When the Chanukka Menorah is lit on the first night three blessings are recited. The first is "To light the Chanukka candles" (Heb. 'Lehadlik Ner Chanukka'). Some render the liturgy "The candles of Channuka" ('Ner SheLiChanukka'), and the Tur's text is to divide 'SheLiChanukka' into two words - 'Shel Chanukka'. Maimonides records this text as well in the third chapter of the The Laws of Chanukka (see there). This construction is similar to the blessing made on Shabbos candles.
However, the Shulchan Aruch writes the text simply as "[to light] Chanukka candles" ('Ner Chanukka'), and this follows the Arizal's practice. [The Arizal does have contemporaries] who use the other construction of 'SheLiChanukka' compunded as one word (Shelah). The argument for this construction is that the use of the 'Shel' separately (has a sense of 'for the use of Chanuuka', and) is fitting for Shabbos, for its candles are made to serve a use during Shabbos. However, the Chanukka candles may not have use made of them, and they are only for Chanukka, so that it becomes grammatically improper to say 'Shel Channuka', as they are not 'for' Chanukka, they are commemorating Chanukka themselves.
Nevertheless, these disputes do not result in one particular text being dominant, and our custom is to say simply "Chanukka candles" ('Ner Chanukka').
Know that this blessing has given rise to a significant question: Why do we use the phrase to light, which is prefixed with the letter lamed (ל)? It has already been explained in Gemara Pesachim (8.2) that any Mitzva that a person can have performed on his behalf by another does not have a blessing that begins with a Lamed, but rather with the word 'Al' (regarding). If so, shouldn't we bless "regarding the lighting of the Chanukka candles" ('Al Hadlakas Ner Chanukka')? In fact, in the Yirushalmi of Succah (chapter 3, law 4) we find explicitly the following: "How is the blessing made over the Chanukka candles? Rav says 'Blessed...who sanctified us through his Mitzvos and commanded us regarding the Mitzva of lighting the Chanukka candles" (see there). Why then does the Talmud in Shabbos (23.1) state the blessing of "to light the Chanukka candles."?
One of the great Early Authorities (Heb. Rishonim) provides an answer: Since [Chanukka candles] require anyone having the Mitzvah performed on his behalf to contribute a nominal amount of money to purchase a share in the Mitzvah, it is as though he himself is performing the act. (Ran, Shabbos (23.1)). In contrast, other Early Authorities amend the text of the Talmud to "regarding lighting the candles of Chanukka" [using the word 'Al'] (Beis Yosef in the name of Shibbolei HaLeket, see there, as well as the Shiltei Giborim [comment  ] in the name of the RiAz, and in Tanya see Rabbeinu Yosef's comment as well). There are also those among our rabbis who have proposed that since the universal practice is that all light within their homes - due to the particular love that people have for this Mitzvah - it has taken on the character of a personal obligation (Rosh on Shabbos (23.1)).
An additional explanation appears to me: Since there is no house without a Menorah lit inside, and each is obligated to see a Menorah because of the dictates of 'publicizing the miracle', it is as though each has a personal obligation to perform the Mitzva. [NOTE: To explain: One cannot fulfill other people's obligation to be aware of the Miracle, each must see it for himself. Since this is so, it is similar to a Mitzvah that can only be fulfilled personally.]
(And in my humble understanding it appears that the language 'Hadlakah' ('lighting') implies even if the candle is already lit and has been chosen now to be sanctified for Channuka use, which we have previously shown to be an invalid practice. Therefore, the language 'Al Hadlakas Ner Chanukka' is chosen, as it implies that it will only serve its purpose if it is being lit now. In contrast, the language 'Lehadlik' implies that it is not enough if one does not light himself, as the Talmud itself says there [Pesachim, 7.2]: "Shouldn't the blessing on a 'Bris' be phrased "L'Mol"? - No, it cannot be so, since he (the father) is not performing the 'Bris' himself." See there.)
The second blessing is "...Who performed miracles for our forefathers in those days [of Chanukka], at this time [of year]...".
