Can you light another candle beside the Chanukah candles when they’re burning? - Matan - The Sadie Rennert
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Can you light another candle beside the Chanukah candles when they’re burning?

Rabbanit Chanital Ofan

Kislev 5782 | November 2021
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We often use essential oils to scent the living room. Can these be lit beside the Hanukiyah on Hanukah? Or is this problematic since it may look like we are lighting the wrong number of Hanukah candles on a given night?

Teshuva

Surprisingly the answer to your question is found in the Talmud– but in reverse. The Talmudic sugya seems to indicate that there is, in fact, a requirement to light an extra candle, beside the Hanukiyah.

The Requirement for an Extra Candle

The baraita (BT Shabbat 21b) discusses the ideal place to light Hanukah candles. Optimally, the candles should be lit in the entrance to one’s home, facing the public sphere (that is, the street outside, where the candles are visible). If one resides in an attic, the candles should be lit in a window facing the public sphere. However, the baraita states that in times of danger Hanukah candles may be lit on a table inside the house. Rava comments on this provision for dangerous times,[1] that when lighting inside the house, an extra candle should be lit in addition to the Hanukah candles, unless there is a lit fire in the house to provide light in addition to the candles. However, a man of means who is privileged to read by candlelight and not to the light of a fire – is required to light an extra candle even if there is a furnace in the house.

Let us explore the sugya and its various interpretations, which also lead to its practical halakhic implications.

Presumably, Rava’s comment relates to the latter part of the baraita, which permits lighting Hanukah candles inside the house in a time of danger. In this situation, says Rava, there is a need for an additional source of light in the house (either a candle, or a furnace). Rava’s concern about an additional source of light can be understood in several ways: (a) Perhaps the residents of the house will not recognize that the candles are lit for the purpose of a mitzvah (and not for a functional purpose), and this detracts from the primary purpose of the candles, which is to pronounce the miracle; (b) Perhaps the residents will mistakenly use the Hanukah candles for another, mundane purpose, which was prohibited by the rabbis, since the candles are a sanctified object, which can only be used for the purpose of the mitzvah (that is, can only be observed and not utilized); (c) Perhaps the candles will be used for an odious purpose, which is prohibited with regard to all sanctified objects used to perform a mitzvah.

Rashi and Ran: The Additional Candle as a Means of Distinguishing the Hanukah Candles

Rashi (s.v. ואסור להשתמש) understands the requirement of an addition of a candle in the context of lighting in a time of danger (when lighting is permitted inside the house). According to Rashi, the additional candle serves as a means of distinguishing the Hanukah candles from ordinary candles, to ensure that they are used only for the purpose of the mitzvah. It is important to note that Rashi assumes when there is no such concern since the candles are lit by the door, and this placement is sufficient to distinguish them as Hanukah candles – obviating the need for an extra candle. The Ran (9b on the Rif s.v. אמר רבא) adds that Rava’s comment is intended specifically in the case of danger. When the candles are inside the house, there is little possibility of avoiding using them, in one way or another; nonetheless, Rava requires an additional candle to make the distinction. Conversely, when there is no danger, and the candles are outside the house – there is no requirement to light an extra candle, unless one wants to use the light.

Rambam (The Laws of Megillah and Hanukah 4:8) rules that an additional candle is only required in a time of danger. Meiri (Shabbat 21b) views the additional candle as a distinguishing factor, but adds that it is his own custom to add an extra candle even when lighting outside.

In light of Rashi’s interpretation, Kolbo (44) argues that since the purpose of the added candle is to create a distinction between the Hanukah candles and ordinary candles, the placement of the Hanukiyah clearly fills this requirement. When the Hanukiyah is placed by the door, there is no concern that it might erroneously be used for another purpose. In this case therefore the Kolbo rules that there is no need for the extra candle.

Ritva: The Additional Candle as a Means to Prevent Use of Hanukah Candles

Some Rishonim understood Rava’s addition as a general rule that also applies to lighting by the door. The Ritva paraphrases Rava’s statement: “It is required to have another candle, so that its light may be used” – indicating that the purpose of the additional candle is to prevent use of the Hanukah candles.[2] According to the Ritva, this concern is also present when the candle is outside the house, since the candles may not be used in any way – including the small function their light may serve as one enters the home. Accordingly, the purpose of the additional candle is to obviate any use of the Hanukah candles, since the distinction between the light of one candle and several candles is negligible (as expressed in the phrase “one candle is as one hundred candles”).

Ramban and Baal ha-Maor: The Additional Candle as a Distinguishing Factor for Strangers

Ramban (Milhamot Hashem on Rif 9a s.v. אמר הכותב) and Baal ha-Maor (ibid. Maor ha-Katan) link the need for a distinction with the concern that the candles will be used inappropriately. They raise an entirely new concern regarding creating a false impression. According to this approach, the additional candle is not intended for the household residents, but rather, for passersby who may think the candles were lit for personal use instead of for the purpose of the mitzvah. To this end, even when the Hanukiyah includes a Shamash – which is the extra candle – its proximity to the Hanukah candles would necessitate the lighting of another candle. It has to be made completely clear that the candles are lit for the sole purpose of the mitzvah, with no false impression that they may have been lit for personal use. This position was adopted by many Achronim (e.g. the Bah, Orah Haim 4273; Magen Avraham ibid. 104; Mishnah Berurah ibid. 14 and 15).

