I am a teacher. On Chanukah, our school finishes early in the afternoon, allowing us time to kindle the menorah at the preferred time. My wife, however, will only return from work a couple of hours later. Should I light my menorah on time, or should I wait until she comes home?

If I light on time, it is likely that by the time my wife comes home, my menorah will no longer be alight. Does my wife light menorah again and make her own blessing?

If I do wait for my wife to come home, may I eat before lighting menorah?


It is true that the lighting of menorah should ideally take place early in the evening. Some rabbinical authorities, or poskim, understand this to be right after sunset. Others say that the correct time is when three stars appear. Either way, the rationale is that early evening is when people would still be walking the streets. The menorah, lit at the doorpost to the outside, will publicize the miracle to the passing pedestrians. Lighting the menorah later would fail to communicate our celebration to the world outside.

But—going back to the Middle Ages—circumstances changed, and we no longer light our menorahs on the street. Instead, the menorah is now lit indoors, and our primary audience is our own family. The focus now is to remind our close ones of the amazing miracles wrought by G‑d during the period of the Second Beit Hamikdash.

This change of the menorah’s location brought with it greater flexibility with the timing. The Menorah should be lit at night, when the family is together.1 So, you should forgo lighting at the preferred time, and wait instead until your wife’s return home.

An added thought: At the end of The Lawsof Chanukah, the Rambam writes that one who can afford either Shabbat candles or Chanukah candles, should prioritize the Shabbat candles. The reason is that Shabbat candles engender sholom bayit, harmony in the home. This is seen as a greater value than pirsumei nisa, publicizing G‑d’s miracles.

As with other mitzvot, such as lulav, we don’t eat a meal before we’ve performed the mitzvah. So, while you’re waiting patiently, you shouldn’t eat bread, nor an amount of “mezonot larger than an egg. But eating other foods is not restricted.2


If someone is on the road and unable to light the menorah until very late, may they eat while traveling?


Ideally, they should restrict their intake to non-grain-based foods or mezonot that is less than an egg-bulk. If they need to eat a proper meal, they may do so, provided that they appoint someone to remind them to light menorah upon arrival.3


What if we do not want to wait until she (or another member of the household) returns home since it will be late at night and people will want to eat dinner? Can we light without that person? If so, what do they do upon arriving home after the menorah has finished burning?


The primary mitzvah here is to kindle the menorah, but there is also the aspect of seeing the lit menorah. When the head of the house lights the menorah, he has covered all members of his home for this mitzvah. But he can’t see the menorah on behalf of anyone else! That’s the reason why it’s important to have the family present when lighting the menorah, as mentioned above.

So, back to our question about someone who’s returning home very late. I have not seen this question addressed in contemporary sources, but I will offer two suggestions:

a) She may be able to be present at the lighting of the menorah early in the evening, at a friend’s house or at a synagogue. By doing so, she has been exposed to the mitzvah of pirsumei nisa, publicizing G‑d’s miracles, for that evening. Actually, this would be true even if she missed the lighting, but saw the menorah alight.

b) Failing that, I would recommend that she has in mind not to fulfill the mitzvah with the lighting taking place at home. She will then be able to light the menorah upon her arrival home with the appropriate brachot.

The above is for general information. Specific queries should be presented to a qualified rabbinic authority.