5. Ĥanuka

As we have learned, women are obligated to light Ĥanuka candles, for they too participated in that miracle. A married woman fulfills her obligation through her husband’s lighting, and a daughter by her father’s. However, if the husbands or fathers do not light, either because they are not home or for another reason, the wife or daughter must light. A woman who lives alone must light her own candles.

A daughter who lives in her father’s house may light with a berakha according to Ashkenazic custom, even though her father already lit. According to Sephardic custom, only the head of household lights in the home (see Peninei Halakha: Zemanim 12:3-4 and n. 2).

Women customarily do not work while the Ĥanuka candles are burning, to demonstrate that these lights are for the sake of a mitzva and not for any utility and because the Ĥanuka miracle began with Yehudit, giving this holiday a higher status for women – akin to that of Ĥol Ha-mo’ed. According to the first reason, cooking and frying are forbidden at this time, because perhaps the light of the candles will assist the performance of these actions. According to the second reason, only actions forbidden on Ĥol Ha-mo’ed, such as laundry and sewing, are forbidden while the candles are burning; however cooking and frying foods are permitted, and that is the common custom. Families that customarily refrain from cooking and the like should continue to follow their custom. 1

Some poskim maintain that women must recite Hallel on Ĥanuka. Since they too participated in that miracle, they must express gratitude for it. However, according to most poskim, they are not obligated, and that is the prevailing custom. Those who wish to enhance the mitzva are commendable. According to Ashkenazic custom, they recite it with a berakha, and according to Sephardic custom, they recite it without a berakha. 2

  1. See SA 670:1 and MB 4. The prevailing custom is to be lenient, and so I have learned from R. Mordechai Eliyahu. See Peninei Halakha: Zemanim 11:11.
  2. Based on Tosafot (Sukka 38b), some Aĥaronim infer that women must recite Hallel on Ĥanuka, because “they too participated in that miracle” so they too must express gratitude for it, just as they must recite Hallel on Pesaĥ night. This is the opinion of Torat Refael OĤ 75, Hitorerut Teshuva and Binyan Shlomo 2:63. However, according to most poskim (as well as MT, Laws of Ĥanuka 3:6) women are exempt from Hallel on Ĥanuka, since it is a time-bound positive mitzva. One possible explanation for this is that women fulfill their obligation of thanksgiving by lighting the candles. This stands to reason because for many generations most women did not know how to say Hallel, and it is problematic to say that they were obligated but did not fulfill their obligation. Rather, everything that is connected to the synagogue prayer service, which is dependent on time, does not obligate women. Yet they must recite Hallel at the Seder because it takes place at home and because women are obligated in it from the Torah, and everything the Sages instituted for men what instituted for women as well. See Yeĥaveh Da’at 1:78, Halikhot Shlomo: Mo’adim 2:17:6, and Halikhot Beitah 8:5 and in the notes.

    Rambam writes (MT, Laws of Ĥanuka 3:6) that since women are exempt from Hallel, they cannot recite it on behalf of men, who are obligated. This would seem to apply to Hallel on Rosh Ĥodesh as well, as indicated by MA 422:5. However, BHL §422 s.v. “Hallel” states that since Hallel on Rosh Ĥodesh stems from custom and not obligation, and both women and men are technically exempt, presumably she may recite it on a his behalf.

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Translated By:
Series Editor: Rabbi Elli Fischer

The Laws of Shabbat (1+2) - Yocheved Cohen
The Laws of Prayer - Atira Ote
The Laws of Women’s Prayer - Atira Ote
The Laws of Pesach - Joshua Wertheimer
The Laws of Zemanim - Moshe Lichtman

Editor: Nechama Unterman