The text of this blessing appears somewhat redundant, and in my humble opinion it seems that the correct liturgy is the variant that uses the phrasing "AND at this time [as well]" instead of those who render the phrase "at this time" (Magen Avraham). The explanation that would then follow is that the primary miracle was the defeat of Antiochus by the Chashmanayim, which understandably included many days more than the twenty fifth of Kislev ["in those days"], and "at this time as well" would refer specifically to the additional miracle of the flask of oil that they found ["at this time"].
The same idea applies to the blessing over reading the Megillah: The primary miracle was the change of heart of Achashverosh, which happened many days before Purim, since the feast that Esther arranged took place on the second day of Peasach. That was the beginning of Haman's downfall. The miracle that occurred on the thirteenth of Adar was a different miracle, when the Jewish People were able to eradicate their enemies [who planned to follow Haman's orders], as it is written: "...on the day when the enemies of the Jewish People hoped to rule over them, and instead it was turned to the contrary...". As so, it is clear that there were two separate miracles, one of "those days" [in the past] and one of "this time" [on this day].
One should also pronounce "in this time" (Heb. Be-zman) with a Cheerik [an 'e' vowel]. In the third blessing, "Shehecheyanu", the word Le-zman should also be pronounced with a Cheerik [an 'e' vowel] under the Lamed (ל). (see Magen Avraham)
From the first night and on two blessings are recited: LeHadlik ('...to light...') and SheAsah Nisim ('...Who performed miracles...'). The Shehecheyanu is recited at the very first lighting, just as it is only recited one time on each of the Festivals. SheAsah Nisim, however, is recited every night, since every day's continued burning of the oil was its own miracle.
One should light after all the blessings have been completed, as blessings are always made before performance of their related action. This is true even though this definition appears only relevant to the blessing LeHadlik ('to light'), and not to SheAsah Nisim or Shehecheyanu, which do not refer to an action, as we will show that even one who only sees the Menorah can pronounce these two blessings, and he would recite them after the Menorah has been lit. See further regarding this in section 14.
Truthfully, this law is found in Mesechta Sofrim, (chapter 20, law 6): "The one who light recites the blessing Lehadlik Ner, the paragraph Haneiros Halalu until v"Al Yishuosecha, followed by Shehecheyanu and then SheAsah Nisim." Until here is the quote. The Hagaos Mayimony writes in the chapter 3, comment 2 that this in fact was the practice of the Maharam.
However, this practice seems contradicted by our teacher the Rema who writes that all the blessings are recited at once before lighting. His reasoning seems clear, for how can there be an interruption between the blessings for an extraneous paragraph? Certainly LeHadlik Ner must be said before lighting, and it follows that the other two blessings should be said at that time as well, avoiding any interruption.
It appear to me that there is a clear reconciliation here, as the text in Mesechta Sofrim likely does not intend that the final two blessings are said after Haneiros Halalu. The proof of this can be seen in the Tur, who first writes that all three blessings are recited at once, and follows that with the quote from Mesechta Sofrim regarding the recitation of Haneiros Halalu, as well as reporting that this was the custom of the Maharam and the Rosh (see there). He seems to be explicitly stating this practice as its intent, or at the very least it can be understood as a corruption the text of Mesechta Sofrim, which is known to have accumulated numerous textual errors. Regardless, this has been set as the law, was the practice of the Maharam and has been found in the responsa of the Maharil. Accordingly, this is our practice.
Concerning the law we have mentioned, that one who sees the Menorah is required to say the blessings:
Rashi explains that this applies to one who has not yet lit in his own home, or to one on a boat (see there). His language implies that as long as one has not yet lit in his own home, even though he intends to, must still recite a blessing upon seeing. It is then possible that he need only recite the one blessing LeHadlik Ner later on upon lighting in his own home. In contrast, the Tur and Shulchan Aruch write as follows (section 3): "One who has not lit, and will not light that night, and has none to light on his behalf at home - [upon seeing the Menorah] he pronounces the blessing SheAsah Nisim, and on the first night adds the blessing Shehecheyanu. If he then lights for himself on the second or third night he no longer says the Shehecheyanu blessing." Until here is the quote. His position is that one who will light that night does not say a blessing over seeing the lit Menorah. The Rosh, Ran and Mordechai concur. The Ran of blessed memory even adds that "We do not find that one who fulfilled a Mitzvah is obligated to repeat his blessing upon seeing another lit Menorah". (See there)
(Though in the Tosefta in Succah, 46.1, at the point beginning with the words 'The one who sees...', the text suggests that even if one already had fulfilled his obligation he must bless again, due to the special status of the Mitzvah of Chanukka, which is not comparable to all other Mitzvos (See there further). Even so, the law has been established for us as the Tur and Shulchan Aruch.)
