OU Kosher Halacha Yomis: Chanukah

  • Which oils or candles should be used to light Chanukah lights
  • Whether olive oil and wax candles can be used at the same time
  • The types of oils or candles which should not be used for Chanukah lights
  • Whether one can use wax candles after using olive oil the first night of Chanukah

Which Oils or Candles Should be Used for the Chanukah Lights?

The Rama (OC 673:1) writes that the mitzvah min hamuvchar, the preferred practice, is to use olive oil for the neiros Chanukah. The Aruch HaShulchan (ibid.) gives several reasons for this: Olive oil’s light is pure and clear in color, it draws properly into the wick and finally (and most importantly) because the miracle in the Bais HaMikdash occurred with olive oil (see also Mishna Berura ibid. 4 and Shaar HaTziyun ibid. 4). If olive oil is not available, it is preferable to use other oils whose
lights are clear and pure. Our custom, in such an instance, is to use wax [or paraffin] candles since their flame is pure and clean like that of oil (Rama ibid).

May I Light Neiros Chanukah using Olive Oil and Wax Candles at the Same Time?

It is questionable whether oil and candles may be used in the same Menorah at the same time (Be’er Heitev OC 673:1, Shaarei Teshuva ibid. 1, Mishna Berura ibid. 2) Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l was of the opinion that oil and candles should not be used in the same Menorah, as the beautification of the mitzva is diminished by the different types of light shining from the same Menorah. However, different oils may be used in the same Menorah because there is no
recognizable difference in their light (Moadei Yeshurun, p. 9. See also MB Shaar HaTziyun OC 673:1). The minhag of Ashkenazim is that each family member lights his own Menorah (Rama OC 671:2). Where multiple Menoros are being lit, one Menorah may contain oil and the others candles (MB 673:2). Where necessary, one may use oil one day and candles the next (Sefer Hilchos Chanukah, p.12).

Are There Any Types of Oils or Candles Which Should Not be Used for Neiros Chanukah?

The Mechaber (OC 673:1) writes that “all oils…are kosher for Ner Chanukah.” However, as the  Mechaber himself explains (ibid.), this means only that oils which are disqualified for Shabbos, because they are not drawn properly by the wick, may nevertheless be used for Chanukah.” (See the reason for this distinction in MB ibid.). There are in fact oils which may not be used for Chanukah: One should not use oils which are isurei hanaah, from which benefit may not be derived, e.g., orlah
(Be’er Heitev OC 673:1) or something which is prohibited because of basar b’chalav, meat and dairy cooked together (Mishna Berura OC 673:2). One may not nullify the basar b’chalav in 60 parts in order to use it for Neiros Chanukah (MB ibid. in the name of the Pri Megadim). Oil of Shemita, produce of Eretz Yisroel from the seventh year, should not be used (Sefer Hilchos Chanukah, p. 12). If a mouse was found in the oil it may not be used because it is repugnant (MB ibid:3). If a person lit with stolen oil it is questionable whether he has fulfilled his mitzva (MB ibid:2).

If One Cannot Afford Enough Olive Oil to Light More Than One Light Each Night of Chanukah, Should He Instead Use Wax Candles, Which are Much Less Expensive, to be Able to Add an Additional Candle Each Night?

As we have seen in a previous Halacha Yomis, olive oil is the preferred fuel for Neiros Chanukah. However, in the above scenario, the Mishna Berura (671:7 based on Shu”t Binyan Olam, 34) rules that it is preferable to light wax candles. By lighting the candles, one fulfills the mehadrin min hamehadrin mitzva by adding an additional light every night of Chanukah, and this has preference
over using olive oil. The Binyan Olam (ibid.) also rules that on the first night of Chanukah, one in this situation should light with oil even if doing so means he will only be able to light one candle on each of the subsequent nights. Since he can do the mitzva properly in the optimum way on the first night, we apply the rule of chaviva mitzva b’shaata, that a mitzva done properly in its correct time is precious. This takes precedence over performing the mitzva in a superior manner on the later nights by adding lights. It follows, based on this reasoning, that if one has enough olive oil on the second night of Chanukah to light two oil lights he should do so as well, even if this will prevent fulfilling the mehadrin min hamehadrin mitzva on the subsequent nights. But if the choice on the second night is between one oil light (which is not the optimum way to perform the mitzvah) or the correct number of  wax candles, then one should light the candles (Shaar HaTziyun 671:8).

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OU Kosher Staff