Sunday, November 28, 2010

Sephardic Hanouka Traditions and Halakhot by Joseph Mosseri


There are some significant differences in the halakhot of Hanoukah between Sephardim and Ashkenazim, and it is very important for all of us to keep our minhagim clear and consistent--especially when a lot of Sephardic traditions are no longer followed simply because of the ignorance of those in the society in how to follow these traditions.

These are some very important halakhot for Hanoukah, passed down through the generations and carefully recorded by one of the most caring and careful Sephardic scholars of our time, Mr. Joseph Mosseri.

He has also carefully delineated between Sephardi and Ashkenazi traditions, and clarified the customs for Sephardim.

If you need to find out the specific way to light the Hanoukah (not the Hannukiah, Mr. Mosseri points out), which prayers we say and how we say them, then there are instructions below. 

If you want to know under which source we base our traditions, Mr. Mosseri has also included that information.

Hanoukah Tov!


Sephardic Halakhot for the Hagim Festivals
Some customs for the holiday of   Hanoukah
By Joseph Mosseri

1) The custom in Egypt was not to say Sidouq HaDin all 8 days of Hanoukah.

2) The custom amongst all Middle Eastern and North African Jewish communities is to only use pure olive oil for the Hanoukah lights. The reason being that this is considered to be the best way to fulfill the commandment and because the holiday miracle occurred through olive oil.

3) When lighting, the custom as brought down by Maran, Hakham Yosef Karo, in his Shoulhan 'Aroukh, is to start with the light on the right. Meaning that on the first night when you are going to light, you begin with the wick closest to your right hand.

On the second night, you begin with the wick adjacent to the one you lit on the first night, then you light the one of the first night.

On the 3rd night, you begin with the newest wick, and work your way back to the right. And such is the manner on each night.

By the last night you'll be lighting that closest to your left hand first and moving to your right. In the same manner that we write English or any Western language. Since the custom is to use oil wicks and not candles, we light with a candle and after the obligatory lights are kindled, the Shamash, or extra wick is kindled with the candle. The candle is then extinguished.

4) If you can safely light near your entrance way in order to publicize the Hanoukah miracle to those who pass by in the street that is great. If not you can feel comfortable knowing that you can follow the custom to light inside the house where it will be publicized to the family members. This is based upon MaHaRYQaSh, in his gloss to the Shoulhan 'Aroukh, chapter 671.

5) The custom is to follow the qabalah of the AR"I (as brought down in the Shoulhan 'Aroukh) for the berakhah and to say "Lehadliq Ner Hanoukah" and not "....... shel hanoukah" even though that's the way it's mentioned in the Gemara and among the Rishonim. There are many reasons for this based upon both grammatical and mystical interpretations.

6) On Mossae Shabbat (Saturday night), the Shoulhan 'Aroukh decreed that in the synagogue the Hanoukah lights should be kindled first then habdalah should be recited. And this is the way the law and custom was practiced in Aleppo, Syria. On the other hand many posqim, rishonim and aharonim, disagree with Maran regarding this, therefore there are variant customs. The custom in both Cairo and Alexandria was to say Habdalah first, both in the synagogue and at home.The custom in Jerusalem, according to Hakham Mosheh Pardo who was Ab Bet Din there, in his Shemo Mosheh, was also to say habdalah first even in the synagogue.

7) The custom on Friday afternoon/evening of Hanoukah as brought down in the HID"A's Birke Yosef in the name of Hakham Shemouel Abohab is to pray Minhah in the synagogue the go home to kindle the Hanoukah lights, then to light the Shabbat wicks, the to return to synagogue for Qabalat Shabbat and 'Arbit.

The question of course arises that since we do not consider the lighting of shabbat lights as the acceptance of Shabbat, why must we light Hanoukah prior to shabat lights? Isn't there a well lnown rule that Tadir ve She-eno Tadir, Tadir Qodem, meaning that something that is done regularly done must take precedance over something that is not usually done. Any interesting comments?

