The Festival of Lights, Hanukkah, is an eight-day-long celebration of hope, spiritual renewal and the rededication of commitment to the values of Torah, communal responsibility, and charity, as well as remembering the ancient victory of the Maccabees over oppression. Part of the festivities includes the lighting of candelabra, or Menorahs, where one candle is lit each night, beginning on the 25th day of Kislev and ending on the second day of Tevet. The question remains, however, what time should we light the Hanukkah candles?
The Rabbi Yechezkel Landau of 19th century Prague said that the optimal time to light the Hanukkah candles is during the late afternoon. The reasoning behind this is based on tradition. The Talmud states that a Hanukkah candle should be lit shortly after the sun sets. This way, the candle will stay lit for a relatively long time, allowing more people to benefit from its light and remember the miracle of Hanukkah. In practice, this means that, if the sun sets before 5:00 PM, one should light the Hanukkah candles as soon as possible after the sun sets, whereas if the sun sets after 5:00 PM, one may wait to light the candles until closer to 6:00 PM.
The Rabbi Landau also argued that lighting the Menorah at night would establish a distinction between the Hanukkah lights and the mundane lights of everyday life. Otherwise, one might come to overlook the importance and specialness of the Hanukkah lights.
While settings the time for when to light the Hanukkah candles used to depend a great deal on people’s individual customs and traditions, today fixed times have been established in most places. This way, due to varying weather conditions across the globe, people don’t have to rely solely on sunset for determining when to light the Menorah. Many people light the candles anywhere from half an hour to an hour after sundown.
Lighting the Hanukkah candle has also become a meaningful family activity. Many families (especially those with younger children) prefer to light the Hanukkah candles at a time when it is convenient for them to gather and make the event a joyous celebration. Whether this is before or after sundown it completely depends on each family’s individual preference.
In conclusion, the optimal time to light the Hanukkah candles is late afternoon, shortly after the sun sets. However, the timing may vary between families and it is up to each individual’s discretion to decide when the most meaningful time is to light the candles. Regardless of when it is done, the lights of Hanukkah should be celebrated, as it symbolizes hope, spiritual renewal, and the Maccabees’ victory over oppression.
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Last update 2023-11-27. Price and product availability may change.