Ethics

For the week ending 8 December 2012 / 23 Kislev 5773

The Chanuka Candle - Havdalah Hullabaloo

by Rabbi Yehuda Spitz
The Color of HeavenArtscroll

Chanuka, O Chanuka…

Just thinking about the upcoming holiday of Chanuka should be enough to warm the cockles of anyone’s heart. With Menorah lighting, dreidel spinning, latkes, sufganiyot, family time and plenty of l’hodos u’lehallel, not to mention extra Torah learning, Chanuka gives us eight memorable days and nights. But even once you decide which opinions to follow regarding where and when to light the Menorah, there still remains an annual halachic debate that has been simmering since the time of the Rishonim. I am referring to whether one should light the Menorah or make Havdalah first on Motzai Shabbos Chanuka. This year, 5773, with two Motzei Shabbasos Chanuka (but only one actual Shabbos Chanuka), this halachic dispute really heats up.

Light the Menorah

Motzei Shabbos Chanuka is unique as it presents a situation of competing halachic principles. This has been the basis of the centuries-old debate regarding which mitzvah has priority and should therefore be performed first. The Shulchan Aruch rules that on Motzei Shabbos one should light the Chanuka Menorah in Shul before making Havdalah[1]. The Rema adds that certainly at home one must do so as well, and lighting the Menorah precedes making Havdalah[2]. This is based on the Trumas HaDeshen’s applying the Talmudic dictum of “Afukei Yoma M’achrinan[3], or delaying the leaving of Shabbos. Meaning, if one can delay ending Shabbos, he should do whatever necessary to keep the holiness of Shabbos a bit longer. Therefore, they rule that it would be preferable to light the Menorah before making Havdalah, especially as it will augment the “Pirsumei Nissa” by at least a few precious minutes.

Taz: Tadir Tonight

However, the Taz[4] counters that the famous Talmudic adage of “Tadir Kodem[5] takes precedence. When one is faced with doing two different Mitzvos and is in doubt which one to perform first, he should begin with the one that is done more frequently. A prime Biblical example is that even on Shabbos, Yom Tov, and Rosh Chodesh, the Korban Tamid, the communal daily sacrifice, was offered before the Korban Musaf, the special sacrifice for those days[6]. The Taz applies this ‘Tadir’ principle to Motzei Shabbos Chanuka. He maintains that since Havdalah is made every Saturday night, whereas Chanuka candles are only kindled eight nights a year, making Havdalah takes precedence. Additionally, he argues, once one lights Chanuka candles on Motzei Shabbos, he is showing that he intrinsically already ended Shabbos; if so what further gain can there be by delaying Havdalah further?[7] He adds, that the great Maharal Mi’Prague (this author’s namesake) also ruled to make Havdalah before lighting the Menorah.

Taking Sides

As mentioned previously, this halachic debate has been ongoing for centuries[8], with many Poskim taking opposing sides. Those who sided with the Shulchan Aruch and Rema to light the Chanuka Menorah first include such luminaries as the Magen Avraham, Vilna Gaon, Elya Rabba, Levush, and Chayei Adam[9], while others, including the Pri Chadash, Chida, Ben Ish Chai, Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, and Aruch Hashulchan[10] conclude that the Taz was correct and one should make Havdalah first.

Many decisors offer additional rationales and reasons to explain why they feel that the other opinion is incorrect. For example, the famed Avnei Nezer wrote a point-by-point refutation of the Taz’s proofs, while the Chedvas Yaakov later did the same to his arguments[11]. And, interestingly, although Rav Yaakov Emden cites that his father, the renowned Chacham Tzvi, scorned those who would light Chanuka candles first, he nevertheless personally concluded that that is the correct course of action[12].

Contemporary Kindling

Contemporary authorities also have taken sides on this issue. The Chazon Ish, Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, Rav Shmuel HaLevi Wosner and Rav Ovadia Yosef[13] made / make Havdalah first, while the Tukachinsky Luach and Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach[14] ruled that Neiros Chanuka should be kindled first. Rav Moshe Sternbuch writes[15] that even according to those who make Havdalah first, nevertheless, if the setup and making Havdalah would delay the Chanuka lighting more than a half hour after nightfall, then it would be preferable to light the Menorah first, to ensure that one does not miss an opportunity for the optimal time of the Mitzvah of kindling the Menorah.

