"מצות נר חנוכה נר איש וביתו והמהדרין נר לכל אחד ואחד והמהדרין מן המהדרין בית שמאי אומרים יום ראשון מדליק שמנה מכאן ואילך פוחת והולך בית הלל אומרים יום ראשון מדליק אחת מכאן ואילך מוסיף והולך"
“The basic commandment of Chanukah lights is for the head of the household to light one candle for the entire family each night. Those who want to enhance their fulfillment of mitzvot light one candle each night for each member of the household. Those who desire to enhance their observance of mitzvot even further... According to Beit Shammai, the first day one kindles eight candles, and henceforth continuously decreases. According to Beit Hillel, the first day one lights one candle, and henceforth contiuously increases.” (Shabbat 21b)

QUESTION: What exactly is the enhancement of the mehadrin and what do the mehadrin min hamehadrin do?

ANSWER: According to the Rambam (Chanukah 4:1), the basic mitzvah is that the head of the household kindle one candle each night for the entire household. If he is a mehader, then he is obliged to light one candle each night for each member of his household, including females, but excluding minors. Thus, for a family consisting of a father, mother, two sons after bar-mitzvah, two daughters after bat-mitzvah and one infant, the head of the household would kindle six candles each night. According to the Rama (Orach Chaim 671:2), each member of the family by himself lights one candle each night of Chanukah.

If they are mehadrin min hamehadrin, the Rambam rules that according to Beit Shammai one continuously decreases the amount of candles. Thus, on the first night one would kindle eight candles for each member of his household and on the seventh night one would kindle seven candles for each member of the household. According to Beit Hillel it is the reverse — one candle on the first night and eight on the last night for each member of the household.

According to Tosafot, the basic mitzvah is one candle each night for the entire household. The mehadrin light one candle each night for every member of the household, and the mehadrin min hamehadrin perform the basic mitzvah of one kindling for the entire family in an enhanced way. Thus, according to Beit Shammai the head of the household lights eight candles on the first night for the entire family and decreases each night of the succeeding nights of Chanukah. According to Beit Hillel the head of the household lights one candle on the first night for the entire household and continuously increases the number of candles each succeeding night. Ultimately, on the eighth night, the mehadrin min hamehadrin kindle a total of eight candles for the entire household, according to Beit Hillel.

Hence, according to Tosafot, mehadrin min hamehadrin is not a third level of performance rather, another way to be mehader in the basic mitzvah of one kindling for the entire family.

It is interesting to note that the Sefardic Jews conduct themselves according to Tosafot, an Ashkenazic authority, and the Ashkenazic Jews conduct themselves on Chanukah according to the interpretation of mehadrin min hamehadrin of the Rambam, a sefardi codifier, as modified by the Rama. Hence, each member of the household lights his own Chanukah candles and following the opinion of Beit Hillel, one continuously increases the number of candles each night.

(באר היטב סי' תרע"א ס"ק ג, ועי' בהמועדים בהלכה)


"בית שמאי אומרים...פוחת והולך בית הלל אומרים...מוסיף והולך"
“According to Beit Shammai, the first night we light eight candles, and we decrease by one each night. According to Beit Hillel, the first night we light one candle, and we increase each night by one.” (Shabbat 21b)

QUESTION: What is the basis of their dispute?

ANSWER: They are disputing which has greater significance, the potential (בכח) or the actual (בפועל). Beit Shammai holds that the potential is more significant. The miracle of Chanukah took place over a period of eight days. Immediately, on the first day the oil had the potential to last for eight days. Each succeeding night this potential was reduced; i.e. on the first night the oil miraculously was able to last for eight, and the second day it was able to last for seven days, etc. Therefore, to emphasize this aspect of the miracle, we decrease by one each night.

According to Beit Hillel, priority is given to the actual miracle. After the first night, the Jewish people witnessed a miracle of the oil lasting one night, on the second night, they witnessed a miracle of two nights, etc.; therefore we increase one candle because in actuality, the visible miracle increased from night to night.

