The best way to fulfill the commandment is by lighting with olive oil, because it is drawn into the wick easily and its light is clear and bright (Gemara Shabbos, 23.1). Furthermore, the miracle itself was through olive oil. If olive oil cannot be attained, it is still meritorious to use any oil whose light is clean and clear.
The following text is brought in the Talmud (Shabbos, 21.2): "The wicks and oil that the Rabbis specified not to use on Shabbos may be used to light the Menorah on Chanukkah." This refers to the fact that there are wicks that one does not light Shabbos candles with because their light flickers, and there is oil one does not use because it is not drawn into the wick smoothly. On Chanukkah this does present a concern, for while the Shabbos candles are for the benefit of a person's use, and if he finds this poor light difficult to use he will tempted to adjust the wick, the Menorah light may not be used for any benefit, so why would he be tempted to adjust the wick? Why would it matter to him whether the wicks burn well or not? Even on the Shabbos of Chanukkah it is permitted to use inferior wicks and oil for a Menorah, even though there is an additional point of concern on Shabbos, that the use of these inferior products for the Menorah may cause the lights to extinguish by themselves within the half hour period and cause one to be tempted to relight the Menorah. This is also not a concern, for it has already been ruled that if the Chanukkah lights become extinguished during the half hour period one need not relight them, so as a matter of law this is not an obligation that he would be mindful of.
Though this be so, one should be careful not to put too much oil in on Shabbos, so that the lights do not last longer than they need to, for after the decreed time period they become permitted to be used for one's personal benefit and the danger of adjusting the wick to provide better light returns.
It is also self evident that is prohibited to use these items to light the service candle (Shamash) that is used to light the Menorah and is placed next to it. Since use of this candle for personal benefit is permitted, one might be tempted to adjust it to improve its flame. (This is the intent of the Magen Avraham in comment 1, which means to refer to Shabbos, though the text is a bit disarranged. See there.)
It appears to me that even though the Talmud rules without qualification that one may use the types of oil and wicks for Chanukkah that are forbidden for Shabbos candles there are still exceptions. These exceptions that one cannot use on Chanukkah, even during the weekdays would be anything that creates a foul smell, which one cannot use on Shabbos for it causes people to be forced to leave the room (as I have written in chapter 264), and obviously on may not light with these on Chanukkah as well for the same reason. As the whole point of the Menorah is having people see it to publicize the miracle, they should clearly not be forced from the room the Menorah is in.
Furthermore, in the laws of Shabbos it is also prohibited to light with oils that exude a fragrant smell, since one might be drawn to remove some of the oil from the lamp to apply onto himself [or to have to smell and thereby lessen the amount of oil in lamp and cause it to extinguish sooner], as is explained there. It is evident that this concern is also present with the Menorah, whose oil would be forbidden from benefit. Even if one were to argue that this concern only relates to a severity like Shabbos, where the transgression would be a capital crime, and not to Chanukkah, which is merely a rabbinic enactment, it would still be prohibited for Shabbos due to Shabbos-related prohibitions. For its part, the Talmud's reference to using these items for the Menorah on Shabbos and the Weekdays was predicated on what the general topic was, that of the invalid wicks and oil listed in chapter Ba'me Madlikin ('With what do we light?')), which are specific to the concern of poor light, rather than other issues that might have alternate rulings.
In my opinion, it is permitted to light Hanukkah candles that are seen through a reflection, for it is proper to call that 'seeing', as I have written previously in chapter 75: 'it is forbidden to say Keriah Shema in the presence of an unclothed person who is visible through a mirror'. It is also fitting to apply to this the verse “No nakedness shall be seen within you” (see there). On this basis the reflection of a mirror can also be considered as seeing the object, and it would follow that this would apply to Chanukkah as well.
It is permitted to light the Chanukkah candles with items that are normally prohibited to derive benefit from, such as oil of Orlah [a fruit tree in the first four years of its fruit production], butter cooked with beef fat [a mixture of meat and diary], and the like. The reason to allow items usually prohibited for use is the legal maxim 'commandments were not given to derive benefit from' [that any benefit received during Mitzvah performance cannot have legal standing in face of the Mitzvah as Divine decree]. One of the great authorities has likewise ruled so (Be'er Heitiv, comment 1, in the name of the Shagas Aryeh [?]).