Know further that there is one who disputes what we have written, that one who has had a Menorah lit on his behalf at home has no further obligation to bless upon seeing another. This disputant argues that even though he is no longer obligated to light for himself, that should have no effect on the blessings of ShaAsah Nisim and Shehecheyanu, which belong to the category of Mitzvos related to thanksgiving, and which still devolve on his person, as he has not heard these blessing at his home [not being there], and has not answered 'Amen' to them [and should therefore still be obligated in their recitation] (Bach). There is an additional proof to this from Rashi and the Rosh, who both write that one on a boat is required to recite the blessings [upon seeing], and doesn't this one already have those who lit on his behalf at home?
Rebbeinu Yeruchim also reports this dispute, and writes "There are great authorities who who write that one who has had the Menorah lit on his behalf in his home is no longer required to say a blessing upon seeing his friend's. There are also of those who write that even if he has had the Menorah lit on his behalf at home he must say the blessing upon seeing another." until here is the quote. It would appear that the requirement to bless is the settled law, as the Rif and Rambam write in an nqualified manner "He who sees [a Menorah] must bless." The Maharshal also rules in this manner regarding one who contributes money to another's Menorah and hears the blessings and responds Amen - that this one need no longer say a blessing over another Menorah that he sees.
(The Magen Avraham writes in comment 1: "The Tosefta in Succah 46.1 does not imply this ruling", as the explanation of his words are as the Machatzis Hashekel posits (see there). Now I wondered upon this: It appears to be just the opposite, for from the words of the Tosefta it appears that even one who already said the blessing should do so again, as I have written, and in this the debated raged (see there). Therefore, in my humble opinion the basic law is as the Bach and Maharshal, which is also the ruling of the Eliyahu Rabah in comment 4, and he supports his ruling with similar rulings from many other legal authorities (see there).
In addition, this that the Magen Avraham wrote in comment 2, that "if this is so why didn't Rabbi Zera contribute a nominal sum to be included in the Mitzvah?" - I wondered upon this as well. Rabbi Zera states his opinion only regarding the blessing of 'Lehadlik Ner'. As far as 'Shehecheyanu' and 'SheAsah Nisim' he agrees that these blessings are made upon seeing another's Menorah. When the Bach writes that "one still has a personal obligation", he is only referring the Shehecheyanu and SheAsah Nisim. This is without a doubt, for one who did not say the blessings on the first night must certainly say Shehecheyanu on the second night. Even on the festival the same rule applies, so it should apply here as well. One must also say regarding the Taz (in comment 4), who writes that "the Mordechai is a lone dissent on this matter", that if he were aware of the many who rule similarly he would not have made that statement, as the Eliyahu Rabah writes there as well. This therefore appears to be the settled law in my humble opinion. Attend to the sources and it will be clear.)
After the first candle is lit, one says the following:
"These candles that we light are in commemoration of the salvation, the miracles and the wonders performed for our forefathers through the agency of your holy Kohanim (priests of the Temple). For the duration of the eight days of Chanukka this cabdles are holy, and we have no permission to make use of them, their only purpose is to be to viewed in order praise Your Name for Your wonders, Your miracles and Your salvation."
This is the liturgy found in the Tur While one recites this he completes the lighting. The purpose of this passage is to publicize the miracle. If it is not said that in no way prevents or invalidates the lighting. In fact, even though this passage is taught in Mesechta Sofrim, Maimonides does not mention it at all.
(It is written that there are thirty six words in this passage, which are the same number as the aggregate of all the candles lit for Chanukka, however I have not been able to ascertain the calculation method used to make this statement.)
