Time of Kindling Chanukah Lights
A: Eating, working or learning before kindling Chanukah lights: Half an hour before kindling time, one may not begin a job or a meal. Learning is permissible, while some posskim permit only learning hilchos Chanuka, or attending a regular nightly Torah lesson.
One may taste fruit or less than the size of an egg of cake or bread, even after the kindling time has arrived.
After the time for kindling Chanukah lights has arrived, one may not learn before kindling. (The Yalkut Yosef permits attending a nightly Torah lesson, if there is no possibility of moving it up earlier. Other posskim though maintain that for those lighting outdoors, they should light at the proper time, and not delay it even for a Torah lesson.)
B: Proper time for kindling Chanukah lights: There are various opinions regarding the proper time for kindling Chanukah lights. According to the Gr"a they are to be lit as the sun is setting. This ruling is followed by the Ashkenazim in Yerushalayim.
According to the Igros Moshe (OC vol 4, 101) the proper lighting time is ten minutes after sunset. According to The Chazon Ish the proper time is twenty minutes after sunset.
According to the Beis Yosef, the proper time for lighting is at nightfall, (when stars are visible, which is approx. 13.5-18 minutes after sunset). The Sefaradi custom in Eretz Yisroel is to daven Ma’a’riv immediately after sunset and to kindle Chanukah lights fifteen minutes after sunset.
The Chassidic custom in Eretz Yisroel is to daven Ma’ariv immediately at nightfall and to kindle Chanukah lights right after Ma’a’riv.
If one follows the custom of Rabbeinu tam, to consider "nightfall" seventy two minutes after sunset, he should light then.
If one is lighting before nightfall, he should put in enough fuel for the lights to burn until half an hour after nightfall. (For example, in Yerushalayim the sun sets on Chanukah at 4:40 P.M.. If a person lights then (in accordance with the opinion of the Gr"a), it should burn until half an hour after nightfall, meaning until 5:30.)
If for some reason one won’t be able to kindle Chanukah lights on time, he may light them from p’lag hamincha and on. (P’lag Hamincha is about an hour and a quarter before sunset (An hour in this case is not sixty minutes, but rather one twelfth of the day, depending on the length of that particular day). In Eretz Yisroel at Chanukah time, p’lag hamincha is about 3:35-3:40 P.M.) He should nevertheless have enough fuel for the lights to burn until half an hour after his normal lighting time.
If one kindled Chanukah lights before p’lag hamincha, he must extinguish them, and kindle them again at the proper time and recite the brochas
C: Kindling Chanukah lights on Erev Shabbos:
REMINDER: Shabbos begins no later than sunset on Friday night. Under no circumstances may one kindle Chanukah lights or Shabbos candles after sunset.
On Erev shabbos, Chanukah lights should be kindled just before lighting Shabbos candles.
Shabbos candles should be lit at their normal time, which is eighteen minutes before sunset, after the Chanukah lights were already kindled. (In Yerushalayim, where Shabbos candles are normally lit forty minutes before sunset, on Erev Shabbos Chanukah they are lit twenty minutes before sunset.)
Although the kindling of Chanukah lights on Erev Shabbos is done earlier than other nights, the lights must continue burning until half an hour after nightfall.
For example; In Jerusalem the sun sets during Chanukah at 4:40 P.M.. The Chanukah lights should be kindled at 4:20 and should burn until 5:30 P.M., half an hour after nightfall.
Note that the small Chanukah candles don’t burn that long, and bigger candles must be used.
If a women realizes after lighting Shabbos candles that she forgot to kindle Chanukah lights, she should ask someone else to kindle Chanukah lights for her. If nobody is available, she may light them herself, provided that the sun has not yet set.
D: Kindling on Motzaei Shabbos: On Motzaei Shabbos, one must be very careful not to kindle the lights before Shabbos is over. On the other hand, the kindling of Chanukah lights should not be delayed much later. Some people have the custom to daven Ma’ariv before Shabbos is over, and to kindle the Chanukah lights immediately after Shabbos is over.
Those people who normally wait until seventy two minutes after sunset before ending Shabbos (in accordance with the opinion of Rabbeinu Tam) have various customs regarding the proper kindling time for Chanukah lights on motzaei Shabbos. Some kindle the lights 35-45 minutes after sunset, as most people do, while other’s wait the full seventy two minutes before kindling. (See Igros Moshe OC: vol 4, 62 and Yalkut Yosef pg. 58.)
In Shule the Chanukah lights are kindled before Havdalah, while there are different customs regarding the procedure at home. Some kindle the Chanukah lights before Havdalah, while others recite Havdalah first.
E: Proper time for kindling Chanukah lights in Shule: The custom is to kindle Chanukah lights in Shule between Mincha and Ma’ariv, even though it is still day.
In Yeshivos where the custom is to daven early Mincha, the Chanukah lights are kindled at the proper time (at least ten people should be present).
The custom is to kindle Chanukah lights in shule at Sha’charis. No Brocha is recited when lighting in the morning.
On Erev Shabbos the menorah should be kindled in the shule after Mincha. If Mincha will end after sunset, the menorah should be kindled before Mincha. (Under no circumstances is the Menorah to be kindled after sunset.)
F: Latest time to light: The Gemorah says that the latest time to light is when there are no more people walking outside. In those days it was about half an hour after nightfall. Nowadays, this may be a little bit later, since people do walk around at later hours. (A local rabbi should be consulted to determine the proper time for that specific location.)
If a person is lighting outside, he should definitely make every effort to light within this time period, since lighting later can be problematic.
If a person lights indoors, he may light until dawn, if he has not lit at the beginning of the night. According to the Oruch Hashulchan at least one other member of the household must be present at the lighting, while other posskim require two people present. If all the members of the household are asleep, two of them should be awoken, before lighting. If nobdy else is awake he should kindle the lights without reciting the brochas.
According to the Igros Moshe (OC: vol 4, 105), one may nevertheless kindle the Chanukah lights and recite the brachos.