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Shabbat Parashat Vayeshev| 5767

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Question: At the Jewish school where I teach, we plan to end the school days of Chanuka as follows. We will daven a late Mincha in a classroom, followed by a d’var Torah. Then we will light Chanuka candles with the berachot and dismiss the class. May we blow out the candles for safety reasons?
Answer: Regarding your question, even the Chanuka candles that are lit in a shul should preferably remain lit for a half hour(Mishna Berura 675:6). However, it is probably not responsible to leave the candles unattended in a school building. Therefore, we suggest that you extinguish the lights before leaving, which most poskim allow under such circumstances.(See Mikra’ei Kodesh (Harari), Chanuka 10:28, who cites Rav Eliyahu as saying that one should stipulate before lighting that he plans to extinguish them.)
 Allow us to raise issues related to your assumption that you should light the candles with berachot. The gemara does not mention lighting Chanuka candles in shul, but by the Rishonim’s time it was an accepted minhag. The Beit Yosef (Orach Chayim 671) cites the Kol Bo that it is intended to fulfill the mitzva of those who do not light at home and to increase the level of pirsumei nisa (publicizing the miracle), which is the heart of the mitzva. The Rivash (#111) develops the latter reason beautifully. Originally, the candles were lit in front of everyone’s house. Because fear of non-Jews forced the lighting inside, the minhag developed to “spread the light” at least in shul. The Rivash explains that we recite a beracha, as we do for certain other minhagim, and this is the broadly accepted practice (Shulchan Aruch, OC 671:7). Others explain that since a shul corresponds to the Beit Hamikdash, where the original miracle occurred, it is appropriate to also perform the commemoration there.
 Acharonim debate whether it is appropriate to light Chanuka candles with a beracha in public gatherings other than in a shul. Some claim that since the minhag is so novel, we may not extend it further (Minchat Yitzchak VI, 65). Others counter that the important matter is publicizing the miricale, wherever that may be. If there are also people present who have not yet fulfilled their mitzva (see Piskei Teshuvot 671:15) and/or there will be a minyan for Ma’ariv (Torat Hamo’adim (Yosef) 7:16), there are stronger grounds to extend the minhag.
 It appears that the classroom you mention is considered a shul, certainlyif there is a regular minyan there. However, the timing is not simple. The minhag is to light the candles between Mincha and Ma’ariv (Rama, OC 671:7), even when this is earlier than one would light at home (Mishna Berura 671:46). This facilitates proper pirsumei nisa throughout Ma’ariv, after which people run out (Shev Yaakov 22). Therefore, one can question whether your classroom is like a shul in this regard, when you are not davening Ma’ariv, which isthe time to light. One might consider lighting the candles before the d’var Torah, so the children will be seeing them during the next several minutes. If the d’var Torah is to begin before sunset and finish after it, it probably pays to light after sunset (see Torat Hamo’adim 7:(4)). There is also a question whether one needs a real minyan to light in shul (see Mikraei Kodesh, ibid.:6). (We don’t know the children’s ages.)
Depending on the details, there are likely halachic reasons to prefer lighting the candles without a beracha, which also makes blowing them out simpler. However, you may decide that the educational factors tip the scale in favor of doing a regular lighting. (One major factor is the presence of children whose parents do not light at home.) Your e-mail indicates that you are a rabbi. Not only can you decide the halachic elements, but you, who “live” the children’s education, should also factor in educational elements of the experience. Whatever you decide about the berachot, you may extinguish the candles for security reasons.
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This edition of
Hemdat Yamim is dedicated to the memory of
R’ Meir ben Yechezkel Shraga Brachfeld o.b.m.
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