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Shamash First (Chanukah)

When does one light the ner shamesh – before saying the brocha or after one has lit the ner Chanukah


The official purpose of the shamash (based on the Rema) is to serve the other candles.

In this case (where it serves to light the other candles) it is lit first.

Even if it is not used for lighting the other candles, it serves them in producing a source of light other than the candles. This is important, because it is forbidden to derive benefit from the light of the Chanukah candles, and the additional source of light permits one to derive benefit.

Yet, in this case, the Tur writes that the “last candle” is the extra “shamash” candles. It is lit last, and separately from the other candles.

Some light the shamash before reciting the berachos for the Chanukah candles.

See Orach Chaim 673:1; see also comments below.

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  1. Doesn’t the Mechaber say that the Shamash should be lit last in the source quoted? The Rama says that the minhag of ashkanaz is to use the shamash for lighting the other candles, but in a case where the shamash isn’t used for lighting why shouldn’t we follow the word of the mechaber? Especially on day 1 when the candle is lit to an outsider it looks like one already did the mitzva.

    1. It is true that for a shamash that is not being used to light the candles (which is the type that the Rema is speaking about), the Tur writes that this candle is lit last, and this is implied by the wording of the Mechaber. I have ameded the answer, and thanks for pointing this out.
      A common custom is also to light the shamash first, before the berachos, and I think this is also fine, because it is clearly not the mitzvah, since it is being lit before the berachos are made. Poskim only mention a concern that the shamash should not be placed next to the other candles, so that it looks like one of the mitzvah candles, and not a concern that it should not be lit first because of what onlookers might think.

  2. I noticed you have a link here to another article: “Woman lighting their own menorah” and I simply wanted to point out, that grammatically, “woman” means “one woman”, in the singular, whereas “women” would mean “more than one woman”, I.e. the plural. I have so often heard and read this mistake being made. Also, many people don’t seem to know the correct pronunciation of the word “women”, the “o” producing the short “i” sound.

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