Are electric menorahs good for lighting on Chanukah?
To remove some of the more obvious issues, let's assume that:
- It runs on batteries
- It's an incandescent bulb
- There are separate physical switches for each bulb
Here's a fairly detailed writeup on the pros and cons of the issue. It seems that the objection is based on the fact that the battery doesn't store the "fuel" itself, but rather the combination of chemicals that will be used to create the "fuel" of electrons.
Rav Yitzchak Abadi 2: Kuntres Achron:7 – if one does not have a candle or oil to light with then one can use an electric light and make a bracha on it. However, one should light it in a way that it is recognizable that one is doing it for the mitzvah. His reasoning is that since the Chachamim do not use the word ner(candle) it means that one does not need an actual flame but one needs light.
There are many shittos and the majority does not allow it.
Ohel Yitzchak – one may not use it
Eshel Avraham pg 36 (not the Pri Megadim) – maybe one can light such a menorah
Bais Yitzchak YD basar bchalav siman 120 – One is not yotzei with electric
Har tzvi OC 2:114 os 2 – one is not yotzei with an electric menorah
Taharas Hashulchan OC siman 673 – Tzarich iyun if one can use electric (it came out in his time)
Yabia Omer 3:35 – Since most hold its not acceptable one should not use it or make a bracha on it. However, if one has nothing else whatsoever he should light it without a bracha and should make sure he places it in place where it not usual for neiros to be during the rest of the year.
Yam Gadol OC siman 32 – One is not yotzei with an electric menorah.
Yaskil Avdi Orach Chaim 2:9, and 3:17 – One should not use electric to fulfill the mitzvah of ner chanuka.
Kochvei Yitzchak simanim 5-8 – Mikar Halacha there is no issue with electric for ner chanuka, but the best way to perform the mitzvah is with olive oil. The ones who asssur say that there is no shuir of a half hour by electric (oil can be seen in the cup). He says that we don’t go by how much oil is there but how long it will stay lit and electric can stay lit for a long time. He ends off saying that Bnei Yisrael are Chareidim l’dvar HaShem and uses olive oil.
Kaf Hachaim siman 673:19 – One is not yotzei with electric. He held it has to resemble the nes of the menorah, and one needs actual oil and wicks.
Levushei Mordechai OC siman 59 – One is not yotzei with electric.
Meorei Aish perek 5: anaf 2 pg 95 – One is not yotzei with an electric ner. One needs an actual flame.
Rabbi Yakov Holtzberg (Shu”t Ateres Shlomo?) holds there is no problem in using electric since the light of electric is clear and nice(maybe even min hamuvchar) ,and that was the intention of Chazal when they mentioned a ner. However, according to the Maharal of Prague that one needs a ner, oil and vessel would hold it’s not acceptable but we don’t pasken like this.
Shu”t Mayim Chaim (Rav Yosef Mashash) OC siman 279 and also his Sefer Ner Mitzvah page 13 – One is yotzei ner chanuka with electricity. In Germany the minhag was to use wax candles (they used oil in the Mikdash) so we see that the ikar is if the light is a clear and nice light.
Tzitz Eliezer 1:20:12 – safek if one is yotzei ner chanuka with electric.
Shaarim Metzuyanim Bhalacha 3: chanuka:siman 139 – one should be machmir and not use electric to fulfill the mitzvah of ner chanuka.( Chashmal Bhalacha)
Rav Shlomo Zalman Aurbach in Halichos Shlomo holds that if one has nothing else he can use a flashlight that has an incandescent bulb and make a bracha on it ,but it must be able to stay lit for a half hour. From Hilchos Chashmal
In cases where lighting flames is not possible (e.g. the question was asked by some Israeli soldiers stationed at a fuel depot), electric as you've described is the next-best thing. The army rabbis in this case told them to light without a bracha, however.