How do soldiers in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) celebrate Chanukah?
What halachic (Jewish legal) issues could arise?
Who provides halachic solutions for IDF soldiers?
Click here to read an article from the December 26, 1978 issue of the Ma’ariv newspaper. The English translation is written below.
(Translation of the article)
In the Army
Lighting Chanukah candles - Also with Gun Oil
All oils, wicks, and candles, whether they are wax or fat or even kerosene, are permitted for lighting Chanukah candles, and those who are the most meticulous use olive oil. Soldiers, who do not have candles and who can not set up wicks in regular oil, are permitted to light with gun oil or automobile oil. And in an emergency, when only a flashlight is available, you should say the blessings on it.
It seems that IDF soldiers will not need these leniencies this year which are included in the “Laws of Chanukah” which the Chief Military Rabbinate published prior to the Holiday of Lights. This year, chanukiyot and colourful candles were supplied to every unit and even to the most remote and a “time of emergency” that would permit lighting with automobile oil or gun oil does not exist. In the central bases, that are located on the homefront, there will certainly be many soldiers who will want to be “meticulous” and light their Chanukah light with olive oil.
The directives of the military rabbinate also stipulate that soldiers who are located in outposts on the front, in fortresses, etc.. and it is feared that if they light their chanukiyot outside, as the law obligates in order to publicize the miracle, they will be seen by the enemy and be put at risk -- they should light their candles in a hidden place..
In addition to supplying candles and chanukiyot, the military rabbinate will hold a series of holiday parties, at which military rabbis and civilian lecturers will speak about the spiritual character of Chanukah, in which the few defeated the many and the spirit of Israel prevailed over the pagan Greeks. Chabad Rabbis will also visit IDF bases during the holiday to dance with the soldiers and bring them greetings from the Lubavitcher Rebbe.
Halachic Issues for Lighting the Chanukiya During Military Service
1) What material can soldiers use to light the Chanukiya?
Read the text from the Shulchan Aruch.
Which oils and wicks are suitable for use?
Which oil is the most preferable?
What other material can be used if this oil is not available?
According to the newspaper article, what was the IDF chief rabbi’s response to the question of not having olive oil?
Which oils are soldiers allowed to use to light the chanukiya?
How does the chief rabbi derive his decision from the source above?
According to the article, would soldiers needed to have used alternative oils in 1978? Why or why not?
2) Where can soldiers light the Chanukiya to ensure their safety?
In the text below, the rabbis of the Talmud are discussing what to do on the Friday night of Chanukah if there is only enough money to buy either wine for kiddush or oil for the Chanukiya. Which should they choose?
Rava decides that purchasing the oil should take preference over purchasing the wine, and he justifies his decision by introducing a concept which explains one of the reasons for lighting the Chanukah lights.
The Talmud text below adds details on how the miracle of Chanukah is publicized through the Chanukiya.
What do you think פרסומי ניסא (publicizing the miracle) means?
How do you think it is done?
According to Shabbat 21b, where should a lit Chanukiya be placed?
Where should a person living on the second floor of a building place their Chanukiya?
How does placing the Chanukiya in a public place publicize the miracle?
Under what circumstances is it acceptable for a person to light a Chanukiya inside and away from the window?
According to the article, must all soldiers participate in פרסומי ניסא (publicizing the miracle)?
Who would be exempt?
Why would they be exempt?
The article mentions another halachic principle - בשעת הדחק (in an emergency).
This principle states that in certain emergency situations, the law allows for some leniencies.
Read the verse from Leviticus below and highlight the words that suggest that in times of emergency life is more important than following halacha.
Read the following text from Maimonides’ Mishneh Torah.
What does it add to the understanding of the verse from Leviticus?
How does the concept of “living” according to mitzvot influence the IDF rabbi’s ruling in the article?
Putting It All Together
Combine all of the concepts mentioned above to write a short paragraph about how IDF soldiers light Chanukah candles and why their rules may differ from ordinary citizens.
Design a booklet for the soldiers, explaining the overall rules of lighting the Chanukiya and the exceptions that are sometimes available to them. Include the paragraph that you wrote above and blessings and songs that can be sung after lighting. Illustrate the booklet.