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So I was introduced to something new this year when someone sent me an Erev Pesach checklist which included the preparation of Ma Nishtana candles? I had never heard of this practise and looked online and saw there a many Judaica stores that sell them e.g. here, here and here.

The clear identifying feature is that they are long and so they will remain burning throughout the Seder night.

Is there any source for this practise and why are they so called - just to incite questions from the kids?

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  • Probably because people normally don't want their candles to burn too long, because then you'd have to stay up until they're out to avoid a fire hazard. On Pesach night people are up later than usual and so want longer candles.
    – Heshy
    Apr 12, 2022 at 13:03
  • But why call it ma nishtana candles?
    – Dov
    Apr 12, 2022 at 13:05
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    This is no different from every Friday night where if your going to be up late you are required to have lights that last a long time judaism.stackexchange.com/a/109342/759
    – Double AA
    Apr 12, 2022 at 13:08
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    @DoubleAA - possibly. But as I quoted from the link in my comment there is clearly more to the minhag.
    – Dov
    Apr 12, 2022 at 13:10
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    sefaria.org.il/… נהגו בתפוצת ישראל לעשות נר מיוחד. לסדר ליל פסח וקורין אותו נר מה נשתנ' (בל"א מה נשתנ' ליכט) וטעמ' בעי כי לא דבר ריק הוא מנהג ישראל תורה היא
    – pcoz
    Apr 12, 2022 at 13:36

1 Answer 1

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As noted by Heshy and DoubleAA in the comments, one obviously needs lights that will last the duration of the seder.

Maharil Hilchot Maacholot Asurot BaPesach 9 notes that it's problematic to have the regular year-round oil lanterns on the Pesach table, due to chametz concerns. Therefore, he approves of a custom to use special, wax candles in order to read the haggadah.

Maharil doesn't discuss the name mah nishtanah licht (mah nishtanah candles). Prosaically, I would suggest that the idea is that these are 'hagaddah candles', and that mah nishtanah is being used as a synecdoche for the whole hagaddah.

(Compare the phrase a chochom fun di mah nishtanah which is (arguably) referring to the wise son of the hagaddah, not connected directly to the mah nishtanah.)

If this answer does not satisfy, some darshanim provide explanations for the name. See for example B'nei Yissachar, Nissan, 5:21.

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  • +1 - the Bnei Yissaschar is a great find thank you!
    – Dov
    Apr 12, 2022 at 13:48
  • Just to follow up on my above comment, now that we have electric lights those who don't use extra long candles at the seder have plenty to rely on since they won't be sitting in darkness. (Especially on most years where the seder isn't shabbat and you can light new candles as needed.)
    – Double AA
    Apr 12, 2022 at 13:53

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