Ra’anana Community Kollel
Halachot of Lighting the Chanukah Lights
on Erev Shabbat
Rabbi Dovid Horwitz
On Shabbat Chanukah, there is a question as to whether one should first light the Shabbat candles and only then light the Chanukah lights or vice versa. Some authorities reason that the Shabbat candles should be lit first in keeping with the rule that a frequent mitzvah always proceeds a less common one. Others maintain that the Chanukah candles should be lit first, since ideally one should accept Shabbat upon lighting the Shabbat candles, which would make it impossible to light the Chanukah candles afterward.
The accepted halachah for both men and women is to first light the Chanukah candles, even though men do not usually accept Shabbat upon candle lighting. Nevertheless, a difference between men and women will be apparent in a case when one mistakenly lit the Shabbat candles first. While a man would still be allowed to light his Chanukah candles, a woman would not be permitted to do so, as she normally accepts Shabbat upon lighting. In such a case, she should ask a family member who has not yet accepted Shabbat to light and recite the first brachah on her behalf. She may then recite the second brachah herself.
Although the Chanukah lights can be lit as early as Plag HaMinchah, it is preferable to light as close to sunset as possible, making sure to leave enough time to light Shabbat candles afterwards.
Because the Chanukah lights must burn for at least one half-hour after nightfall, one must be particularly careful to add enough oil or use large enough candles so that the flames will burn until this time.
The Poskim encourage one to daven Minchah on Friday afternoon before lighting the Chanukah candles. This is because our justification for lighting Chanukah lights before sunset stems from the halachah that a person is permitted to accept “night” upon himself before sunset. It would therefore look contradictory if he or she were to light Chanukah lights, indicating that the person accepts nightfall, and then to daven Minchah which must be recited before nightfall. Nevertheless, if a man did not find an early Minyan for Minchah on Friday afternoon, he should not forgo praying in a Minyan in order to light his Chanukah candles after Minchah. Rather, he should light his candles and then go to daven Minchah at the regular time.
There are two valid opinions as to when one should light the Chanukah candles on Motza’ei Shabbat: before or after making Havdalah. Therefore, every man should follow his own custom.
Happy Chanukah & Shabbat Shalom!