There are those who dispute this via the application of another maxim, Ketusei Mechtas Shiurei (Lit. 'the size is negligible, as if it has been chopped up') - that an object than has to be burned or buried is considered legally chopped into tiny pieces and no longer whole. Since the Chanukkah lights require a specific measure, this cannot legally provide an entire measure of the necessary matter for burning (Sha'arei Teshuvah, comment 1). This, however, is not a correct application of the rule, for the Tosafos have already written in Gemara Eiruvin (80.2, in the section entitled Aval...) that this is limited to a measurement that requires a distinct solid object. Something like a Lechi (pole) of an Eruv partition, which can be made of the slightest piece, cannot have the maxim of 'the size is negligible, as if it has been chopped up' apply to it [, as it has no minimum width measure to be met]. This is certainly true for oil, which has no recognizable solidness to it whatsoever. I am left to wonder on the one who asserted this position.
It has already been mentioned that the best way to perform the Mitzvah is with olive oil. Though this be so, if one comes to his home only to find that he does not have oil and therefore takes wax candles, sets them up and proceeds to begin the blessing and is then offered olive oil he should nevertheless finish the blessing over the candles. This is true even if he had not uttered G-d's name yet in the blessing. The reason is that it is a 'shame' to the wax candles to put them aside once they have already attained a sacred status when the blessing was begun over them, and one should therefore not 'shame' them in order to beautify the Mitzvah [with oil].
If, however, one received oil before he had began the blessing he may put the wax candles aside and light with the oil instead, for the act of preparing the candles does not render them sacred (Sha'arei Teshuva in the name of the Chacham Tzvi). Others assert that once the candles are affixed to the wall (ready to be lit) they may not be replaced with oil (Sha'arei Teshuva in the name of the Shvus Yaakov), but this is not the accepted law . Certainly one should not light half with candles and half with oil on one night, because this seems like two separate lit objects (see there).
I have seen one who writes that wax candles are akin to a torch and once should not recite the blessings of the Chanukka lights over them (Taz in the name of the Maharal of Prague). I don't see how they can be viewed as a torch. unless two were braided together, as I have written in chapter 671.
It was previously explained that personal use of the Chanukka lights is prohibited, and that applies to both the first candle, which is the basic obligation, as well as the additional candles that are added. The reason is that it is a debasement to the Mitzvah, which is made to seem unimportant when its light is used for mundane activities. Therefore, even a small use is prohibited. For example, even checking or counting money in its light is prohibited. Some say that this only applies to actions that require close use of the light, like counting money. Actions that can be done far from the light but still benefit from it would be permitted (Beis Yosef, Darkei Moshe). Others prohibit even that, as it all cause a debasement to the Mitzvah (Bach and Taz in comment 3, and Magen Avraham in the name of the Rashal). This has become the accepted custom, so that even eating from afar in its light is prohibited.
Now even though one will benefit from their light just generally in the home, in being able to walk without stumbling that is just indirect, incidental benefit. This is not comparable to any kind of actual activity where one intends to use the light.
It should be noted that if there is a service candle (Shamash) it is permitted to benefit from the light [as the benefit can be attributed to the Shamash], as I have written.
There is an opinion that allows actions for Mizvah fulfillment to be carried out by the light of the Menorah. For example, learning Torah by their light would be permitted, since this is not debasement to the Menorah, rather it is an honor for it's light (The Itur quoted in the Tur). At this point one should not ask: 'How can we have previously ruled to permit lighting the Menorah on Shabbos with oil that does not draw after the wick well on the basis of the protection from transgression afforded by the prohibition of using the Menorah's light if one can indeed study by this light. He might in fact come to adjust the wick? This is not a question, since on Shabbos a single individual is prohibited from studying by the light of any candle, and it is only in a group of at least two that it is permitted, since one can remind the other [not to adjust the wick], as I have written in chapter 275.
Another opinion qualifies this permit for Mizvah use to a need arising by chance, and not for studying in a set manner (Taz, comment 4). These words are quite difficult to reconcile with the text of the Tur (The question on the Taz that arises from the Tur requires more study, as one who attends to the sources will find).
Nevertheless, the position of the majority of legal authorities is that any use, holy or mundane, that makes use of the Menorah's light causes the Menorah to not be recognizably for Chanukka [and should not be done]. This is the accepted custom.
The Tur writes that
- "Since there is a prohibition to use its light one should add an extra candle so that if he does use the light he can be said to be using the light of this additional candle etc... this last one is not lit for Chanukka-candle purposes etc... Note that this is not the service candle (Shamash), which is used to light the candles." Until here is the quote.
Our teacher the Beis Yosef adds to this in section 1 that "this candle should be placed a bit farther away from the Mizvah-related candles". Until here is the quote. The implication is that without the further placement one will not be able to achieve Mehadrin Min HaMehadrin [the best practice], since the extra candle will confuse the count of the number of days of Chanukka that have passed.
