Please include Israel's captive soldiers in your tefillot: Zecharia Shlomo ben Miriam Baumel, Tzvi ben Penina Feldman, Yekutiel Yehuda Nachman ben Sarah Katz, Ron ben Batya Arad, Guy ben Rina Chever.
Chanuka (5) Monday, 29 Kislev 5774 – December 2, 2013
Yesterday, we noted the theory that appears to emerge from the comments of the Vilna Gaon (Bei’ur Ha-Gra, O.C. 671:7) that the custom to light Chanukah candles in the synagogue reflects the dual aspect of the pirsumei nisa obligation. Alongside the individual obligation to publicize the miracle, there is an additional requirement cast upon the congregation to make a public commemoration of the miracle.
Rav Soloveitchik, citing his father, Rav Moshe Soloveitchik (as recorded in Harerei Kedeem, 166), noted a number of halakhic expressions of this theory. First, although different views exist as to whether Chanukah candles should be lit on Motza’ei Shabbat before or after havdala, the synagogue lighting according to all views is done before havdala. The reason, Rav Moshe explained, is that the synagogue candle lighting is an obligation cast upon the tzibur – the congregation. As such, it must be done when this entity – a halakhic tzibur – exists. Once the prayer service is over and the people are ready to leave, they no longer form a halakhic “congregation” which bears an obligation to light Chanukah candles. The presence of ten men in itself does not create a tzibur; this entity is formed only if they have assembled in a halakhically significant manner, meaning, for public prayer. And it is for this reason, Rav Moshe noted, that on weeknights the Chanukah candles are lit in the synagogue before arvit, because once arvit is concluded, the people in the synagogue no longer constitute a halakhic tzibur. On Motza’ei Shabbat, however, the candles in the synagogue cannot be lit before arvit (as it is then still Shabbat, when kindling a flame is forbidden), and must therefore be lit after arvit. By instituting the lighting specifically before havdala, we ensure that a halakhic tzibur will be present for the lighting, by virtue of the fact that the congregation must still remain for the final part of the service. (Rav Soloveitchik added that his grandfather, Rav Chayim of Brisk, went even further, establishing that the candles should be lit in the synagogue before Viyhi Noam, as the formal prayer service ends with the recitation of kaddish titkabal immediately after Viyhi Noam.)
This line of reasoning, of course, assumes that the synagogue lighting is a function of an obligation cast upon the congregation. According to the other reasons given for this practice – such as to increase general publicity of the miracle, or to commemorate the lighting of the menorah in the Beit Ha-mikdash – it would likely make no difference whether the lighting is performed before or after havdala. (Although, one might argue that if the purpose is publicity, then the candles should not be lit the moment before everyone begins leaving the synagogue.)
Another possible consequence of this theory relates to the possibility of lighting the Chanukah candles before a minyan has arrived. The Magen Avraham (671:9) rules that if a minyan has not arrived in the synagogue by sundown on Friday of Chanukah, the candles should be lit at that point, as this cannot be done after sundown, and the pirsumei nisa will be achieved once the people arrive. Rav Chayim of Brisk, however, reportedly disputed this ruling. (The Bei’ur Halakha similarly cites Rav Yaakov Emden, in Mor U-ktzia, as taking issue with the Magen Avraham’s position.) Rav Soloveitchik explained that since the synagogue lighting is required due to a communal obligation that exists alongside the individual obligation, it must be performed by a tzibur, which quite obviously requires the presence of a minyan.
Additionally, this theory might affect the common issue of whether a berakha should be recited over public functions that take place during Chanukah, such as Chanukah parties and weddings. According to this theory, it might depend on whether arvit is recited in that setting. If a minyan is formed at the affair, then a halakhic tzibur has been created, thus warranting the lighting of Chanukah candles with the berakhot. If, however, no minyan is held, then regardless of how many people are attending, they do not qualify for a tzibur that warrants candle lighting with the berakhot.
Rav David Silverberg
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