Lighting It Up

So, knowing that there is such a huge difference of opinion as to the proper halacha, what is one to do? The Mishna Berura[16], asking that very same question, famously concludes that in Shul one should light Chanuka candles before making Havdalah[17] (if applicable; many, if not most Shuls nowadays do not make a communal Havdalah), yet at home “d’avid k’mar avid, d’avid k’mar avid”, whichever shitta one decides to follow, he is acting correctly. Accordingly, even if you have a minhag to light the Menorah first while your neighbor is busy making Havdalah first, both of you should realize that both are equally halachically valid opinions[18]. It is said that Rav Yosef Chaim Zonnenfeld[19] used to ask his wife to prepare his Menorah for him on Motzei Shabbos Chanuka outside his house (Minhag Yerushalayim) while he was still in Shul. This way, when he came home, he would not have to decide which opinion to follow, and rather immediately light the Menorah (before Havdalah), in order not to “pass over a Mitzvah”.

Don’t Mix and Match

The noted Melamed L’Hoyeel, Rav Dovid Tzvi Hoffman (late 1800’s), wrote an interesting responsum[20], relating a personal anecdote. Apparently, after following the Taz’s approach of making Havdalah first for twenty-five years in his role as the Rabbi in Berlin, one Motzei Shabbos Chanuka he decided that he was going to follow the Rema’s opinion and light the Menorah first, as it was getting late. As he was about to light, he suddenly remembered that he had uncharacteristically forgotten to say “Attah Chonantanu” in Maariv, and technically had not yet ended Shabbos. He realized that according to the Magen Avraham, he was now required to make Havdalah before lighting the Menorah[21]. He understood that he was receiving a Heavenly sign from Above. Thus, he concluded, as should we all, that although both positions might be officially correct, with many great halachic authorities through the generations to rely upon for whichever opinion one chooses to follow, nonetheless, it is improper for one to change his longstanding Minhag.

Whether we are contemplating the lights of Chanuka or the Havdala candle, regardless which we ended up lighting first, let us internalize their message that Hashem’s hashgacha in this world, showing us the triumph of light over darkness, is eternal and everlasting.



[1]Although in his Beis Yosef (O.C. 681, 1) he merely cites both sides of this debate, between the Abudraham (pg. 201, Seder Hadlakas Ner Chanuka), who advocated making Havdalah first and the Trumas HaDeshen (60), in the Shulchan Aruch (O.C. 681, 2) he rules definitively like the Trumas HaDeshen, that one should light Chanuka candles before Havdalah.

[2]In Darchei Moshe (O.C. 681, 1) quoting the Maharil (pg. 406, Hilchos Chanuka 6), Kol Bo (44, 3, 4th column), and Agur (1040). Also ruled definitively in his Glosses to Shulchan Aruch (O.C. 681, 2).

[3]Gemara Pesachim 105b.

[4]Taz (O.C. 681, 1), Maharal Mi’Prague (Ner Mitzva pg. 28 -29). The Maharal adds another reason why Havdalah should be first. He says memah nafshach - If one already said “Attah Chonantanu” in Maariv then Shabbos is already over for him and there is no more inyan of ‘Afukei Yoma’, and if he did not, then he has not yet ended Shabbos and actually relies on Havdalah to end it for him, which needs to be done before he can light Chanuka candles. Therefore, he rules that Havdalah must precede lighting the Menorah.

[5]This klal is found throughout Shas, including Brachos 51b, Pesachim 114a, Sukka 54b & 56a, Megillah 29b, and Zevachim 90b - 91a.

[6]See Bamidbar (Parshas Pinchas) Ch.28 and Gemara Zevachim 89a.

[7]The Elya Rabba (O.C. 681, 1) “answers up” this rhetorical question of the Taz and Pri Chadash, explaining that until one actually makes Havdalah, even if he already ended Shabbos and started doing Melacha, remnants of the holiness of Shabbos remain.

