Doing an activity before lighting Chanukah Candles
This is the approved revision of this page, as well as being the most recent.
- When the time to light comes, a person may not eat a meal of more than a ke’beitza of bread or mezonot before lighting, but less than that amount of bread or mezonot is allowed. One may eat other foods, such as fruits, or drinks. Some are strict not to eat a half hour before the time to light. For this law, cake has the same law as bread. 
- Once the time comes to light one shouldn’t learn Torah. 
- For learning Torah if there is a chance that if one stops learning early to go and light that he may not make up the missed learning, many poskim write that it is better for one to continue learning rather than to stop to light candles. 
- Some poskim allow one to learn Hilchot Chanukah because one won’t forget to light. 
- A regular shiur of Torah learning between Mincha and Maariv or after Maariv should continue on Chanukah even if it continues an hour after Tzet. When they finish they should announce that they should light candles. 
- The practice in Israel is that the Avrechim (Semicha students) and Kollel members leave their studies early to pray Mincha, Arvit and then light with their family.  However some hold that it’s preferable to appoint one’s wife to light at the proper time so as not to take away from the regular learning. If that’s not possible one should light after he finishes his regular schedule of learning. Nonetheless if the Avrechim plan on returning to learn at candle lighting then one can interrupt to light at the proper time. 
- Similarly, one may not go to sleep a half hour before the time of candle lighting unless one appoints someone to wake oneself. 
- One should be stringent and avoid other activities even a half hour before lighting begins. 
- According to most poskim, if one became involved in an activity before the half hour period preceding candle lighting he can continue with his work even once the time of candle lighting arrives unless he sees that the time for the mitzvah is passing. If one began his activity during the forbidden time period (either during the half hour preceding candle lighting or after the time for candle lighting has began) he may have to stop. 
- One make not begin a significant activity which take time, however just writing a note is permissible. 
If one began
- Even if one began any of these activities before the time to light candles, one should stop whatever one’s doing, when the time to light comes. 
Those who aren't lighting
- Some say that if a man is coming home late (an hour or more) after the time for lighting and is careful to light when he gets home, his wife and children are permitted to eat.  However, others disagree and hold that someone who isn’t lighting and will fulfill the mitzvah with someone else should also refrain from eating, working, or learning as above unless there’s a need in which case one can be lenient. 
- Mishna Brurah 672:10 quoting the Magen Avraham and Pri Chadash
- Sh”t Maharshal 85, Yosef Ometz Yuzfa 1066, Magen Avraham 672:5, Eliyah Rabba, and Pri Chadash write that one can’t eat before one lights. Machasit HaShekel and Mishna Brurah (Shaar Tzion 672:14) say one should be strict not to eat a half hour before. Maharshal quotes Bach 672 who says that even Rabbenu Yonah who says concerning Bedikat Chametz that one doesn’t have to stop a meal that began when it was permitted would agree by lighting Chanukah candles that are a passing mitzvah, one should stop a meal when the time to light arrives. Ben Ish Chai (Vayeshev 7) and Sh”t Seridei Esh 2:43 also hold that one should interrupt the meal against Sh”t Bet Efraim O”C 63 pg 110:2 who permits continuing. Chazon Ovadiah pg 68 writes that a snack not a Kebetsah just like eating before megilah (Sh”t Yabia Omer O”C 9:67).
- Eishel Avraham 431 quoted by Yalkut Yosef (Kitzur S”A 672:3)
- Sh”t Marharshal 85, Bach 672 s.v. Upasak, Bear Heteiv 672:10, Knesset Hagedolah (Hagahot HaTur), Taz (672:1, Magen Avraham 672:5, Chaye Adam 154:20, and Emek Bracha 71 write that learning is also forbidden when the time for lighting comes against the Erech HaShulchan 672:2. Chazon Ovadiah pg 68, and Sh”t Elef HaMagen 15 write one shouldn’t be strict to stop a half hour early because of Bitul Torah as the Achronim say by Bitul Chametz (Mishna Brurah 431:7). Halichot Yosef pg 254 says this is implied from the Maharshal, Bach, and Chaye Adam but not the Machasit HaShekel. However Doleh UMashkeh of Rav Kenievsky, and Kuntres Piskei Shmuot pg 86 say not to learn even a half hour before the time.
- Rav Soloveitchik’s (MePeninei HaRav p. 188-9) opinion was to follow the Mieri (Shabbat 21b) who writes that the minhag was to continue learning during the regularly scheduled seder and only light candles afterwards. Rav Ovadia Yosef (Chazon Ovadia p. 75) agrees. Nonetheless, Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Halichot Shlomo p. 296) writes that those who are learning their regular sedarim should end early to go and light candles at home at the proper time.
