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?

  • 2
    I never heard the second opinion. Why then would it be called the Shamash!?
    – Ephraim
    Nov 28, 2013 at 13:47
  • Answer of Imanonov here judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/23/… says so. But it's unclear what ashkenazic Poskim would say.
    – Daniel
    Nov 28, 2013 at 14:03
  • 1
    Who cares when you light the Shamash?
    – Double AA
    Nov 28, 2013 at 14:14
  • @DoubleAA Rav Essas here evrey.com/sitep/askrabbi2/… says it in Russian.
    – Daniel
    Nov 28, 2013 at 14:20
  • 1
    based on @WAF's answer, but I think the second case brought in the question may be talking about when there Shamash is not the one used to light the candles. For example, an Oil Menorah that also has an Oil Shamash. As described in that answer, this is used as extra light to prevent accidental usage of mitzva lights. - Since one fulfills one's obligation by even lighting one light, if one lights the Oil Shamash with his candle Shamash he may no longer be able to say the blessing. If so, he should first light the mitzvah candles before lighting the Oil Shamash. -- I have not seen this anywhere
    – Menachem
    Nov 28, 2013 at 17:41

3 Answers 3


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, 2013 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, 2013 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, 2013 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, 2013 at 15:02

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, 2018 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. Dec 5, 2018 at 4:11
  • Yehoshua, excellent reasoning imho but @ba is right, see Yalkut Yosef 676:10 (there are more factors to take into account than you included in your reasoning)
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Dec 17, 2023 at 12:22

Yalkut Yosef rules that Sefardim, in contrast to Ashkenazim, light the shammash last. See 673:26.

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