Placement of the Additional Candle

According to Rashi’s position that the purpose of the additional candle is to create a distinction between Hanukah candles and ordinary candles for the benefit of the household, the additional candle may be lit near the Hanukah candles.

Similarly, according to the Ritva’s position that the purpose of the candle is to ensure there is light in the house apart from the Hanukiyah, there is no significance to the specific placement of the additional candle.

However, according to the Ramban’s approach, the additional candle should be placed in proximity to household activity, and far from the Hanukah candles, to create a clear distinction between the two, and prevent the misconception that the purpose of the Hanukah candles is to light the house. The Biur Halakhah ruled accordingly based on the Meiri, and this is also reflected in the Rambam’s formulation: “There should be another candle inside the house so that its light may be used.”

The Shulhan Arukh (4273:1) ruled based on the Rambam that an additional candle should be lit for the purpose of providing an additional source of light. In the Beit Yosef the formulation indicates that this requirement is not limited to a time of danger: “since not everyone knows[3] to distinguish between the usual placement of the candle and the unusual placement.” The Beit Yosef adds that when the Hanukiyah is lit inside the house, one candle should be lit far from the other candles. However, the Rema (citing the Mordechai) disagrees, and argues that the Shamash which is used to light the candles may also serve as the additional candle, since its primary use is to create a distinction, and there is therefore no need to distance it from the other candles. Therefore, the Shamash should be positioned in a way that clearly indicates that it is different from the other candles (in a higher place or at a distance).[4]

To summarize the issues that emerge from the sugya:

  • There is a debate whether the additional candle is needed only in a time of danger, when the Hanukiyah is lit inside the house (Rashi/Ramban/Ran), or also when lit outside the house (Rashba/Ritva/Meiri).
  • The function of the additional candle is also debated; it may be a technical precaution that ensures the avoidance of using the candle inadvertently (Rashba/Ritva/ Baal ha-Maor), or a distinction highlighting the fact that the Hanukah candles are lit purely for the purpose of the mitzvah (Rashi/Ran/Ramban).

Is there a need to light an extra candle in modern times

According to all this, is there a need for an extra candle in the modern home, when homes are well lit with electricity? Modern homes use electricity to light the entire room evenly, so there is no real distinction between the door/window and a table in the center of a room. In this reality, there is no need at all for candlelight. Moreover, there is no reason to be concerned that a passerby will think a Hanukiyah was lit for any purpose other than the mitzvah. Therefore, today there is no real Halakhic requirement to light a shamash, and those who maintain this custom do so as a long standing minhag.

The prohibition of adding extra candles

There is one other concern regarding lighting the shamash close to the Hanukiyah, which relates to mirroring the number of days with the number of candles. If the shamash is too close to the candles, it may appear to be one of the Hanukah candles, and might create confusion in the counting of the days. This affects the primary purpose of the Hanukah candles, which is to publicize the miracle. The baraita (BT Shabbat 21b) mentions two levels of elevation with regard to performing the basic mitzvah – which is lighting one candle per household; mehadrin – which is lighting a candle per each person in the household, and mehadrin min ha-mehadrin – which is a debate between Beit Shammai (lighting eight candles on the first day and removing one each day until only one is lit on the eighth day) and Beit Hillel (lighting one candle on the first day and adding a candle each day until eight candles are lit on the eighth day).

Rishonim debated the practical implication of the various levels of elevation.

  1. According to the Rambam (The Laws of Megillah and Hanukah 4:2) the two levels of elevation can coexist, and the hidur of adding a candle each day is an added level to the hidur of lighting a candle for every member of the household. According to the Rambam, on the second day all members of the household would therefore light two candles, and so on. The Rema follows the Rambam’s ruling.
  2. According to Tosfot (s.v. והמהדרין מן המהדרין), the two levels of elevation are separate and contradict one another. The second hidur (adding a candle each day) cannot be performed together with the first (a candle for each member of the household) since the conflation of the two will create confusion about which day of Hanukah the number of candles reflects. For example, in a household with two people, if four candles are lit on the second day, there is no way to know whether there are four people in the household who lit one candle each, or two people who lit two candles. Therefore, mehadrin min ha-mehadrin is limited to one set of candles reflecting the number of days, per household. The Shulhan Arukh ruled according to this approach.
  3. Several Achronim (Arukh ha-Shulhan and others) are unconcerned with the confusion factor, since every Hanukiyah stands separately. This has impact on the issue at hand: if the scented candle is separate from the Hanukiyah, there is no concern that it may be confused with the Hanukah candles, particularly since today Hanukah candles are usually lit in a Hanukiyah.