(לקוטי שיחות ח"ו ע' 73)


"בית הלל אומרים יום ראשון מדליק אחת מכאן ואילך מוסיף והולך ... חד אמר טעמא דבית הלל כנגד ימים היוצאין... וחד אמר ... דמעלין בקדש ואין מורידין"
Beit Hillel says, ‘The first night light one and add one more each succeeding night...’ One reason is that it corresponds to the days that passed... (another reason is that) in matters of holiness, one should always increase and not decrease.” (Shabbat 21b)

QUESTION: What is the halachic difference between the two approaches to explain the opinion of Beit Hillel?

ANSWER: One difference may be as follows: When someone possesses very limited resources, and on the second night of Chanukah lights only one candle, if on the third night he has sufficient resources, how many should he kindle?

According to those who assert that Beit Hillel’s opinion is based on the days that passed, he would have to light three candles. According to the explanation that it is necessary to increase in holiness and not decrease, it would be sufficient to light only two candles, since the night before he lit only one.

Another difference would be in the event that on the third night of Chanukah one had resources sufficient only for two candles, how many should he light? If the reason for Beit Hillel’s opinion is that it corresponds to the days that passed, the one who does not have three candles for the third night, will light only a single candle in order to fulfill the basic obligation of lighting a candle each night of Chanukah. According to the other explanation, one would light two candles. Although one cannot accomplish the concept of increasing in matters of holiness, at least he will not violate the command of “ve’ein moridin” — not to decrease in matters of holiness.

(לקוטי שיחות ח"כ)


"והמהדרין... והמהדרין מן המהדרין"
“Those who want to enhance their fulfillment of mitzvot... and those who desire to enhance their observance of mitzvot even further...” (Shabbat 21b)

QUESTION: Why by Chanukah do we not only have mehadrin but also mehadrin min hamehadrin?

ANSWER: Halachically, the entire miracle of finding the single sealed flask of oil was superfluous. In the event that there was no undefiled oil, they could have used tamei — defiled — oil for the Menorah since there is a rule that Tumah hutrah betzibbur”“tumah is permitted in regard of a community.” That is, any tumah restriction interfering with a communal offering can be disregarded or at least hutrah betzibbur — overridden in regard to a community (see Yoma 6b).

Also, the second phase of the miracle that the single flask of oil lasted for eight days was unnecessary because technically they could have used very thin wicks so that only 1/8 of the regular amount of oil would be consumed each night.

Nevertheless, Hashem made the miracle because of his love for the Jewish people. He knew very well that they would not feel comfortable kindling the Menorah with defiled oil.

Knowing also that the Jews would not be happy with a much dimmer light then usual, Hashem made the miracle that enabled them to have regular wicks and thus produce a flame in its full glow for the entire eight days until a new supply of oil was available.

Consequently, because of the two miracles Hashem made so that we can have two hiddurim — enhancements — of the mitzvah, we commemorate this by kindling our Menorah in a way of mehadrin min hamehadrin — with two levels of embellished mitzvah observance.

(בית הלוי, ועי' לקוטי שיחות ח"ל ע' 308)


"מצות נר חנוכה נר איש וביתו... והמהדרין מן המהדרין... בית הלל אומרים מוסיף והולך"
“According to halachah it is sufficient to light one candle each night throughout Chanukah for the entire household. Those who are mehadrin min hamehadrin — extremely careful in performing mitzvot — follow Beit Hillel and add one candle each night.” (Shabbat 21b)

QUESTION: Why, in regard to lighting the Menorah, do all homes conduct themselves in the manner of mehadrin min hamehadrin — supremely scrupulous — while in many other mitzvot they follow lesser halachic requirements?

ANSWER: In describing the miracle of Chanukah, the Gemara relates that the Jews found only one flask of oil and that it had the seal of the Kohen Gadol. In the Beit Hamikdash there were Kohanim assigned to the special task of making oil. It was not the responsibility of the Kohen Gadol to make oil. Why then did this particular flask bear the Kohen Gadol’s seal?

