It could be that not too many people write about this but I am convinced that the topic is tremendously important, as it could concern everyone of us. I am not standing alone with my opinion, as the famous Rabbi Yosef Shalom Eliyashiv z”l and even the Rambam mention it.
What happens when a Jew does not have enough money to buy Chanukkah candles? Can he still celebrate? And what happens to the homeless? Where do they light their Chanukkiah?
The most important Mitzvah on Chanukkah is lighting the Chanukkah candles. The Jews are celebrating their victory over the Syrian-Greeks who wanted to destroy Judaism. Not only were they occupying Israel but they really wanted to destroy the Torah and everything Jewish. This was the big difference to the Babylonians who destroyed the First Temple and took the majority of the Jews into exile. However, they were not looking for the destruction of Judaism.
The greatest Mitzvah is to light the Chanukkiah with oil. I am not doing so this year because I like regular candles. I don’t know why but I just like the candles. 🙂
Buying a set with oil and the included wicks is quite expensive. At least more expensive then using regular candles. A set with oil containers can cost you between 50-70 Shekels minimum. Not everyone can spend such an amount of money only on Chanukkah candles. Haredim mostly do due to the Mitzvah. Poor haredi families usually only buy one set of oil candles and the head of the family is going to light his Chanukkiah with oil.
The Halacha states that those who do not use oil are allowed to use regular candles. In Israel, you can buy Chanukkah candles at almost every supermarket. The real cheap ones and more expensive ones lasting an hour or longer.
What happens when a Jew doesn’t have the necessary amount of Chanukkah candles? As we all know, every night throughout the festival, we are adding one more candle. The Rambam (Maimonides, Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon, 1135-1204) states that a Jew already fulfills the Mitzvah by lighting one single candle every night. Plus the Shamash. In the days of the Rambam, having candles was still considered luxury and not many people could afford them. Thus the Rambam ruled that lighting one candle every night would be sufficient.
Many Jews like to place their Chanukkiah outside in front of their door. In case someone does not have his own private entrance, he can place the Chanukkiah on the windowsill. If someone lives in an apartment without a window, he can place the Chanukkiah either in front of his entrance door-on the outside or on the inside. What is totally prohibited is putting the Chanukkiah into one’s bathroom. Even though this may be the only place in the house having a window.
When placing the Chanukkiah outside in front of the door, it should be standing on the left side, as the Mezuza is on the right side of the door.
A Jew must have a Mezuza on every door of his apartment (except the bathroom door). A homeless Jew, however, is exempt from this Mitzvah. Nevertheless, he is not exempt from lighting Chanukkah candles and thus has to find a place where he can carry out the Mitzvah.
I suppose that many soup kitchens as well as homeless shelters offer additional help when it comes to Chanukkah. At least Jewish institutions. In Jerusalem, most soup kitchens are run by Chabad and other haredi / chassidic organizations such as Toldot Aharon, Toldot Avraham Yitzchak, etc. and it goes without saying, that every Jewish holiday is being celebrated.
No one should be ashamed to ask for help!