In conclusion:

If the scented candle is similar in appearance to the Hanukah candles, it should not be lit close to the other candles, for two reasons:

  1. According to the Ramban and Baal ha-Maor, even if a Shamash is used near the candles there is reason to be concerned about the misimpression of similarity to the Hanukah candles.
  2. According to the Sephardi ruling, which generally follows the Shulhan Arukh, a scented candle may create confusion about which day of Hanukah it is, and detracts from the primary purpose of the candles, which is to publicize the miracle.

However, if the scented candle is different in shape and appearance from the Hanukah candles, there should be no problem even according to these approaches, especially if the scented candle is placed at a distance from the other candles, similar to the Shamash.

Moreover, the prevalent use of electricity for light obviates any concern regarding misuse of the Hanukah candles, and there is no need for additional stringencies.

* * *

As explained above, electrical lighting obviates concern about misusing Hanukah candles. However, electricity may pose another challenge: does electricity ‘overshadow’ the Hanukah lights and diminish the power of their message?

This problem is addressed in the Jerusalem Talmud (Sheqalim 6:4). The sugya describes the ten Menorahs crafted by King Solomon, which stood in the Temple on the right and left of Moshe’s original Menorah. The rabbis debate whether these Menorahs were lit: according to Tanna Kama the candles were only lit in Moshe’s Menorah, while R. Yose b. Yehuda claimed that all the Menorahs were lit. Otzar ha-Midrashim (p. 475, s.v. תדשא) states that in order to prevent overshadowing the primary Menorah, Moshe’s Menorah would be lit first, followed by the others (some poskim wrote similarly that this should be the practice when lighting Shabbat candles in a house with electricity). This indicates that the fact that the house is well lit to begin with is not a problem per se.

Lighting Hanukah candles is a symbol reminiscent of lighting the Hanukiyah in the Temple. Therefore, the Rabbis viewed the candles as sanctified objects, since they are used for the purpose of a mitzvah – “these candles are sanctified, and we have no permission to use them” (Pri Tzadik, Bereishit for Hanukah 4, citing Abudraham).

In the Temple, there were additional sources of light besides the Menorah, and there was no concern that the Menorah would be overshadowed or diminished by these; therefore, as long as the Hanukiyah is treated with reverence and respect, there is no need for concern about other sources of light.

Summary

There is a Halakhic debate as to whether the requirement to light an extra candle (Shamash) in addition to the Hanukah candles is only in a time of danger, when the Hanukiyah is lit inside the house, or also when the candles are lit in the optimal position by the door.

The function of the additional candle is also debated; it may be a technical precaution that ensures the avoidance of using the candle inadvertently, or a distinction highlighting the fact that the Hanukah candles are lit purely for the purpose of the mitzvah.

In modern times, houses are well lit with electrical lights, and there is no need for an additional candle – whether lighting inside or outside the house, based on the rationale of all positions.

An additional candle (for scent or otherwise) may be lit in the vicinity of the Hanukah candles, as long as it is distinct, and will not create confusion regarding the number of Hanukah candles. This ensures that the primary purpose of the Hanukah candles – to publicize the miracle, which is reflected in the number of candles per day – is maintained.

[1] Some understood Rava’s statement as limited to times of danger (Rashi; Rambam; Ran) while others believed his intention was to require an extra candle even in the optimal circumstance of lighting by the door (Rashba, Ritva, Meiri).

[2] Rishonim debated the nature of the prohibition to misuse of the candles. The Raza (ibid.) writes that the reason is a show of disrespect toward the mitzvah, but permits using the candle for the purpose of learning Torah. Rashba (Shabbat 21b) and Ritva (ibid.) prohibit any use, even for the purpose of another mitzvah. As proof for his position Rashba cites the preference for Shabbat candles instead of Hanukah candles when there is only an option of one or the other, since the Shabbat candles are also functional, whereas Hanukah candles cannot be used even for the purpose of oneg Shabbat.

[3] Perhaps the Beit Yosef took into account the Ramban’s concern regarding outside viewers, and not only the people of the household.

[4] The Tur refers to a question posed to his brother, R. Yehiel b. ha-Rosh: Can the Shamash be positioned in line with the Hanukah candles at the helm, or in the middle – or does it have to be positioned at the end of the row? He answers that the Shamash should not disrupt the line of candles, and should be positioned at the end of the row. Arukh ha-Shulhan (9) cites this source to state that there is no need to distance the Shamash from the other candles.

Rabbanit Chanital Ofan

graduated from Matan’s  Advanced Talmudic Institute.  She has an M.A. in Talmud from Bar Ilan University and is a Certified Halakhic Advisor (Yoetzet Halakha) by Nishmat.  For the last 18 years she has taught Talmud and Midrash in a number of women’s Batei Midrash. She is in the first cohort of Hilkhata Matan’s Advanced Halakha Institute and a lecturer in Matan’s Metivta program.