The Kohen Gadol was required to bring twice daily, a meal-offering consisting of flour and oil, known as “chavitei Kohen Gadol” (Vayikra 6:15). Normally, the oil used for this meal-offering as well as any karban minchah — meal-offering, would be of lower quality than that used for the kindling of the Menorah (Shemot 27:20, Rashi). However, the Kohen Gadol of that time was a highly distinguished spiritual personality, and a mehader bemitzvot — scrupulous in mitzvot — who used pure olive oil for his daily sacrifice.

When the Hasmoneans entered the Beit Hamikdash, they did not find any oil to kindle the Menorah. Luckily they found one flask which was designated for the Kohen Gadol’s daily meal-offering, and, to their utter amazement, it was pure olive oil. Were it not for the fact that this Kohen Gadol was a mehader bemitzvot, no pure olive oil would have been available. To emphasize the uniqueness of the Kohen Gadol at that time, we emulate his actions in the form of mehadrin min hamehadrin.

(ר' אברהם מרדכי זצ"ל מגור ועי' מלא העומר)


"נשים בהדלקת נר חנוכה"
“Women and Chanukah kindling”

QUESTION: Why is it not the custom for the women or girls in the household to kindle their own Menorah?

ANSWER: The wife does not kindle because of the rule that ishto kegufo — the wife is considered as a part of the husband’s body. Therefore when he kindles his Menorah, it includes her too. Since married women are not required to kindle the Menorah, also unmarried girls living with their parents don’t kindle. Thus, the rule of doing mitzvot because of chinuch — training and practice — does not apply to girls under Bat Mitzvah living in their parents home.

(שו"ת שער אפרים סי' מ"ב, אליהו רבה סי' תרע"א, ועי' ספר המנהגים חב"ד ע' 69, ומשמרת שלום סי' מ"ח)

* * *

Alternatively, the Sages originally required that Chanukah candles be placed “al petach beito mibachutz” — “by the doorway of one’s house, from the outside” (Shabbat 21b), so that they would be visible to the passersby on the street.

Based on King David’s statement “Kol kevudah bat melech penimah” — “The very honor of a princess is within (Psalms 45:14) — the Gemara (Yevamot 76b) concludes that just as the honor and dignity of a princess requires that she remain in her palace and not go outside and mingle with the common folk, likewise, Jewish women should emulate the dignified behavior of a princess and remain in their tents.

Hence, for Jewish women to stand on the outside and kindle the Menorah is not compatible with modest behavior expected of them. Thus, when the mitzvah of kindling was first instituted and the mehadrin did their own kindling, the women refrained from kindling the Menorah by themselves and relied on the kindling done by their husbands. Consequently, they continue to do so even now though it is kindled inside the home. However, a woman living alone, has no other alternative and is obligated to kindle a Chanukah Menorah in her home.

(חתם סופר עמ"ס שבת דף כ"א ע"ב ועי' נטעי גבריאל)


"קטן שהגיע לחינוך צריך להדליק גם כן"
“A minor who reached the stage of education must also kindle.” (Orach Chaim, Rama 675:3)

QUESTION: How many candles should a minor kindle on each succeeding day after day one? Does he add an additional candle each night or not?

ANSWER: The Mishnah Berurah (675:3) writes, “Though there are opinions that he cannot be motzi — help others fulfill the mitzvah with his kindling — nevertheless, since he reached the age of education, he should light for himself. However, it appears to me that for the minor there is no need to be so stringent and only one candle each night is sufficient.”

One may wonder, if so, why do all minors kindle an additional candle each night?

The Gemara (Shabbat 21b) says that through kindling one candle each night for the entire family one fulfills the mitzvah. However, there are mehadrin — those who desire to enhance their performance of Hashem’s commandments in an embellished way — and mehadrin min hamehadrin, those who do so in an even more embellished way.

From the pasuk “Zeh Keili ve’anveihu” — “This is my G‑d and I shall glorify Him” (Shemot 15:2) — the Gemara (Shabbat 133b) derives that one is required to beautify a mitzvah. The Gemara (Bava Kamma 9b) explains that for the beautification of a mitzvah one must spend up to a third of the sum spent on the mitzvah itself. (For example, if one has a choice to buy one of two etrogim, he must spend up to one third more to buy the more beautiful one.)