However, from the words of the Tur this does not seem so, for he writes of a question asked to his brother Rabbeinu Yechiel: "If one lights an extra candle above the amount needed, but did not specify which is extra, can he choose later whichever he wants to be that candle, whether in the beginning, middle, or end?' To this he responded that one should not interrupt the lights of Chanukka, so the extra should always be the last." Until here is the quote. Now if one is required to place the extra candle at a distance how could this question come up? The candle would have already been chosen just by virtue of its position. It seems therefore that the candles in this question were all equally spaced in row [and that did not present a problem].
So the question remains: 'Doesn't this placement defeat the practice of Mehadrin Min HaMehadrin? One can answer that since the custom is so, all know automatically that there is one more candle than the number of days, so the correct day is still known. (In any event, I am surprised that the commentaries on the Shulchan Aruch do not raise this issue. Attend to the sources and this will be clearly seen.)
Our Teacher the Rema takes another track on this issue, and writes as follows:
- "In our countries we do not add, we only place nearby the Shamash which was used to light the candles, as that is more preferable. This candle should made longer than the others, so that if one does use the light, he will use the light of the Shamash." Until here is the quote. Truthfully, I do not understand the reason of the Tur nor the custom in days that called for this extra candle. Is there not already a Shamash? It is not tenable to claim that they did not use a Shamash, for the Tur himself ends his comment "and this candle is not termed the Shamash, for that is the candle used to light the others." If so it appears that they had a Shamash, and so what was the need for another? Especially when you consider that a Shamash is preferable, as our teacher the Rema states, for either the reason that it is clear that it is not one of candles (Magen Avraham, comment 6), or that it differs in length or in higher placement than the other candles (Magen Avraham there).
Therefore, it appears to me that the following is their reason: The were troubled by the Talmud's text, where Rabah presents his law of lighting an additional candle for mundane use as a deduction. Why is it something to be deduced? Since it is prohibited to use the Canikka lights it is obvious that one must light another candle for his own use. [What did Rabah 'discover'?]. Now, although the Ran explains that this law was stated for use during times of persecution, when the Menorah had to be placed on the table within the house and one had no choice but to benefit from its light (as I have written in chapter 671, section 21), the Tur understands a different explanation, that one must place an additional light specifically because the Shamash or other house candles are distant from the Menorah and we worry that one close to the Menorah is actually using its light. Therefore an extra candle is required in the series of Chanukka lights for this reason, as I wrote in section 9.
However, those authorities that have written that an extra candle must be lit but off to the side by itself (Beis Yosef, Bach in the name of [WHO?]) are not of the same position as the Tur, and are rather according to our custom as written by our teacher the Rema.
(The Beis Yosef and the Bach, as well as the commentators on the Shulchan Aruch write that all are of one mind on this, and the intent of the Tur is in the same vein as well, that one should place it by itself. However, I have already proven that this is not so, as they really represent two different opinions. Attend to the sources and this will be clear.)
In fact, to me it is more likely that our custom, which followins the Rema, is an attempt to fulfill both positions; both the Tur who requires an extra candles next to the others for the reason we specified and that of the other legal authorities who require an additional candle that stands by itself. This is why the Shamash candle is placed by the other candles and why it is made longer or placed higher than the others. Through this method the position of the Tur is followed, as this candle is next to the others, and the authorities' position is followed, that the candle can be recognized as separate and distinct from the actual Hanukka candles, as I have previously written.
Know further that there exists an even stricter opinion that forbids using the light of this extra candle, as people who see one using its light will say 'He has lit all those candles [the Menorah] for his use', for sometimes one will light many candles for light (Magen Avraham, comment 4 in the name of the Ramban, see there). To me this is a wonder, for the Talmud and the legal decisors have already ruled explicitly that this extra candle's use is permitted. And even though the Menorah provides adds even more light, we do not concern ourselves over the incidental use of the extra light, since there is no debasement of the Mitzvah, as all can recognize that the lights are for the Mitzvah of Chanukka (Taz, comment 5). In addition, this opinion has no source in the Tur or among the legal decisors.
(When the Ramban writes this law, he is only speaking about a Menorah placed within the home on one's table, as the Machatzis Hashekel notes. The reason being that the observation 'He is only lighting for his own use' is said by people on a Meorah placed where the lighter is not residing in proximity, as can be seen in the Talmudic text (see there). When, However, one lights it in the room he is residing its use causes a debasement to the Mitzvah. The use of an additional candle serves to solve this problem, as the Taz states. This [prohibition] is also the intent of the Ma'or, that we are speaking of lighting the Menorah on the table. This is also as the Ran. [This would follow as] in the Ma'or the use of the Shamash near the candles is not found, as the Magen Avraham writes. He himself quotes this in the name of the Riv [?] ,'...this is the intent of the Riv...', and these words of the Magen Avraham need more study. His custom in comment 5, that when many light each needs a Shamash is also not the accepted custom. The Rashal himself disputes this, as is written there.)