[8]See footnotes 1 and 2 for the opinions of several Rishonim. Other Rishonim who wrote about this topic include the Meiri (Shabbos 23b s.v. af) who wrote that it was already debated in his time (13th century), yet ruled to light Chanuka candles first, as did the Sefer HaMinhagim of Rav Yitzchak Isaac Tyrnau (Tirna), while the Eshkol (vol. 2, Hilchos Chanuka 6) and Ra’avad (Shu”t Tamim Da’im) ruled that Havdalah should be made first. See Biur Halacha (681 s.v. Madlikin).

[9]O.C. 681 - Magen Avraham (1), Vilna Gaon (1, and Maaseh Rav 235), Elya Rabba (1), Levush (1), and Chayei Adam (154, 37). Others who ruled this way include the Maharika”sh (Erech Lechem 1), Knesses HaGedolah (1), Beis Meir, Maamar Mordechai (1), Yeshuas Yaakov (1), and the Chemed Moshe (1). It is also reported (Shu”t Zichron Yehuda vol. 2, 242) that the Chasam Sofer, his son the Ksav Sofer, as well as his renowned talmid the Maharam Shick, all lit Chanuka candles before Havdalah. Another proof that several poskim cite is based on the Shulchan Aruch and Tur (O.C. 681, 1) who rule like the Yerushalmi (which although quoted by many early sources, interestingly, is not found in our editions of the Yerushalmi), that one may not make Havdalah on the Neiros Chanuka. This, they say, shows that the Neiros Chanuka had to have already been lit in order for one to think he may also make Havdalah on it, proving that the Menorah should be lit before Havdalah. For a hesber of the Gr”a and Taz’s machlokes, see Shu”t Igros Moshe (O.C. vol. 4, 99, 1 s.v. tzibur).

[10]Pri Chadash (O.C. 681, 1), Chida (Morah B’Etzba 340), Ben Ish Chai (Year 1, Parshas Vayeishev 21), Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (137, 18), and Aruch Hashulchan (O.C. 681, 2). Others who ruled this way include the Tosafos Yom Tov (Malbushei Yom Tov, 2), Chavos Yair (Mekor Chaim, O.C. 681, 1), Chavas Daas (Derech HaChaim, Dinei Hadlakas Ner Chanuka B’Motza”Sh, 1), Beis David (474), Shulchan Aruch HaRrav (Hosafos to Shu”A HaRav, O.C. vol. 3, Minhagei Beis HaRav, Chanuka), Matteh Moshe (992), Ma’ohr VaShemesh (Parshas Mikeitz s.v. vayisa), and the Maharsha”g (Shu”t vol. 2, end 58). The Kaf Hachaim (O.C. 681, 3) implies this way as well.

[11]Shu”t Avnei Nezer (O.C. 499), Shu”t Chedvas Yaakov (Tinyana 129). Several others did so as well. For example, the Yeshuos Yaakov and Chemed Moshe (ibid.) did so, while the Shevet HaLevi (Shu”t vol. 6, 85) “returned the favor” to the Chemed Moshe, disregarding his proofs. Similarly, R’ Akiva Eiger (Glosses to O.C. 681) points out that although the Bartenura (Zevachim Ch. 10, end Mishna 6) writes that the principle of ‘Tadir Kodem’ has priority over that of ‘Afukei Yoma’, conversely, the Rambam (Hilchos Tamidin U’Musafin Ch. 9, 20) writes that one has the right to choose which Talmudic rule to follow. However, R’ Shlomo Kluger (Haghos Chochmas Shlomo ad loc.) writes extensively to disprove any correlation of this Rambam to Motzai Shabbos Chanuka.

[12]Briefly in Shu”t Sheilas Ya’avetz (vol. 1, 52), and at length in Mor U’Ketzia (681). There are few other inyanim where the Ya’avetz takes a differing halachic position to his father, the Chacham Tzvi. A better known one is about whether the issur of Mevattel Issur applies by making an item pagum. See Shu”t Chacham Tzvi(101), Shu”t Sheilas Ya’avetz (vol. 2, 131) and Yad Efraim (Y”D 99, 5), who takes the Ya’avetz to task for arguing on his father.

