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From the Desk - Lighting Chanukah Candles on a Plane

Shalom Friends! I hope you're all well and keeping warm! We are very excited this week for our special Shabbat morning event at Congregation Beth Ora. The story of Joseph being sold and taken to Egypt is perhaps one of the best known narratives in the Bible. But there is a crucial detail which is unclear. While we commonly assume that Joseph was sold by his brothers, the text is not clear. It could be that Joseph was sold by someone else entirely! After many centuries of debate over this issue, Congregation Beth Ora has decided to settle the matter once and for all. At the end of the service this week, Michael Grodinsky and Devorah Leibu will debate whether or not Joseph's brothers should be seen as responsible for the sale of Joseph. At the end of the debate, we will put it to the vote to see what the verdict of our community is regarding this ancient debate. This special court case will be very interesting and a lot of fun. I hope that many of you will join us for your jury service! The busy Beth Ora program continues! On Friday December 7th, we have our annual Chanukah dinner. On Shabbat December 8th, we will be treated to a sermon from Rabbi Haim Nataf of our neighbouring Petah Tikva synagogue. And on the evening of Saturday December 8th, we will be hosting a special Chanukah candle lighting and movie night for children and their families. The first night of Chanukah is on Sunday evening. Please take a look at the pre-Chanukah email we sent out with wonderful ideas on the holiday as well as important safety precautions to be mindful of when we light candles. I wrote last week that, this month, we are concentrating on the theme of bringing all generations together at Congregation Beth Ora. I'm delighted that the Beth Ora Seniors are inviting the children from CPE Shalom to join them for their Chanukah party on Tuesday December 4th at 12:30 PM. All members of Beth Ora Seniors are invited to attend. Wishing you all Shabbat Shalom and Happy Chanukah, Rabbi Anthony and Carly Knopf Dovid, Rachelli, Yehuda and Avrami

What's the Deal with... Lighting Chanukah Candles on a Plane? Murray Itscovitch asked the question of how you can light Chanukah candles if you are travelling overnight on an airplane. So, what's the deal? The first thing to note is that if a married man travels during Chanukah and his wife or children over Bar/Bat Mitzvah light candles at home, he does not need to light candles during his trip (even though he may choose to do so). Similarly, a married woman whose husband or children are lighting at home does not need to light when travelling. If this doesn't apply to you and you are travelling during the night on Chanukah, here is the best advice:

  • If you are leaving home after about 3:15 PM (you can speak to me about the exact time), light at home before leaving.

  • If you are leaving home before this time but will arrive at your destination before dawn, you should light when you arrive.

  • If you are leaving before 3:15 PM and arriving after dawn then you can light as long as you can put the menorah down somewhere and there is no fire hazard.

This obviously doesn't apply on a plane. However, this raises another question that Murray mentioned: Can one use an electric menorah? There are many reasons why an electric menorah is considered invalid for the mitzvah:

  1. Electricity did not exist when the Rabbis instituted the mitzvah, so it is not considered one of the types of candles that can be used for the mitzvah.

  2. Chanukah candles are meant to remind us of the miracle so they must resemble the candles of the Holy Temple. Since electric lights are different from candles, they can't be used.

  3. The mitzvah of lighting the menorah is the actual lighting of the flames. Therefore, one needs to have the required amount of fuel in the menorah lamp at lighting time (i.e. enough to burn for 30 minutes after nightfall). Since electricity isn't all present at the time of lighting, it is similar to lighting the flame and only later adding the right amount of fuel, which doesn't work for the mitzvah.

It is important to note that, if there are some concerns about using a conventional menorah, one can simply light some tea lights placed in a tray (and the tray can even be filled with water). I'm obviously not suggesting that for the plane but it may be relevant for some elderly people who live alone and are concerned about the fire risk. Finally, with regard to the plane, if there is no other option one can light an electric menorah without reciting a blessing. By doing so, he affirms the miracle, and according to a few halachic authorities, even fulfills the mitzvah. Finally, I should note that some have a custom to place large, electric menorahs in their home. Even though this does not fulfill the mitzvah of lighting Chanukah candles, it's still a very good thing to do because it reminds people about the miracle of Chanukah.


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