Our teacher the Rema writes at the end of section 1:
- "If a Chanukka candle, which is forbidden to derive benefit from, became mixed with non sacred candles it is not nullified, since they are 'objects that are sold by number' (Heb. Davar SheBiMinyan). The solution to this is to light enough of the candles that he is certain that non-sacred candles are also lit, and then he may use the light." Until here is the quote.
The meaning of this is that the candles were lit and then extinguished, in this manner having become sacred and prohibited from benefit, for if not so, how could they be prohibited, for preparing for use itself is not considered an act? However, once it is lit, then its benefit is prohibited.
Even thought the Rema has ruled himself in Yoreh Deah (beginning of chapter 110) that only an item always counted falls under the rubric of Davar SheBiMiyan, whereas an object that is also sometimes sold by weight does become nullified - and candles are sometimes sold by weight - Chanukka candles themselves are always sold by number, due to the importance attached to the Mitzvah, and they are therefore not nullified. Since this is so, there is no permit for their use except to light them together with candles of non sacred nature, so that if there were one candle of Chanukka in the mixture one should light two, and if there were two one should light three, and so on.
Just as if there were one additional non Chanukka candle near the Menorah one can use the light, as was explained, similarly a mixture containing only one non Chanukka candle can be used for light. Even though the prohibited candles exceed the permitted one we are not concerned, as I have explained by the Chanukka candles themselves.
Some dispute the very basis of this rule and claim that candles are not a Davar SheBiMinyan, for once lost in the mixture their importance is nullified, and that prevents them from the consideration of Davar SheBiMinyan. The result is that they can be nullified with a simple legal nullification, which is a mixture of one in two. In addition, they assert that once the candles have become extinguished they have lost their distinctiveness even when they are by themselves (Taz, comments 6 and 7), and can be nullified one in two, as any two dry objects can (the Magen Avraham writes likewise in the name of the Rasha).
Since the whole institution of Davar SheBiMinyam is rabbinic, as I have written Yorah Deah, one may rely on the lenient opinion.
There are others who attempt to prohibit these candles based on the rule of Kavuah (something whose status is already established as fact), though this too is not so, for Kavua is a Biblical rule only if the object is clearly recognizable as such, and here it is not [it is a candle like any other]. In addition, rabbinic Kavua is an effect caused by Davar ShBiMinyan, which we have already established as not applying here. Since this is so there is no Kavua. This subject is explained in greater detail in Yoreh Deah.
(See the Sharei Teshuva, comment 9, who writes on this, though the primary thrust is as I have explained. Attend the sources and this will be clear.)
The Talmud has already stated that were the candles to extinguish there is no further obligation in regard to them This means that once they were lit and had the proper amount of oil for the required burning time there is no need to relight them since the primary Mitzvah is the lighting, and therefore the Mitzvah has been fulfilled.
Even on Friday afternoon, when they are lit while it is yet day, if they extinguish during the day before Shabbos has arrived they need not be relit. The same law would apply were they to become extinguished by accident while one was engaged in adjusting them.
There are those who require the candles to be relit on Friday afternoon, but without a blessing, as the blessing has already been appropriately recited (Magen Avraham, comment 12 in the name of the Rashal, Taz in comment 9). This would certainly be true during the weekdays, where if one wished to be stringent with himself and relight them he does not recite another blessing.
Though the law is as above, it is considered proper to relight the candles again, as this is no worse than other aspects of beautifying the Mitzvah.
The above only applies if the Menorah had the proper amount of oil and was not placed in an area where the wind could cause it to extingiush, for if so, it is as though it were fated to go out from the beginning, and one would be required by law to relight the candles properly, with a blessing, for the first blessing are considered invalid. A dissenting opinion argues that if the cause was the wind the blessing is not recited anew (see there), since it is not a certainty that the wind would blow it out. If, however, the winds were of such strength that it was a certainty it is clear that one does not recite the blessings again.
If a pottery oil lamp [that apparently has an open bowl] is used one night it is considered unsightly and fouled for use on another night. One should rather use a new one each night. If one has no other to use he should burn this one out every night by flame and in that way it will be considered new. An oil lamp of metal does need to be replaced or burnt out, and one of glass or one of pottery that is enclosed are considered like metal.
Wicks certainly do not need to be replaced until they are completely consumed, since wicks are not fouled. In fact, used wicks actually burn better than new wicks, as we learn in the Mishna: "Wicks that have been singed ..." (Gemara Shabbos, 28.2, "A wick that is braided but not singed...", and as Rashi explains in his comment entitled 'singed': "This prepares it to burn better.", see there).