In honor of the upcoming yom tov of Chanuka, we would like to share some highlights of a shiur, given by Rabbi Nachum Scheiner, of Ohr Chaim, on the topic of the proper time to light the menorah.
The Gemara tells us, according to one explanation in the Gemara, that one can only light as long as people are passing by. Once that time has passed, it is too late. Tosfos points out that if so, one must be vigilant to light at the correct time, because if one misses the correct time, according to this explanation, he can no longer fulfill the mitzvah.
However, Tosfos adds, that is only correct according to one explanation in the Gemara. According to the other answer in the Gemara, there is no such time limit and one can still light even later. Thus, since this question of lighting later is dependent on the 2 explanations in the Gemara, one should light at the correct time, but if one did not, he should still light, albeit without a brocha.
Tosfos continues by saying that this was all true in the times of the Gemara, that they lit outside and were dependent on the passersby. However, this all changed once people started lighting inside. The only reason for the time constraint was when they were lighting outside and the passersby are no longer there to see the light. But, today that we light inside and it is essentially for the people inside you can light later because those people are still coming. Consequently, Tosfos rules, one can light the menorah with a brocha, even if he missed the appropriate time.
What is the halachah if someone returns from a trip and everyone in the house is sleeping or if someone lives alone and no one is there to see the neiros burning? Can one still light with a brocha? At first glance, this would be the halachic equivalent of lighting in the times of the Gemara after the allotted time.
This is, in fact a machlokes among the poskim. The Magen Avraham rules that if everyone is sleeping, and no one will be there at the lighting, then one should light without a brocha.
The Chamad Moshe, however, takes issue with this ruling. He posits, that according to this reasoning, it should follow that if one lives alone and has no one there to watch the lighting ceremony, he would have to light without a brocha. Since we do not find this written in the poskim, we should assume that one can, in fact, still light and recite the brocha.
Therefore, the Chamad Moshe concludes, although the correct method of performing the mitzvah is with having spectators, it is not a prerequisite to the mitzvah and one can fulfill the mitzvah – with a brocha – even if he has no audience. The same, says the Chamad Moshe, will apply if everyone is sleeping. Although it is preferable to wake someone to have the publicity and fulfill the mitzvah in its proper form, if one cannot do so, he can still light with a brocha.
Thus, there seems to be a fundamental dispute between the poskim as to whether the publicizing the miracle and lighting the candles in fromn of others is a part and parcel of the mitzvah or if it just a recommended practice. The Magen Avraham seems to understand that this is a basic requirement in how to fulfill the mitzvah. Hence, if one is alone, he must light without a brocha. However, the Chamad Moshe understands that the publicity is not a prerequisite in fulfilling the mitzvah. Rather, it is the preferred method and the mitzvah per se can be accomplished without any publicity. Hence, if one is alone, he may light with a brocha.
Halachically speaking, the Mishna Berura quotes the different opinions mentioned here and, in conclusion, he rules that when in doubt, leave the brocha out. However, he adds that if one wishes to recite the brocha, he may do so.
by Rabbi Nachum Scheiner,
Rosh Kollel Ohr Chaim, Mohel Mumcheh
Rabbi Nachum Scheiner of Bais Medrash Ohr Chaim has been raising the bar of Torah learning with great success throughout the Monsey community. Rabbi Scheiner heads the Kollel Boker, the Evening Kollel, the Sunday morning Halacha Chabura, Yeshivas Bein Hazmanim, Yarchei Kallahs on legal Holidays, and the Friday morning Shovavim Learning.