On the first night the three following blessings are recited; on the subsequent seven nights, the third blessing, Shehecheyanu is omitted. The lights are kindled only after all the blessings are recited.

On the first night, we light the candle to the extreme right of the Menorah. On each night, a new candle is added to the left of the previous night’s lights. The newest light is always kindled first, the one to the right second, and so on.

"ברוך... להדליק נר חנוכה"
“Blessed... to kindle the Chanukah light.”

QUESTION: On Shabbat all make the Berachah “lehadlik neir shel Shabbat” — “to kindle the light of Shabbat.” Why don’t all say “shel Chanukah” — “of Chanukah”?

ANSWER: The Chanukah candles are considered holy and therefore are not to be used for any personal pleasure or for illumination. On the other hand, the Shabbat candles are for the purpose of illuminating the home. They assure that shalom bayit — peace in the home — prevail. Thanks to the home being illuminated, one will avoid tripping over obstacles and getting into arguments over who is to blame. Eating the Shabbat meal in a luminous area enhances ones oneg — delight — of Shabbat (Shulchan Aruch HaRav 263:1).

The expression “neir Chanukah,” without the word “shel” — “of” — subtly implies total consecration to the mitzvah of Chanukah, and that it may not be used for any other purpose.

Saying “neir shel Shabbat” implies that the light also has an independent purpose of its own and is not consecrated. True, they are lit in honor of the Shabbat, but they are also lit so that the additional light they produce in the room can be used by the inhabitants to enhance their pleasure and thus experience a delightful Shabbat.

(ברכי יוסף תרע"ו)

Alternatively, the kindling of the Chanukah candles is the only tangible act done in celebrating Chanukah. The lighting of the Shabbat candles, however, is only one of many practices which are done in connection with celebrating Shabbat (e.g. Kiddush, Shabbat meal, etc.). Hence, by saying “neir Chanukah” (without “shel), we are accentuating that “neir” — “candle” — is the essence and only action of Chanukah. On Shabbat, however, one adds the word “shel” because the candle is not the only dimension and essence of the Shabbat; rather it is one aspect among the many, aspects of Shabbat.

(מחזיק ברכה לחיד"א הובא בשערי תשובה, תרע"ו)

"ברוך... להדליק נר חנוכה"
“Blessed... to kindle the Chanukah light.”

QUESTION: What message does the wording of the Berachah impart when the word “shel” is omitted?

ANSWER: The Arizal writes in his siddur that during Chanukah the thirteen attributes of mercy “mei’irin” — radiate. Each day one of the thirteen shines and on the eighth day — Zot Chanukah — the balance from notzer chesed — Preserver of Kindness — until venakeih lo yenakeai — Who Absolves, but does not absolve completely — shine.

When we omit the word “shel” from the berachah pronounced for the candle lighting, the berachah contains thirteen words, corresponding to the 13 attributes of mercy that shine during Chanukah.

(שם משמואל)

* * *

Incidentally, the second berachah of “she’asah nisim” which is recited every night of Chanukah also consists of thirteen words. Thus, the two berachot together have a total of 26 words. The holy four letter Name, the Tetragramaton (י-ה-ו-ה), also has the numerical value of 26 and connotes His mercy. With the 26 words in the two berachot we are indicating that all the events of Chanukah were thanks to His mercy for his dedicated servants and we thank Him profusely for it.

(כף החיים סי' תרע"ו בשם קב הישר)

* * *

Alternatively, on Chanukah we light thirty six candles and eight shamashim, a total of forty four candles. Since the Zohar (1:77b) says that when there is an itaruta deletata — an awakening from below — it evokes an itaruta dele’eila — an awakening above, Hashem also, so to speak, kindles forty four candles during Chanukah, bringing the total candles lit to eighty eight. The first letters of the words “lehadlik neir Chanukah” (להדליק נר חנוכה) add up to 88 to allude to this concept.

* * *

The first letters of the words ("להדליק נר חנוכה") “lehadlik neir Chanukah” (ל' נ' ח') are also the first letters of the words “nafsheinu chiktah L’Hashem (נפשינו חכתה לי-ה-ו-ה) — “Our soul longed to Hashem [He is our help and our shield]” (Psalms 33:20). Because of our devotion and longing to Hashem we merited that “hapach (פח) nishbar” — “[the hunters] snare broke” — i.e. the kingdom of Antiochus was broken, “ve’anachnu nimlatnu” — “and we escaped” (Ibid 124:7). In commemoration, below on earth and above in heaven, pach (פח) — 88 — candles are kindled.