- Orchot Rabbenu Chanukah 3:51 brings proof from S”A 275:7 that one can learn Bameh Madlikin by the light of the fire, but is unsure whether one needs to appoint a person to remind you to light. Similarly, Sh”t Mekadesh Yisrael (Chanukah 23) who brings a proof from Pesachim 11a that someone involved in Bedika won’t eat the Chametz.
- Torat HaMoadim 4:7, Yalkut Yosef (Moadim pg 211), Mekor Chaim 672, Pekudat Elazar 672 pg 62d, Ner Mitzvah pg 28, Chazon Ovadyah (Chanukah pg 73), and Machzik Bracha 672 hold one should delay lighting for Torah of the many against Noheg KeSoan Yosef (Chanukah 5 pg 185). Since one can light with a bracha even after ‘Tichle Regel’ (S”A 672:2) even though it sounds like it’s Bedieved, because of Bitul Torah of a congregation it’s Lechatchila to light later. The issue of not learning when the time comes for lighting is only so that one doesn’t forget to light but a congregation won’t forget and will remind each other. Chazon Ovadyah brings proof from Meiri and Sefer Meorot on Shabbat 21b who write that the Yeshivot in France would continue learning and only light when they finished learning half-way into the night. [Similar idea by Bedikat Chametz that permits it after the time comes is found in Sh”t Maharanach 2:79, Knesset Hagedolah 431, Olat Shabbat 431:2, Shulchan Gavoha 431:6, and Shulchan Aruch HaRav 431. Even though Kesef Mishna says in name of Rambam that a shiur shouldn’t take place after the time for Bedika, Chatam Sofer (Pesachim 431:6) says Kesef Mishna was referring to learning at home but if it was a shiur in shul it’s permitted.]
- Chazon Ovadyah pg 75 testifies to this practice. So writes Rav Shlomo Zalman Aurbach in Halichot Shlomo pg 296 and it’s written about him that he would get angry at Avrechim who continued learning and have their wives light at the appropriate time.
- Some hold (Yalkut Yosef (Kitzur S”A 672:8), Rav Hershel Schachter in YU) based on the Meiri and Sefer Meorot on Shabbat 21b who write that the Yeshivot in France would continue learning and only light when they finished learning half-way into the night. Thus since S”A 671:1 says that lechatchila one should light at Tzet and bedieved one can light all night, because of the issue of Bitul Torah of Rabim one shouldn’t interrupt learning to light at the proper time. Nonethless, Chazon Ovadyah defends the practice (to interrupt to light with their family) because the Avrechim are concerned with Bitul Torah and will learn also at home, and can tell their family about Chanukah when they light.
- Piskei Shemuot pg 99
- Shaar Tziyun 672:14 The Shaar Tziyun also adds that if one generally lights at sunset he need not be strict and stop his learning a half hour before sunset because many opinions hold candle lighting is not until later. See Mishna Brurah 432:7 who writes with regards to Bedikat Chametz that for Torah learning one need not be stringent during the half hour before, and even those who are stringent only do so when one is learning in such a fashion where he is likely to continue learning beyond the half hour.
- Mishna Brurah 70:23 explains that if one incorrectly began an activity during the half hour preceding the time for any deoritta mitzvah or afterwards he must stop once the time for the deoritta mitzvah arrives; however, if one incorrectly began a derabanan mitzvah during the half hour preceding the time for the mitzvah or later he may continue his activity unless he sees that the time for the mitzvah is passing. Nonetheless, there is a great discussion whether this leniency by derabanan mitzvot should apply to Chanukah as well considering the fact that some poskim (including the Rambam Chanukah 4:5) hold that the only time to light is within the half hour after tzet ha’kochavim. Although the Shulchan Aruch 672:2 does not hold like these opinions, they are taken into consideration.
- Mishna Brurah 672:10, Piskei Shemuot pg 97
- Mishna Brurah 672:10
- Chazon Ovadiah pg 68, (quotes Sh”t Nachlat Tzvi Y”D 262 concerning Brit Milah) allows the children and wife to eat.
- Piskei Teshuvot 672:7. However Sh”t Besel HaChochma 4:58, Halichot Shlomo, and Rav Kanievsky (quoted by Halichot Yosef pg 260) say if it’s the Minhag for women not to eat a meal before the lighting. In response, Chazon Ovadiah rules that if there’s not a known Minhag, then one doesn’t have to wait. Similarly, Rav Yacov Kamenetsky in Emet LeYacov 676 says according to the Ashkenaz Minhag, if the children want to eat they can light for themselves.