Ask the Rabbi

  • Shabbat and Holidays
  • Candle Lighting

Kindling The Chanuka Lights


Rabbi Chaim Tabasky

7 Cheshvan 5767
Shalom, I read in a book of halacha pertaining to Chanuka that the mitzvah of kindling the Chanuka lights is not fulfilled by activating any of the electric light bulbs in an electric Chanukia. Yet I take great pains every Shabbat to avoid "kindling fire" by not activating any electrical device, especially light bulbs. Please explain, in light of the prohibition regarding electrical devices activating on Shabbat, why an electric Chanukiah cannot fulfill the mitzvah of kindling the Chanuka lights. Sources would be most appreciated, and many thanks.
An incandescent electric light is considered "fire" by the vast majority of poskim. A a matter of fact, almost a century ago Rav Chaim Ozer Grodzinsky, the rav of Vilna, recited havdala over an electric light in order to impress upon the people the seriousness of lighting a bulb on Shabbat. Nevertheless, many poskim feel that a bulb is not a "candle" since it does not contain "fuel" and there is no wick. (There is a well known story that once when Rav Moshe Feinstein zatzal was caught in a hotel and unable to light Shabbos candles, he 'lit' a flashlight and made a blessing over it. He used a flashlight which has a battery, constituting fuel in the "candle" as opposed to electricity which has no fuel source in the bulb) Another arguement (Rav Shlomo Zalman Aurbach, zatzal) is that the electric bulb is too dissimilar to the candles of the Beit Hamikdash to be considered "pirsum hanes" -publicizing the miracle- of the miricle of chanuka. If one had no other option there are those who would opt for a bulb, ommitting the Bracha.
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