How Long Do Chanukah Candles Have To Be Lit?

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The Gemara (Shabbat 21b) says the Chanukah candles should be lit with enough fuel to last for the time from nightfall[1] until the people leave the marketplace.[2] The Rif (Shabbat 9b) explains that there was a half hour from nightfall until the people left the marketplace.[3] The Shulchan Aruch 672:2 rules like the Rif and writes that one should make sure to have a half-hour’s worth of fuel.

The question arises whether this amount of fuel should change depending on the time and place. If that is the case, nowadays that people are out in the street until very late in the night, do we have to make sure that the candles stay lit much longer?[4]

In fact, there is a well-known practice of the Griz of lighting with enough oil to last many hours into the night because nowadays there’s people who walk on the streets very late into the night. On the other hand, based on Rishonim, Chazon Ovadia (p. 66) writes that really a half-hour is a fixed period of time set by Chazal and doesn’t change over time.[5] Alternatively, Rav Shternbuch[6] says that we should light so that it should last as long as most stores are open and a lot of people are outside, but we don’t need to be concerned for the individuals who are on the street all night.

Sources

  1. See S”A 672 and Beiur Halacha there whether this refers to Tzeit Hakochavim or Shekiyah.
  2. Even though this is not the only explanation of the gemara, the Rambam (Chanukah 4:5) and S”A 672:2 quote this as halacha.
  3. The Rambam (4:5) and Rosh (2:3) agree.
  4. The Ritva (21b s.v. Ad) points out that this amount of time is not an objective time period, but rather is dependent on the time and place. Seemingly, this discussion doesn’t apply to those who light indoors. See Teshuvot VeHanhagot 2:141 on this point.
  5. Mishna Halachot 4:79 agrees and even suggests that perhaps the half-hour is fixed in terms of the amount of oil, but as to how late one may light it is not fixed.
  6. Teshuva VeHanhagot 2:141 and 6:86