(קדושת לוי בדרושים לחנוכה בשם האריז"ל)

"ברוך... להדליק נר חנוכה"
“Blessed... to kindle the Chanukah light.”

QUESTION: Why isn’t the wording of the berachah, “Lehadlik neir shel Chanukah?”

Answer: During the Chanukah candle lighting Hashem reveals a radiance in the world which resembles the great radiance the world will enjoy in the Messianic era. The words “lehadlik neir Chanukah” ("להדליק נר חנוכה") numerically add up to 518 and im hakolel — counting the statement as one — adds up to 519, as do the words ohr chodosh (אור חדש) — new light.

The berachah was authored without the word “shel,” so that its words would be equivalent to ohr chodosh. This is an allusion that on Chanukah, during the candle lighting, Hashem reveals in the world a semblance of the “new light” which will shine when Mashiach comes.

The reason the words “lehadlik neir Chanukah” themselves have a slightly lower numerical value than the words “ohr chodosh,” is that what is now revealed is only a “me’ein” — a radiance — derived from the light to be revealed in the future, but not the full brilliance that will exist then.

(בני יששכר)

"ברוך... להדליק נר חנוכה"
“Blessed... to kindle the Chanukah light.”

QUESTION: Instead of saying “lehadlik” — to kindle — why don’t we say “al hadlakat neir Chanukah” — “concerning the kindling of Chanukah light” — similar to the blessing for a circumcision, “al hamilah” — “concerning the circumcision”?

ANSWER: There are certain mitzvot that one must perform personally and for which one cannot appoint a sheliach — emissary — to perform it on his behalf. For these mitzvot the berachah is said with a lamed, as in the case of tefillin: “lehaniach tefillin.” Since the father can appoint an emissary to circumcise his son, and the father is not required to personally circumcise his son or to even be present physically at the circumcision, the berachah recited is “al hamilah.”

In reality, the head of the household is not obligated to personally kindle the menorah and recite the berachot. It is permissible for one to appoint a shliach — emissary — to do it on his behalf. Thus, superficially, the berachah should be al hadlokat? Nevertheless, since it is the popular custom to personally light the candles to demonstrate one’s love to Hashem for the miracle He performed on our behalf, therefore, lighting the menorah is in the category of mitzvot which the doer performs alone. Consequently, the berachah is with a lamed (lehadlik), the same as for mitzvot which one cannot delegate to others.

Even in the event if one is away from home and is relying on his host’s candlelighting, nevertheless, he must contribute towards the cost of the oil or candles and hear the host reciting the berachot (Shulchan Aruch 677:1, Mishnah Berurah 4). Thus, Chanukah candle kindling is considered a mitzvah shebegufo — one which must be performed personally and which cannot be delegated to an emissary. Therefore, the berachah recited is “lehadlik” with a lamed.

(ריב"א הובא ברא"ש על פסחים פרק ראשון וז"ל "ולהדליק נר חנוכה אע"ג דאפשר לעשות ע"י שליח אורחא דמילתא הוא שכל אדם מדליק בביתו מפני חביבות הנס", ור"ן הובא שם בקרבן נתנאל)

"ברוך אתה ... להדליק נר חנוכה, שעשה נסים, שהחיינו..."
“Blessed are You ... to kindle the Chanukah light. Who performed miracles, Who has kept us alive.”

QUESTION: Where is there a remez — hint — in the Torah for the three blessings recited on the first night of Chanukah, when one kindles the Menorah?

ANSWER: When the people spoke against Hashem and Moshe regarding the redemption from Egypt and the manna, they were bitten by fiery snakes as a punishment. When the people expressed remorse, Hashem instructed Moshe, “Make a burning one [fiery serpent] and place it in a pole and it will be that anyone who had been bitten will look at it and live” (Bamidbar 21:8).

This entire pasuk is a hint for the three berachot; “Asei lecha saraf” — “make a burning one [fiery serpent]” — corresponds to the berachah of lehadlik neir Chanukah — to kindle the Chanukah light.”

“Vesim oto al neis” — “place it upon a neis” — corresponds to the second berachah of she’asah nissim — Who performed miracles. “Vachai” — “and live” — corresponds to the third berachah of Shehecheyanu — who kept us alive.

(מטה משה סי' תתק"פ)