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Dec 18, 2022

Interesting Psak: watch the World Cup or light Chanukah candles

The World Cup, aka Mondial, being played now in Qatar has presented an interesting question. Today's game will be the final, the premier, the biggest match of the tournament. Millions of people, some say over a billion people, have been watching the games until now and will watch today's game. The game is set to begin at 5pm, which is right about when we in Israel will be lighting Chanukah candles (some light at sunset which is 4:38 or so, and others light at tzeis which is 5:05). The dilemma many people seem to have is if they should light on time and miss the beginning of the game, should they delay lighting until a break in the game, should they light while watching - major problems. People just don't want to miss a nice portion of the game, a game that happens once every 4 years.

I have collected a variety of rabbinic statements with psak halacha relating to this issue, giving guidance and instruction (in no particular order).

1. Rav Dovid Karhi, rav of Moshav Zohar, along with the rav of Netivot Rav Pinchas Hacohen, and Rav Meir Mazuz, issued a letter stating that the worst thing people can do is delay lighting candles because of this game. It will also be pretty bad if people light the Chanukah candles with the television on and while watching the game. It will also be pretty bad for people to light quickly to get it out of the ay so they can rush to the game. 

The best thing to do, the rabbonim say, is to light candles at 4:55pm, with the television off, hang out with the family by the candles explaining that the mitzvos are much more important than the vanities of this world, and the longer you sit by the candles before turning on the game the personal example set for the family will be that much stronger.

2. Kikar brings from Rav Meir Mazuz, who seems to have related to the issue independently from the letter above the same resolution of lighting at 4:55. Rav Mazuz explains that the Chanukah candle symbolizes our  overpowering the Greeks, and Chanukah must come before the Mondial, at 4:55 lighting the candles and singing the songs calmly and with patience. The sufganiyot can be eaten later, even while watching the game - but the Chanukah lights and singing the songs that comes first.. He also speaks with derision about the sport itself and watching it, but we'll leave that as it is irrelevant for the discussion.

3. Kipa brings an interesting approach from Rav Chaim Navon in which he compares the situation to the beauty of the sport itself, saying that just like in the sport the players cannot just do whatever they want but have to compete within the boundaries of the time limitations and the rules such as not hitting each other and no using hands, so people of halacha also the beauty in the limitations within which we can act, such as when candle lighting time is rather than watching the game at that very moment, making it not just truth and faithfulness, but also beauty.

4. Rav Aviner says that lighting on time offers a broad swath of time in which it is allowed, as one can light as long as people in the house are awake and people are outside. But, it is better to light at the correct time and do it quickly rather than wait until later. Rav Aviner does think the Mondial is a waste of time but despite that, the rules of lighting apply.

5. Rav Avraham Stav says people should light at the correct time (tzeis) even if it means missing a few minutes of the game. If it is really difficult for someone he can light a few minutes earlier, as some light from the time of sunset anyway. Someone who will be leaving his house earlier to watch the game in a group at a different location should make sure to get home in time to light while people are still out and about in the area where he lives.

6. a rav asked Rabbanit Yemima Mizrachi what to tell people - should people watch the game at home and light or should people watch with friends as they might prefer?
Rabbanit Mizrachi said that people should watch the game at home if possible and light the menora. Using a play on words from a Chanukah term about candle lighting she said, "Mondial Ish Ubeito". People are going to watch the game anyway, no matter what we say so better to at least tell them to watch at home rather than to tell them not to watch which they wont listen to

7.. Rav Ilai Ofran, rav of Kvutzat Yavneh, said this is a question he prefers not to answer, as it might be a social question or an educational matter, but it is not a halachic question. In halacha there is no such thing as an "important game". Not every question needs to be answered by a rabbi and a rabbi does not need to get involved in everything. Sometimes a rav can say, this isnt a question for me, you decide for yourself - leave me out of it.
source: Kipa,. for the last few)

Honestly, of all the answers I read (and there were others that I didnt bring because they were similar to approaches I did quote above), and they are all interesting, I happen to like Rav Ofran's approach the best. This isn't even really a question, and people can decide for themselves what they are going to do. A rav doesnt need to get involved in everything.

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  1. "Beautiful game" is code for "boring." Miss the first few minutes; nothing will happen.

  2. When I was in Yeshiva in Israel, some guys had made arrangements to watch the Super Bowl. The Rosh Yeshiva made an announcement that anyone who wanted to was welcome to go watch, as long as they took their bags with them.

    Some guys spent the morning trying with all their might explaining to some of the Rabbiem why it was so important for them not to miss the game. In the end a small group were given permission to go and watch the game. I do not know if any conditions were contingent on permission being granted.

  3. Good grief. They can't miss the first five minutes of the game?


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