Bracha at his home lighting.

About Aharon Ziegler

Rabbi Aharon Ziegler is the Rabbi Emeritus of Congregation Agudath Achim of Boro Park and the Dean and Rosh Kollel of Kollel Agudath Achim. He is the author of six volumes of Halakhic Positions of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik.

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