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Sunday, January 01, 2006 - א' בטבת,
When Lighting Chanukah Candles in the Synagogue
Rabbi Alan Ira
The widespread practice is to
light Chanukah candles each night in the synagogue (in addition to the
lighting in one's home). The Chanukah candles lit in the
synagogue are to be placed along the synagogue's southern wall,
running from east to west. There is some controversy, however,
as to where the individual stands when he lights the Chanukah candles
in the synagogue. The Chatam Sofer (Rabbi Moshe Sofer,
Austria-Hungary, 1763-1840), in one of his responses, ruled that the
person lighting the Menorah in the synagogue should stand with his
back to the southern wall facing north, in other words, in between the
southern wall and the Menorah. On the first night he lights a
candle on the easternmost side, that is, on the far right side, and
then adds one candle each subsequent night to the left. When
lighting, of course, one first lights the leftmost candle and then
proceeds to the right.
This is the position taken by
numerous other authorities, as well, including the Mahari Berona, the
Mishna Berura (Siman 671), and the "Ikarei Ha'dat."
By contrast, the Kaf Ha'chayim records
that the practice among the Sephardim is to stand in front of the
Menorah, with one's back to the northern wall facing the southern
wall, and to light the first candle at the right-hand side - or
towards the western wall. The Kaf Ha'chayim does not cite any
earlier sources as the basis for the practice, but he appears to have
had a tradition to this effect.
In Ashkenazic communities, the one
lighting the Menorah in the synagogue stands with his back to the
southern wall, whereas among the Sephardim one should face the
southern wall as he lights. According to all views, the candle
lit on the first night should be placed on the right-hand side of the
Menorah, and a candle is added to the left on each subsequent night.
And when lighting the candles, one first lights the leftmost candle
and then proceeds to the right.
more articles by Rabbi Alan Ira Silver
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