If one forgot and lit one candle less than required for that night he should light the one he missed without a blessing, as the blessings he has previously said cover this candle as well (Magen Avraham). Furthermore, the Mitzvah can be fulfilled with only one candle, and there is no blessing recited over what is added to 'beautify' the Mitzvah. Therefore, even if two or more candles were forgotten one simply lights them afterward without a blessing.
It further appears to me that the above only applies during the period when the Menorah is required to be lit. If however, one remembers after this time he no longer lights the candles he had forgot, since this no longer would be considered a beautification of the Mitzvah, as the first candles have already gone out. Since this is so, why should he light to no purpose? After all, the recognition of this act would only be useful when all the candles are lit together.
We have already written that one who has already fulfilled the Mitzvah can light and recite the blessings on behalf of another. For example, he may do so for a woman who is unfamiliar with the process of lighting the Menorah and its blessing, provided that she is standing by him and answers 'Amen'. If he is not in her presence he should not recite the blessings. It is also permitted for her to light, and for him to recite the blessing (Magen Avraham, end of comment 4).
There are those that assert that when one lights and another recites the blessings he should say Al Hadlakas Ner Chanukka ('regarding the lighting of the Chanukka candles') (Magen Avraham in the name of the Bach), since there is currently no obligation on him to light. Others insist that the text of the blessing need not be changed, and one still says Lehadlik ('to light') (Magen Avraham in the name of the Ran). This latter position is the accepted custom. The truth is that an argument can be made that one could say the former even when he himself lights, as that is the position of the Yirushalmi, as I have written. Nevertheless, according to our Talmud (the Babylonian) one does not use this text as the blessing, for the reason that was explained. Since this is so, there is no distinction to be made whether one lights by himself or through another's agency.
Our teacher the Beis Yosef writes in section 5:
- "One begins to light on the first day with the right-most candle. On the second night, when another candle is added next to it, one starts by reciting the blessing on the additional candle which is in the left-most position, in order to move in a rightward direction. The same is true on the third night, when another candle is added to the two one begins at the end, recites the blessing on that candle, and afterward moves rightward. The same is true for every night. The result of this procedure is that one always recites the blessings on the additional candle, which is the one testifying to [that day's] miracle, for each additional day [light] was an additional miracle."
Until here is the quote. Now I have seen one who writes that this is not the proper reason, since this whole procedure is only under taken by those who exceedingly beautify the Mitzvah (Mehadrin Min HaMihadrin), so how does it seem sensible that the blessing was enacted not on the Mitzvah but on it's optional component [beautification]? Rather, the key is to light near the entrance way and to start from the candle that is closest to the entrance way, and in this way the blessing is on the basic requirement of the Mitzvah, which is lighting at the entrance way (Gra, comment 6).
I do not understand these words. These words would make sense if the case were one of lighting one candle without a blessing, and then a second with a blessing. This procedure would raise the question "Why would you bless the optional candle and not the one required by the basic Mitzvah?". However, according to our teacher the Beis Yosef the blessing does relate to the first, which is the primary required candle, and the remainder are the actual additional ones. He, however, calls the first candle the 'additional', and by that he merely means that in relation to the previous day's candle it is additional, meaning that a blessing is recited on a new, added candle each day. Still in all, that is the 'first candle', the one upon which the Chanukka obligation devolves, and so what then does one subject [the Gra's statement of lighting near the entrance] have to do with the other [the Beis Yosef's]? In any event, our practice is to follow the words of our teacher the Beis Yosef, (and placement near the entrance way is not a requirement.)
[The Gra is not the only one to take issue with the Beis Yosef]. The Levush contests the Beis Yosef as well, but for a different reason. The Beis Yosef states that the 'additional' candle is the left-most, and that lighting proceeds from left to right, and the is the meaning of 'moving in a rightward direction'. The Levush puts forward the opposite explanation: That 'moving in a rightward direction' means from right to left, for in starting precedence is always given to what is right-most, and the movement is from right to left, similar to the sprinklings discussed in the Talmudic chapter Eizehu Mikomon, which follow the order southeast, northeast, northwest and finally southwest. This preference for the right is also found amongst people, who tend to turn from right to left, as is seen in the behavior of [TRANSLATION?]. Even our written language follows this right-to-left direction. Therefore, the preferred practice is to always begin on the right and move leftward (See Levush).
