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On the first night of Hannukah, I got home from work after dinner, and my wife had lit the candles and said the blessings with the kids.

I said all three blessings over the already lit candles. In doing so, did I fulfill my hannukah mitzvah for that night?

Would it have been better for me to blow out the candles and relight by saying the blessings?

Does it matter that I am a man? (I ask because lighting the shabbat candles is traditionally a woman's mitzvah)

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In short, the mitzvah to light has already been fulfilled by your wife, assuming she's Jewish, as per answers and comments to this question, and you have already gained the mitzvah via your wife's lighting.

The fact that others in the household light the candles is what is called hiddur mitzvah - enhancing the mitzvah. If you're following this rule, you have to light them, and you would make the blessings.

The blessing for the Chanukah candles includes the words "to light", meaning that this involves an action. Saying the blessing on already lit candles is not performing any action, and hence is not performing any mitzvah, and, possibly, could be a bracha levatalah, a blessing said in vain.

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    @msh210 was that really necessary? Don't we generally assume that questions about people making berachot are about Jews doing so? – Isaac Moses Dec 18 '14 at 16:08
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    What is the possibility that it is not a bracha levatalla? – Double AA Dec 18 '14 at 16:12
  • @IsaacMoses it was absolutely not necessary and we do so assume (and I assume the same is true here) but it does improve the answer post IMO. – msh210 Dec 18 '14 at 16:12
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    @IsaacMoses, Longdaysjourneyintocode, note that SE pages are meant for future visitors as much as for the asker. I did not mean to impugn the latter. – msh210 Dec 18 '14 at 17:11
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    Rabbi Genack in [Torah To-Go Series• Kislev 5775](download.yutorah.org/2014/1053/Chanuka_To-Go_-_5775.pdf) quotes the Gemoro Shabbos 23a re: someone who sees Chanukah lights "Rav Yehuda said: On the first day, one who sees [Chanukah lights] recites two [blessings] and one who lights recites three. Mishnah Berurah 676:6, rules that if family members already lit on behalf of someone, that individual should not recite a beracha upon seeing Chanukah lights because of the rule that one should refrain from reciting a beracha whenever there is a doubt). So he cannot even say "she'oso nissim"! – Avrohom Yitzchok Dec 18 '14 at 17:57

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