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Talmud Shabbat (I think it's around p. 21a) says that the mitzvah of lighting candles is in one's home. I did not see any mention, there, of a requirement to light in the shul.

So, a few questions:

  • When did lighting in the shul begin and why was this done?
  • Is lighting candles in the shul an obligation, a minhag or a non-obligatory mitzvah (i.e., you're not required but you perform a mitzvah if you do.)
  • In my shul, at night time, the say the blessings. OK, I understand that idea if one is obligated to light in the shul. If there is no obligation, then why make the blessings?
  • The candles are lit for Shacharit, too, but there is no blessing. What's the purpose of lighting it for Shacharit?
  • They don't light it before davening mincha, in my shul. I guess that's because they will light it after Ma'ariv. In being consistent with the reason that they light it for Shacharit, why not use this same reasoning, blow it out, say the blessings, then relight it for Ma'ariv with an extra candle for that night?
  • Part of this is a duplicate of judaism.stackexchange.com/q/50786 and part is partially covered by judaism.stackexchange.com/q/50762. – msh210 Dec 10 '15 at 21:47
  • @msh210 Well, I certainly see that w/ the 1st link. I'm not sure about the 2nd. Too bad no one can put VTC with more than 1 dupe :-) – DanF Dec 10 '15 at 22:04
  • This "custom" of lighting - with a berakhah, hello!?! - in synagogues and kollels (at all hours of the night, no less) has no basis. At the very least it contradicts the halakhah and is a berakhah le-vetalah. I challenge anyone to bring adequate proof for this needless addition to Torah. Doing this confuses more people than it could possibly help. Kol tuv. – user3342 Dec 10 '15 at 22:41
  • @Maimonist The "at all hours of the night" part makes sense to me. What woul dbe the point of the bracha. But, that's not what I said in the question, or, it may be vague. When I said Ma'ariv, I meant at the beginning of the night. – DanF Dec 11 '15 at 3:40
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Nitei Gavriel Chanuka 40:1 says this is done for Pirsumei Nisah - announcing of the miracle.

He mentions that we light between Mincha & Maariv based on Orach Chaim 671:7, Kolbo 67, Manhig 148 and it is done for those that are not familiar or careful to do the Mitzva.

Regarding lighting the Menora by Shacharis 40:18:25 mentions in the name of the Binyan Shlomo 38 that it is based on the Rambam that says that in the Bais Hamikdash they would light any flame that extinguished overnight, in the morning. This possibly answers your question as to why they do not light prior to Mincha, as it is not the proper time yet, and it does not have the benefit of the reason for lighting by Shacharis.

Although this does not answer all your questions, it definitely answers the last two parts of your question.

  • Really good :-) Thanks. I'm a bit curious as to when the shul part began. Offhand, sounds like all this is minhag, esp. Shacharit, but I could be off. – DanF Dec 10 '15 at 18:50

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