In analyzing the ideas of mehadrin as it applies to Chanukah, one might wonder whether this is the same idea as hiddur mitzvah — beautification of a mitzvah. If so, Chanukah is an exception and exceeds the rule of “up to a third” because when one lights two candles the second night the hiddur is actually one hundred percent. (Rabbeinu ChananeilShabbat 21b — draws a parallel between the two.) Or should we say that it is entirely not connected: in the case of the etrog, the hiddur — enhancement — is in the etrog — the cheftza — the item of the mitzvah — i.e. a nicer etrog as opposed to an ordinary one. In the case of Chanukah, however, the hiddur relates to the gavra — the person — i.e. it is another category of how some people fulfill the mitzvah of kindling the Chanukah lights.

A difference between these two approaches has consequences for the case of a minor. If we should say that mehadrin is merely a beautification of the item of the mitzvah per se, then one is not required when training his young son to also train him in hiddur. Thus, the father buys a beautiful etrog for himself and for his son whom he is training he suffices with teaching him the essential mitzvah and buys him a kosher but not hadar etrog. Similarly, for Chanukah, the father should teach the son the basic mitzvah of Chanukah candle lighting, which is that the son light one candle each night (so that when he will be a head of a household he will know the basic mitzvah) and he is not required to go through the expense of using more oil or candles to train him to do the mitzvah in an enhanced way.

Supposing we say, however, that mehadrin and mehadrin min hamehadrin of Chanukah is not the same concept as hiddur mitzvah; rather it is the method used by the people who pursue mitzvot. Then, it is proper for a father to teach his son to light additional candles each night so that when he becomes of age he will be a person who pursues mitzvot.

(עי' משנה הלכות ח"ז סי' פ"ה, ועי' לקוטי שיחות ח"כ ע' 208)

* * *

Alternatively, there is a question concerning one who lit seven candles on the eighth night and realized that he forgot to make the berachah of “lehadlik”: Can he still make the berachah before lighting the eighth candle, or do we say that one performs the basic mitzvah by lighting only one candle each night? (In the latter case, after the first is lit, the remainder are only considered hiddur mitzvah and a berachah is not recited over hiddur mitzvah.)

Regarding the halachah of hiddur mitzvah there is a chakirah — analytical speculation — concerning whether the hiddur mitzvah becomes a part of the mitzvah. One possibility is that it is a part of the mitzvah being performed but it is preferable and not obligatory, and another is that it is a separate entity. In the latter case the mitzvah involves the primary action, and hiddur mitzvah is a mitzvah keloli — an additional separate halachah that all mitzvot should be done behiddur. Thus, when doing a mitzvah behiddur. one fulfills two mitzvot: 1) the specific mitzvah in question and 2) the general mitzvah of beautifying a mitzvah, which is derived from “zeh Keili ve’anveihu” (Shabbat 133a).

Now if we accept the view that the hiddur is a part of the mitzvah, one would make a berachah even if only hiddur is done, since it is still part of the essential mitzvah. However, if it is a separate addition to the mitzvah, then one should not make a berachah because a berachah is made only for fulfilling the actual mitzvah, and not for the “additional” mitzvah of hiddur mitzvah.

Thus, the question of how many candles a minor who is lighting because of chinuch should light on every night after the first would be contingent on the above-mentioned speculation: If the hiddur mitzvah becomes a part of the mitzvah itself, then the minor who is being taught to perform the mitzvah should do it with hiddur and thus add a candle each night.

However if it is not part of the actual mitzvah, but rather a separate halachah that a mitzvah should be performed in a beautiful manner, then the obligation on the father is only to teach his son to perform all the 613 mitzvot, including mitzvot which are of Rabbinic origin. He is thus not obligated to train him in the separate matter of hiddur mitzvah, and the minor should only light one candle each night as training for fulfilling the mitzvah to light Chanukah candles.

(מחצית השקל ופרי מגדים סי' תרע"ו לבוש ופר"ח סי' תרע"ב, שפת אמת עמ"ס שבת, גבורת יצחק סי' ח')