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The Shulchan Aruch (O"Ch 671:2) says:

כמה נרות מדליק בלילה הראשון מדליק אחד מכאן ואילך מוסיף והולך אחד בכל לילה עד שבליל אחרון יהיו שמונה ואפי' אם רבים בני הבית לא ידליקו יותר. הג"ה וי"א דכל אחד מבני הבית ידליק וכן המנהג פשוט ויזהרו ליתן כל א' וא' נרותיו במקום מיוחד כדי שיהיה היכר כמה נרות מדליקים

How many candles does one light? On the first night he lights one, and from then and on he adds a additional one every night, until he lights 8 candles. And even if there are multiple household members they shouldn't light more than that. Rema: and some say that every household member should light, and this is the common practice. And they should be careful to place each person's candles in a specific place so that it'll be clear how many candles they're lighting.

However, neither the Sh'A nor the Rema mention what is seemingly the basic form of the mitzva¹, which is to light a single candle per household per night, nor do they mention the mehadrin level, which is to light a single candle per household member per night, the only mention the mehadrin min hamehadrin. Why is this? Did they hold that we must do the mehadrin min hamehadrin? If so, why?


  1. As brought in Gemara Shabbos (21b) and all of the rishonim's understanding of that gemara, and in Rambam (megilla v'chanuka 4:1), among others
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  • There are many minhagim that are so widely accept as to be considered obligations. But the Magen Avraham and others mention lighting one candle in extenuating circumstances.
    – shmosel
    Dec 11, 2023 at 1:53
  • 1
    @shmosel then the ShA should say "there are three ways and the minhag is to do #3"
    – Double AA
    Dec 11, 2023 at 14:52
  • Just wanna point out that SA is simply quoting Tur so it is really a q on Tur notwithstanding that SA does quote it in an unqualified fashion
    – Nahum
    Jan 16 at 17:10
  • Oh thanks @Nahum, didn't notice that
    – Lo ani
    Jan 16 at 17:34

1 Answer 1

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+100

The Peri Megadim notes this as well:

והמחבר שסתם משמע דהוספה מדינא וצ״ע כי יש נפקא מינה לדינא

And the Mehaber states it plainly [i.e. without explaining that me'iqar hadin one flame is sufficient to fulfull the miswa] and it sounds like he holds that adding [each night] is the law and this requires deep investigation for if this is so then there are practical distinctions that emerge in the application of the law

Unfortunately we do not have an answer from the Peri Megadim. However R. Mordekhai Gifter, in a letter to R. El'azar Menahem Man Shakh, suggested the following (Pirqe ha-Mo'adim on Hanukah, vol. 2, p. 283):

והנה יתכן, דהידור זה כבר קיבלנו עלינו ונעשה חובה כמו בתפלת ערבית דנעשה חובה ע״י הקבלה

and here it is possible to say that the hiddur [of lighting additional lights each night] was already accepted upon ourselves as obligatory, just like tefillath 'arabbhith was rendered obligatory by means of its acceptance

In order to understand the intent here, one ought be reminded that despite 'arabhith being formulated as a reshuth (elective) prayer, it nevertheless became obligatory by virtue of its widespread practice. The Arukh ha-Shulhan 235:9 for example writes:

ודע דאף על גב דתפלת ערבית רשות, כבר כתב הרי"ף דקבלנו עלינו כחובה, ולכן הפוסקים לא הזכירו זה כלל, ואין שום הפרש בינה לתפלת שחרית ומנחה.

And know, that even though tefillath 'arabhith is elective, already we see from the Ri"f that we accepted it upon ourselves as obligatory, and accordingly the [later] Poseqim don't mention [its elective character] at all, and there is no differentiation between [how obligatory it is as compared to] Shaharith and Minhah

The Yalqut Yosef (Hanukah, p. 108) cites the Yomin de-Hanukah (s. 15) as suggesting that the Mehaber actually held that lighting in the mehadrin min ha-mehadrin way is not in fact a hidur but is actually a taqanath Hazal (required rabbinic legislation) - and that only in exceptional circumstances may one light in other ways (i.e. with just one ner). Such a position holds that the sugya ought be learned as concluding that lighting by adding each night is fully obligatory. He brings two "proofs":

א. שבגמ ערכין י איתא כל ימי חנוכה גומרין את ההלל ואילו בפסח אין גומרין אלא יום אחד בלבד ומטעם דימי סוכות חלוקין הן בקרבנותיהן וימי פסח אין חלוקין ופירש ר"שי בס הפרדס (סי קצח) שחנוכה הוי דומיא דחג משום דחלוק בקרבנותיו והמגיה שם הגיה בנרותיו במקום בקרבנותי ו וי"ל שמוסיפין והולכין בכל יום…