Some add to this that it is still possible to have this position while reciting the blessings on the additional candle, by arranging the Menorah on the left side of the entrance way [from the perspective of one standing outside the house], so that the candle one starts the lighting with is within a hands-breath of the entrance . On the second night, a candle will be placed to its right, and one starts with that candle, lighting from right to left (Taz at the end of comment 6). The Terumos HaDeshen (section 106) writes as follows: "those of the Rhineland follow our teacher the Beis Yosef's practice, while those of Austria-Hungary follow the Levush" (see there). Evidently, our teacher the Beis Yosef would support the practice of the Rhineland communities. [NOT SURE OF THIS PARAGRAPH'S TRANSLATION]
In addition, the great authorities have written that it is good to make a practice of standing the Menorah within the airspace of the doorway parallel to the threshold, which ensures that all of it will be within a hands-breath of the entrance, for if it were placed parallel to the wall near the doorway the whole of the Menorah would not be within a hands-breadth of the entrance. This is an appropriate practice to follow.
The law is as the Beis Yosef even in regards to the meaning of 'moving rightward', in which he was shown to be at odds with the Levush. This is also the position of Rashi and Tosafos in Gemara Yoma (17.1, the comment starting with the words "Our attempt at contradicting has shown..."). This is the language of Rashi, of blessed memory: "...that he counts and proceeds rightward, from north to west, west to south and south to east." Until here is the quote. Tosfos writes similarly.
From here it can be concluded that moving from left to right is called 'rightward' (Pri Chadash in chapter 128). The same conclusion can even be drawn from the account of the 'sea of Solomon' [large basin in the Temple in Jerusalem made by Solomon for ablution of the priests, Melachim 1, 7.25]: "Three faced north, three west, three south and three east". From here the sages expound (Gemara Yoma, 58.2): "All your turnings should be to the right." (See there. The Magen Avarham hints to this idea in comment 5).
The Levush reference to the sprinklings on the altar follow in this same vein and are how they appear to the perspective of one standing outside and facing inside. In short, in all of a man's actions where it might be applicable he should proceed from left to right in a rightward direction.
(The proof that was brought from our Hebrew script has an aspect to it that is the reverse, as letters are written from left left to right in Hebrew Ashuris script ('square script'). There is an important secret in the fact that the writing is right to left and the letters are left to right: It represents the idea that the left is contained in the right, and the right in the left, as is known to the sages of the Kabbalah. Of the fact that this rightward preference is recognized in [TRANSLATION] - this is merely an observation of nature and not an argument from reason. Attend to the sources and it will be clear.)
It should be obvious that if the blessings were not made on the first candle they can be recited at any point during the lighting. However, after the lighting one should not recite the blessings, since blessings need to recited before the act they are upon. This is the opinion of the Maimonides in chapter eleven of his Laws of Blessings. According to those who contest this ruling one can recite the blessings, as we have explained in Yoreh Deah, chapter 19, section 4 (See there).
In truth, it appears in humble opinion that since the Chanukka lights contain a Mitzvah related to seeing them, and the primary purpose of the Mitzvah - the proclaiming the miracle - is effected through this seeing, one is allowed to bless after the lighting. There appears to be a justification for this based on a notion raised in Yoreh Deah, chapter 28, section 8 in regards to the subject of 'covering the blood' [after the kosher slaughter of an animal]. (The Shaarei Teshuvah (comment 5) writes that this is not so (see there), though to me the matter seems as I have written.)
Finally, there are those who state that SheAsa Nisim and Shehecheyanu can be recited afterward, while Lehadlik cannot be recited after the first candle is lit, since the remainder are only for the purpose of beautifying the Mitzvah and have no connection to blessing over the actual Mitzvah [the first candle] (Rabbi Akiva Eiger). This hard to understand: Are the remaining candles any worse off in regard to a blessing than drying the hands after washing for bread? Though one dries his hands he still recites the blessing, even though it is understood that the act that the blessing (over washing hands) is supposed precede is the drying of the hands, as I have noted in chapter 158. Even so, the ability to say the blessing is not 'lost' were one to dry his hands first, so why the difference here? This requires further study.