Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch Haber

Rabbi, Los Angeles, CA

When to Make Havdalah on Chanukah

by | Dec 11, 2009 | 7 comments

Coming into Shabbos Chanukah, one must first light the menorah, and then Shabbos candles. The logic is straightforward – once you have accepted Shabbos you can no longer light the Chanukah candles. It would seem sensible that on Motzai Shabbos the order would be reversed. First make Havdalah and close out Shabbos and then light the menorah. This is however not so simple, as we shall see.

Counter intuitively; the Shulchan Aruch (OC 681:2) simply states that in shul the menorah should be lit before Havdalah is made. The Rema adds that at home one should definitely do so because he has already made Havdalah, and thus ended Shabbos, in Shul. Concurring with the Rema is the Elyah Rabbah, Magen Avrohom, Vilna Gaon, Chemed Moshe, Beis Meir (who brings a proof from the Yerushalmi), and the Yaavetz. In fact the Yaavetz quotes his father, the Chacham Tzvi, as having laughed at those who lit Chanukah candles before Havdalah. He writes that his personal conclusion was that one should indeed light the Menorah first, and in his responsa he refutes the opposing proofs.

The Mishna Berura explains: Although there is a general principle that when presented with two mitzvos one should do the more frequent one first, when it comes to leaving Shabbos we want to delay it as much as possible. The Beis Shearim (OC 396) contrasts this with the idea of ‘zrizim makdimim l’mitzvos’ that one should rush to do a mitzvah to show how beloved it is, so too one should be hesitant to end Shabbos thus showing how precious it is.
The Maharal writes that one should make Havdalah first, out of concern that he may forget to say Havdalah earlier (in the Amidah, or by saying Baruch Hamavdil Bein Kodesh Lchol). He will then wind up lighting the Menorah before he has personally ended Shabbos. Thus, to be safe, one should make Havdalah first. This is also the opinion of the Taz, Malbushei Yom Tov, Pri Chadash and Derech Chaim. Although the Maharal extends his line of reasoning to the Shul lighting as well, the others who concur with him limit it to lighting at home (thereby only arguing with the Rema and not with the Shulchan Aruch).

In response to the Mishna Berura’s explanation that we want to delay leaving the Shabbos the Pri Chadash writes: As soon as one does Melocha such as lighting candles he has de facto ushered out Shabbos and therefore may as well have made Havdalah. The Elyah Rabba responds, that until one makes Havdalah over wine, even if they have recited ‘Boruch Hamavdil’ and done Melocha, there are still remnants of the holiness of Shabbos.

There is an additional rationale to lighting the Menorah first. In theory one can make Havdalah all night, but the Menorah ideally must be lit right when it gets dark. Once the hour is such that people are no longer found in the street, one may very possibly have forfeited the mitzvah to light the Menorah. Therefore, say the Avnei Nezer and the Yaavetz, one should immediately light the menorah before Havdalah.

The Mishna Berura concludes that in Shul one should follow the Shulchon Aruch and light the Menorah first, at home there is Halachic legitimacy to both sides of the argument and either way is alright.

By Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch Haber

Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch Haber is sought after by all who know him for his Halachic and practical advice. His keen ability to put complicated matters into a digestible perspective coupled with his ability to get the facts, make him the perfect blogger to help us all “Do It Right”.


  1. Elisha

    Rav Soloveitchik (quoted in Harrarei Kedem) has a discussion about this topic, but I don’t remember what he says, and I’m too lazy to go look it up.

  2. LES/MTJ

    If you were still in MTJ you wouldnt be so lazy.

    R’ Haber,
    is the order you have given for erev shabbos lightinng only for singles or even for those whos wives normally light the ner shabbos.

  3. golem

    Being Rabbi Haber hasnt answered I can even if we normally would say that to do this would be nichnas ltoch divrei chavairo. The order is only for single girls who are mekabel shabbos with ner shabbos and dont have a man to then be motzei them with ner chanuka. perhaps with this we can say that with regard to havdalah that women dont make only men dothe mechaber wa simply contrasting it and saying you can do the other way.

  4. Tzvi Haber

    I wouldn’t necessarily say that Men can be motzi a woman who was already mekabel Shabbos. Igros Moshe says that a man who was mekabel Shabbos can’t be yotze hadlakos neros. The inverse here may be true as well.
    Therefore I would say that even married people should lechatchila light menorah first. Additionally lechatchila all melacha should be completed by the zman hadlaka.
    I didn’t understand what you were trying to say as pshat in the mechaber.

  5. ralph from manhattan

    R’ Haber,
    Can you please clarify the opinion of the Igros Moshe. The reason given by the Mishna Berura that a woman that was mekabel shabbos is no worse than somebody who sees a ner chanukas seems to be unrefutable. Does R’ Moshe have a different reason? Also a wife is different than a single woman because their obligation is fulfilled through the talmudic dictum of ishto kgufo which would at first glance apply even if she was mekabel shabbos?

  6. U.R

    Just wanted to mention that one is not halachically allowed to do any and all work after Shabos until Havdala is made. So there is a ‘concrete’ essence of Shabos that remains until Havdala is made.

  7. Yehuda

    I have heard from a number of Rabbonim, that since we light Chanukah candles in the house today, the concept of ‘as long as there are people in the shuk’ no longer applies, because the main Pirsumei Neis is for the household. As such, the issue of the time of Havdalah being all night would be true to today for Chanukah candles as well.


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