Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The extra Hanukkah candle

Hanukkah time! Now that it gets dark around 5pm, it feels like the holiday is just around the corner, even though it's over six weeks away. But if you learn Daf Yomi, it's already here! It starts on Shabbat 21!

This post is based on shi'urim that Rav Reuven Taragin gave at Camp Moshava IO during the summer of 2010.

Rava on 21b says that you need "another lamp" in addition to the Hanukkah nerot:

אמר רבא: צריך נר אחרת להשתמש לאורה.

The continuation (by Rava himself?) discusses exceptions:

ואי איכא מדורה - לא צריך, ואי אדם חשוב הוא, אף על גב דאיכא מדורה - צריך נר אחרת.

What is the purpose of this ner aheret?

From the words להשתמש לאורה, it sounds like its purpose is to have a lamp for mundane use, because use of the nerot themselves is forbidden. And so Rabbeinu Hananel writes that the ner aheret is "לתשמישו." And so the Rambam seems to reason as well, Hilkhot Megillah ve-Hanukkah 4:8:

בימי הסכנה מניח אדם נר חנוכה בתוך ביתו מבפנים ואפילו הניחו על שולחנו דיו, וצריך להיות בתוך הבית נר אחר להשתמש לאורו, ואם היתה שם מדורה אינו צריך נר אחר, ואם אדם חשוב הוא שאין דרכו להשתמש למדורה צריך נר אחר.

Note that both Ra"H and the Rambam limit Rava to the context of the previous line about persecution, when people light their nerot inside. Inside is where you're going to be tempted to use them. And to drive that context in, they write "וצריך" instead of our girsa, "צריך."

But not all mefareshim understand Rava to be concerned with tashmish. The Hagahot ha-Gera goes so far as to edit the words "להשתמש לאורה" out of Rava's statement.

Rashi writes:

נר אחרת - לעשות היכר לדבר.

The purpose of the ner aheret is to serve as a sign that these nerot are special. Rashi might infer this from the adam hashuv in the continuation, who would not have a hekker from the medurah, as Rashi notes there. Rashi also explains the issur of tashmish as "שיהא ניכר שהוא נר מצוה," near the top of the amud.

The Ran (on the Rif) also sides with hekker, but goes even further:

נראה לי דנהי דרבא מודה דאסור להשתמש לאורה וכיון שכן פשיטא דצריך נר אחרת הכא ה"ק דאף על גב דבשעת הסכנה כיון דמניחו על שולחנו על כרחו משתמש לאורה אפילו הכי צריך נר אחרת לעשות היכרא בדבר.

Paraphrased: it's obvious that you need another light for your own use—so the hiddush of Rava is that even when the nerot are on your table, and thus you will inevitably use them, you should still put a hekker there to distinguish them.

Rav Taragin noted that the Ran only makes sense according to the interpretation that use of the nerot is bizzuy, degrading, which is in fact his shittah. If the reason for not using them is kedushah, as the Ba'al ha-Me'or implies for one man de-amar, then a hekker doesn't fix your use of nerot.

I also think that the Ran has a pretty strong objection to the explanation of the ner aheret as being for tashmish. If it's one extra candle next to eight nerot, most of the light you're using is clearly from the nerot!

The Shulhan Arukh codifies this halakhah in the second half of O"H 671:5:

ובשעת הסכנה שאינו רשאי לקיים המצוה, מניחו על שלחנו ודיו, וצריך נר אחר להשתמש לאורו; ואם יש מדורה א"צ נר אחר; ואם הוא אדם חשוב שאין דרכו להשתמש לאור המדורה, צריך נר אחר.

Then he brings it again, as a minhag, in 673:1:

ונוהגים להדליק נר נוסף, כדי שאם ישתמש לאורה יהיה לאור הנוסף שהוא אותו שהודלק אחרון, ויניחנו מרחוק קצת משאר נרות מצוה.

Apparently today's common custom of having an extra ner, which we call a shamash, comes from this latter minhag and not Rava.

The Rema on 673:1 gives his custom:

ובמדינות אלו אין נוהגים להוסיף, רק מניח אצלן השמש שבהן מדליק הנרות, והוא עדיף טפי, ויש לעשותו יותר ארוך משאר נרות, שאם בא להשתמש ישתמש לאותו נר (מרדכי).

That's the earliest source I've seen that calls it a shamash. Note the Rema's response to the Ran's question: make sure the shamash is brighter. But that seems even worse to me, as it confirms the premise that the ner aheret and the nerot are competing, quantitatively, to give you light. And I don't see how the shamash could win against a whole row of nerot. The Magen Avraham adds that making the shamash a little taller also works. I can understand how these ideas create hekker, but I don't see how they prevent actual tashmish of the nerot. Tsarikh iyyun.

Some other possible nafka minah’s between hekker and tashmish: Which do you light first, the ner aheret or the nerot? Do you have to put the ner aheret right next to the nerot? Do you still need it if the room is lit by lightbulbs? Do you need it in shul?

Update 10/28/2012: The sufganiyyot have arrived at the bakeries in Israel! All my American friends who have yet to make aliyah...enjoy Halloween.

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