8) On the Shabbat Eve occurring during Hanoukah, Bameh Madliqin is not recited.

9) In the synagogue the Hanoukah lights need to be placed against the Southern most wall. On the 1st night the Western most light will be lit first, etc... This is based upon an old responsa of HaRaDBa"Z, Hakham David Ibn Abi Zimra.

10) The custom in both Egypt and Jerusalem is to also light the Hanoukah lights in the synagogue during the daytime. This of course is done without a berakhah. The reason for this lighting is strictly for the sake of proclaiming the miracle since the light of these wicks is not needed during the day. It is also to help remind those who may not have lit at night for whatever reason what day of the holiday it is so they could light the proper number at night. In Egypt this was done before the commencement of prayers, in Jerusalem before Aromimkha.

11) The custom in Egypt during daily morning services of Hanoukah, is to recite the Hanoukah holiday mizmor (Psalms 30), immediately after the Sefer Torah is returned to the Heikhal and Qadish Titqabal is said. The Mizmor is said, followed by Qadish Yehe Shelema, the Qaveh and the qetoret are said. No other mizmorim are recited after qadish titqabal!

12) If prayers are being held in the house of a mourner during Hanoukah. Both the mourner and all those in attendance say Halel in the house of the mourner. The reason for this is that the Hanoukah Halel was established by the Hakhamim and we are commanded to recite it. On Rosh Hodesh the law would be different as Rosh Hodesh Halel is only a custom.

13) The custom in Tunisia is that all the while that the lights are burning the ladies do not do any work.

14) In Tunisia and Libya, Rosh Hodesh Tebet, is called Rosh Hodesh of the girls in remembrance of the heroics of Yehoudit. On this day parents send gifts to the girls and grooms to their brides to be.

15) The custom in Aleppo an in many other Sephardic cities was that prior to Hanoukah the shamash of the synagogue would give out a tall wax candle to each man which he would use for lighting the Hanoukah wicks. They in return would give him a small donation.

16) Rabbi Shem Tob Gaguine in his Keter Shem Tob mentions that the custom in Israel, Syria, Turkey, and Egypt would be to say the 1st berakhah of Lehadliq Ner Hanoukah then to light while saying the other berakhot. This is still the custom among most traditional families but there are already many who say all the berakhot prior to lighting.

17) The custom on Hanoukah is to eat a type of sweetened fried dough.

*    In Egypt it was called Zalabya or Loqmat El Qadi.
*    In Iraq and Syria it was called Zingol.
*    In Turkey it was called Bilmuelos.
*    In Greece it was called Lokomades.

This was the only traditional Sephardic item shared by almost all communities for Hanoukah.

18) The custom was never to give out presents or spin a top (dreydel, sevivon) on Hanoukah. these are traditions that came from Germanic lands and from living among Christians who exchanged presents for the Xmas holiday which usually coincided with hanoukah.

19) The berakhot are Lehadliq ner hanoukah and She'asah nisim. On the first night we also add the berakhah of shehehiyanou. After that we recite Hanerot Halalou (the version that has 51 words not 36 words) then we recite Mizmor shir hanoukat habayit ledavid (psalm 30). Ma'oz Sour is not sung!

20) The law and custom for Sepharadim is that only 1 Hanoukah [Menorah] is used for the entire family. Not like the Ashkenazi custom of each member of the family lighting their own personal Hanoukah. In most traditional families in order to share in the love of the missvah, the head of the household will give each member of the family a chance to light. On the 1st night he will light the 1st wick and he'll let his wife light the shamash. On the 2nd night he'll light the newest wick, his wife the next, then the oldest child the shamash, etc.. for all 8 nights.

21) Sepharadim until recently never called the Hanoukah lights by the name of Menorah or Hanoukiyah it was simply refered to as Hanoukah.

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