One important reason to keep a shamash candle burning in a hanukkiah is because Hanukkah candles are not supposed to be used except for fufilling the mitzvah. The shamash candle allows one to use its light for other purposes like reading or finding ones way in a dark room.

This works for a while after the candles are lit, but some hanukkiot (menorahs) have a shamash holder that causes that candle to go out sooner than the others or a shamash could burn faster than the other candles just from the random variation in wax volume or flame size. In this case, when a shamash is burned down and out, I think you should not use remaining candles for any mundane purpose.

What practical steps should one take if they find themselves in this situation? I can imagine:

  • Blowing out the other candles if the minimum thirty minutes have passed and it is not Shabbat.

  • Replacing that original shamash with another shamash.

  • Turning on the electric lights in the room so that the remaining candles are only used for the mitzvah.

What have you read or been taught that is relevant to this situation? What would be acceptable ways to handle it? Are there other ways that I have not thought of?


1 Answer 1


If half an hour has passed since you lit the candles (assuming you didn't light early) then you no longer need a Shamash. You can even extinguish the candles at that point.

This is explicit in the Shulchan Aruch סימן תרעב - זמן הדלקת נר חנכה

הִלְכָּךְ צָרִיךְ לִתֵּן בָּהּ שֶׁמֶן כְּזֶה הַשִּׁעוּר, וְאִם נָתַן בָּהּ יוֹתֵר יָכוֹל לְכַבּוֹתָהּ לְאַחַר שֶׁעָבַר זֶה הַזְּמַן, וְכֵן יָכוֹל לְהִשְׁתַּמֵּשׁ לְאוֹרָהּ לְאַחַר זֶה הַזְּמַן‏

That said, the Be'er Heitev (ibid) brings some opinions that one should not extinguish them, nor derive benefit from them (after relighting them or other uses) - even if they extinguished by themselves.

The reason being that they were set aside for a Mitzva.

באר היטב (ג) לכבותה. והב''ח כתב שלא לכבותה ואף אם נכבה מעצמה אסור להנות מהם אף שדלק חצי שעה כיון שהוקצה למצוה.‏

Turning on the electric lights in the room so that the remaining candles are only used for the Mitzvah seems like the sensible alternative. (Note that there is no obligation to light the Chanukiya in a dark room.)

  • The Shulchan Arukh was talking about a time when 1/2 hour was how long it took the streets to quiet down. This answer probably doesn't apply in most cases today.
    – Double AA
    Dec 15, 2016 at 19:29
  • Perhaps we should address what would happen if the Shamash went out before 24 hours? Would you then need to relight the Shamash?
    – Eliyahu
    Dec 27, 2016 at 5:12

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