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Chapter 139:4

4. All oils may be used for the Chanukah lights (1). Nevertheless, the most desirable way of performing the mitzvah ("mitzvah min ha'muvchar") is to use olive oil, similar to the miracle [of Chanukah] in the Beis Hamikdash (Temple), which occurred through olive oil.

If olive oil is not easily available, a person should choose another oil whose light is pure and clean. Alternatively, he should use beeswax candles, which also produce a pure light.

Two wicks should not be wound together, because this would resemble a torch. Instead, a single candle should be used. One should not use beeswax from temples of idol worship, because this is considered to be repulsive ("Ma'us").

Similarly, the wicks used for the Chanukah candles may be made from any substance. The most desirable way of performing the mitzvah ("mitzvah min ha'muvchar"), however, is to use cotton. There is no need to use new wicks each night. One may rekindle those used previously until they are burned up.


(1) There are certain inferior oils and wicks that one is not permitted to use for Shabbos candles, because they do not light well. Since the primary purpose of Shabbos candles is for illumination, the Sages feared that one may inadvertently tilt or attempt to fix the flame on Shabbos, in order to improve the light, an act which is prohibited. The Sages did not have the same concerns regarding Chanukah lights, because one is forbidden to use the Chanukah lights for personal use, and therefore, one would not be tempted to fix the Chanukah flames on Shabbos. Another reason that one is permitted to use inferior oils or wicks for the Chanukah lights, is that, as we shall see, once one has lit the Chanukah flames, one has fulfilled the mitzvah, and even if they become extinguished immediately after the lighting, one is not required to rekindle the flame (Of course, one should do one's best to use good quality oil and wicks).


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