ב. ועוד ראיה מדברי הראב”ן )בשו”ת שבריש הספר סי לה( שכתב לבאר הטעם שתקנו לברך להדליק נר חנוכה ולא על הדלקת נר חנוכה שהכלל בזה האם גומר את המצוה מיד אחרי הברכה כמו נטילת לולב וכדו או שממשיך קצת בעשייה כמו הלל ושופר וכל ברכה שהיא על מעשה שאינו בדבר אחד ואינו לפי שעה ולא נגמרה המצוה באותה עשייה אינו מברך על כגון לישב בסוכה וכו וכן להדליק נר של חנוכה לפי שבכל הלילות לבד מלילה הראשון יש בו נרות להדליק ולא נגמרה המצוה עד שמדליק כל הנרות להכי מברך להדלי ק דמשמע להדליק כל נר ונר ולא חילקו ברכת לילה הראשון משאר לילות וכן לשמוע בקול שופר שהוא חלוק לג סדרים ולא נגמרה המצוה עד לאחר כל הסדרים להכי מברך לשמוע בקול שופר של כל סדר וסדר

A) We see in 'Arakhin 10 that we complete the recitation of Hallel on all of the days of Hanukah, and on Pesah we only complete on the first day(s), and Sukkoth we complete it all the days, and the reason for the difference between Pesah and Sukkoth is that on Pesah the number of offerings are not distinct on each day, but on Sukkoth each day is distinct with additional offerings... and Rashi explains in the Sefer ha-Pardes that Hanukah is similar to a hag on which it is distinct in its additional offerings (חלוק בקרבנותיו) for each day and the gloss there replaces בקרבנותיו (its sacrifices) with בנרותיו (its lights), which is to say that there is added each day….

B) Another proof is from the Raba”n (responsum at the beginning of the book s. 35). He wrote in explanation of the reason why the blessing was formulated “lehadliq ner Hanukah” (to light the Hanukah flame) and not “’al hadlaqath ner Hanukah” (on the lighting of the Hanukah flame). The principle of the matter hinges on whether the miswa is accomplished immediately after the blessing, such as with the taking of the lulabh or whether it continues a bit after the initial performance such as with Halle and shofar. Any blessing over an action that isn’t for one distinct thing nor for a distinct moment/time and that miswa isn’t complete with an immediate action one doesn’t bless “ ‘al” (on) such as “leshebh basukkah” (the blessing on dwelling in the sukkah), etc. And similarly as regards “lehadliq ner shel Hanukah”, since every night, with the exception of the first night, there are additional flames to light and the miswa is not complete until one has lit all of the flames. And so the blessing is “lehadliq” which connotes that one has to light each and every additional flame. And [in enacting the blessing] they did not differentiate the blessing for the first night from the rest of the nights. And so too “lishmo’a baqol shofar” which is split into three arrangements and the miswa is not complete until all of the arrangements are accomplished so we bless “lishmo’a qol shofar” [rather than a formulation with ‘al] to cover each and every component of the arrangement.

The first claim is that Rashi held that Hallel is completed throughout Hanukah as a reflection of the idea that we add each day (the Yomin de-Hanukah seems to implicitly be arguing that that wouldn't make sense if we were not obligated to add each night). And the second claim is that the manner with which the blessing is formulated (lehadliq rather than 'al) is indicative of a blessing that is recited over a miswa/action that is not immediately and swiftly completed but is rather of a continuous nature. Again the implicit argument being made is that this formulation would not make sense if the miswa was only to light one ner, rather than to light additional neroth each night. See the Yalqut Yosef inside for a fuller treatment.

To summarize, you've got a great question - one that the Peri Megadim states requires investigation. We find that some have taken up the challenge. R. Gifter suggests that the Mehaber held that lighting additional flames each night became obligatory by virtue of its widespread acceptance. The Yomin de-Hanukah suggests that the Mehaber learned the Gemara as finding the mehadrin min ha-mehadrin position to in fact be the prescribed default position and finds possible allusion to it in how Rashi justifies Hallel throughout Hanukah and the language of the blessing on the neroth. How persuasive these explanations in fact are, I leave to others to determine. What is consistent among them is accepting that the Mehaber did indeed hold that lighting merely one ner (other than on the first night) is a defective way of lighting. How defective and whether there are mitigating circumstances under which may one may light merely one according to the Mehaber remains a separate but open question.

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    There still is are potential nafka minas such as one who only has one candle (on any other night besides the first) should still light or one has eight candles should light one per night as appose to just one on the first night, two on the second and three on the third.
    – Moz
    Jan 16 at 0:07
  • @Moz yes there are several potential nafqa minas that emerge. Another is in the case where on the second night or forward if one forgot to bless before lighting the first ner, whether they should bless before continuing with the rest or whether the opportunity has simply been lost. Jan 16 at 0:32
  • Thanks for the answer! However, as @Moz pointed out, that would mean that lightning one candle on the second night wouldn't be sufficient to fulfil the obligation, which is a big claim to make
    – Lo ani
    Jan 16 at 6:22
  • @Loani According to the plain reading in the SA, if one were to merely light one ner on the second night then their lighting would indeed be deficient. As for the nuances of whether according to the SA they have bediebhed still fulfilled the miswa or have not fulfilled it altogether is an open question. Either way, it seems clear that his position is that one ought to light in a manner in which they add each night. It is a "big claim" but it is one that he seems to clearly be making and is why the Peri Megadim states regarding his permutation of the halakhah: צריך עיון Jan 16 at 13:30

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