[13]The Chazon Ish and Rav Elyashiv did not actually take an active stand on topic, rather agreeing to the Mishna Berura’s conclusion of “d’avid k’mar avid, d’avid k’mar avid”, yet both made Havdalah before lighting the Menorah; see Birur Halacha (681) and Ashrei HaIsh (O.C. vol. 3, pg. 255, 11). Yet, both the Shevet HaLevi (Shu”t vol. 6, 85) and Rav Ovadia Yosef (Shu”t Yechaveh Daas vol. 1, 75; see also Yalkut Yosef - Kitzur Shulchan Aruch O.C. 681) each wrote a detailed responsum advocating making Havdalah before lighting Chanuka candles.

[14]Tukachinsky Luach (Chodesh Kislev, Motzai Shabbos Chanuka) and Halichos Shlomo (Moadim vol. 1, Hilchos Chanuka Ch. 16, footnote 29). Rav Shlomo Zalman was such an ardent supporter of lighting the Menorah immediately after Shabbos that he ruled that even those who normally wait 72 minutes for Shabbos to end (“Rabbeinu Tam”), should not do so on Motzai Shabbos Chanuka; rather they should end Shabbos at an earlier zman and immediately light Chanuka candles, followed by Havdalah. However, Rav Moshe Feinstein (Shu”t Igros Moshe O.C. vol. 2, 62 s.v. v’chein) did not agree, maintaining that those who normally wait 72 minutes should do so as well on Motzai Shabbos Chanuka, and only then light the Menorah.

[15]Shu”t Teshuvos V’Hanhagos (vol. 2, 343, 6). I have seen a similar ruling by the Avnei Yashpei in an unpublished teshuva.

[16]Mishna Berura (681, 3), Biur Halacha (681, s.v. Madlikin). The Machatzis HaShekel (O.C. 681, end 1) advocated this approach as well. The Pri Megadim (ad loc. M.Z. 1, as well as his father) and the Chida (Birkei Yosef ad loc. 1), although both personally made Havdalah before lighting the Menorah, nevertheless wrote that both opinions are halachically acceptable.

[17]As in Shul there would be a greater ‘Pirsumei Nissa’ and only one person effectively has to end Shabbos in order to light the Shul’s Menorah; therefore the dissenting opinions would not preclude lighting the Menorah before making Havdalah in Shul.

[18]However, regarding Sefardim, it seems to be that they must make Havdalah before lighting the Menorah (except in Shul, as above, which actually was the Shulchan Aruch’s psak) as virtually all Sefardi Poskim rule this way, including the Pri Chadash (ibid.), Chida (ibid.), Yafeh LaLev (vol. 2, see Kaf HaChaim), Ben Ish Chai (ibid.), Kaf HaChaim (ibid.), Rav Ovadia Yosef (Shu”t Yechaveh Daas ibid.), Rav Mordechai Eliyahu (Darchei Halacha glosses to Kitur Shulchan Aruch 139, footnote 27), and Yalkut Yosef (ibid.).

[19]Cited in Toras Chaim – Shu”t Rav Yosef Chaim Zonnenfeld (vol. 2, Hanhagos U’Psakim, Chanuka, pg. 100, Psakim 6, & Biurim 4). He held that “Ain Ma’avirin al Hamitzvos” (See Gemara Yoma 33a and Tosafos ad loc. s.v. ain) trumps either opinion and would inform us which Mitzva takes precedence in this situation. This would imply that if he would get home and find Havdalah prepared, and not the Menorah, then he would make Havdalah first.

[20]Shu”t Melamed L’Hoyeel (vol. 1, 122).

[21]Magen Avraham (681, 1). The Maharal Mi’Prague (Ner Mitzva ibid.) states this as well. However, the Mishna Berura (681, 2) writes that according to those who hold that Neiros Chanuka precedes Havdalah, if one realized as he was about to light his Menorah that he forgot to say “Attah Chonantanu” in Maariv, then he should say “Hamavdil Bein Kodesh l’Chol” - effectively ending Shabbos, then light Chanuka candles, and only afterwards make Havdalah, and not like Magen Avraham’s psak.

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