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When lighting my Menora, saying the relevant Brachot, and lighting the Shamash, what order should I follow?

I think the best way is: 1. Shamash 2. Brachot 3. Chanukah-Lights

But someone said, the right way is: 1. Brachot 2. Chanukah-Lights 3. Shamash

What do poskim say?

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I think an answer can be inferred from the Aruch Hashulchan's detailed discussion in 673:9-12. He sources the Tur, who says explicitly that there are two non-mitzva lights in addition to the official Chanuka lights. One is a "helper light" called the shamash and the other is an "extra" one.

The shamash is used to light the other light(s). In practice this one must be lit first. As the general principle of saying brachos over la'asiyas mitzvos (i.e. immediately before performance) applies here, I would assume that the b'rachos would be recited in between the shamash and the real lights.

The extra light serves the purpose of ensuring that the increased visibility in the room is attributable to a non-mitzva source and therefore usable. The Tur clearly says that this light is lit after¹ the mitzva light(s) and is not called a shamash.

The two primary transmitters of the Tur's words - Rav Yosef Karo and Rav Moshe Iserles disagree about how to differentiate this light from the others, but it does seem that they conflate it functionally with the shamash, resulting in only one candle. The Aruch Hashulchan concludes by recommending satisfying all aforementioned opinions by using a shamash and then leaving it near to but distinctively from the other light(s).


¹It does appear interestingly that it should be the last one lit so that the official lights are physically grouped together but that designating one of the middle lights as the extra one might not invalidate anything.

  • So in the end since we only light one non-mitzvah candle, the question as to whether it is lit first or last cannot be answered - is it primarily a shamash and so should be lit first, or is it primarily the extra light and should be lit last. Unless we say that since it is also a shamash and should be used to light the other candles, then this would mandate that it be lit first. (I think this argument is the most reasonable, and FTR I light it first) – user4523 Nov 28 '13 at 16:03
  • I came to the conclusion of your last possibility as well due to the physical constraints that definition imposes. – WAF Nov 28 '13 at 16:05
  • From the text in the Shulchan Aruch (673:1), it does not appear that the Mechaber and Remah are talking about the same candle. Mechaber == "ונוהגים להדליק נר נוסף כדי שאם ישתמש לאורה יהיה לאור הנוסף שהוא אותו שהודלק אחרון" -- an extra candle, lit last. Remah == " ובמדינות אלו אין נוהגים להוסיף רק מניח אצלן השמש שבו מדליק הנרות" -- the Shamash, lit first. ---- en.wikisource.org/wiki/Shulchan_Aruch/Orach_Chaim/673 – Menachem Nov 29 '13 at 6:41
  • @Menachem I should reword that in my answer but I think that's why Aruch Hashulchan called using one candle for both יציאה לכל הדעות. – WAF Nov 29 '13 at 15:02
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R’ Shmuel Kaminetzky in Kobetz Halachos says, if one mistakenly lights the shamash before the other candles it is not considered a hefsek between the brocha and the lighting. Clearly he holds one should light the shamash after the other candles.

  • I didn't look at the source inside, but is it possible that what he meant was that you should light the shamash before the other candles, but say the blessing after lighting the shamash? The mistake would then be having lighted the shamash after the blessing, not before the other candles – b a Dec 4 '18 at 9:18
  • Don’t believe that to be the case because his words are “if one makes a brocha and mistakenly lights the shamash before the other candles it is not considered a hefsek”. If you are supposed to light the shamash beforehand the mistake would not be lighting it before the candles, but rather lighting it after the brocha. – Yehoshua Levin Dec 5 '18 at 4:11

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