The Mehadrin Of Chanukah
The Gemara in Shabbos 21b says that there are three levels whereby one can fulfill the obligation of the mitzvah of Chanukah: basic, mehadrin, and mehadrin min hamehadrin. The basic requirement of the mitzvah of Chanukah is to light one candle each night per household. To fulfill the mehadrin level one must light a separate candle for each member of the household every night. In order to fulfill the level of mehadrin min hamehadrin, according to Beis Hillel, one must add one new candle each night, totaling eight candles on the eighth night.
The Rambam and Tosafos have a machlokes regarding this halacha. The Rambam (Hilchos Chanukah 4:1) says that if one wishes to perform the mehadrin min hamehadrin, he should light a candle for every member of his household and add one for each person on each night. Tosafos (Shabbos 21b) says that the halacha of mehadrin min hamehadrin does not encompass the mehadrin level. In other words, when one intends to fulfill the mehadrin min hamehadrin level by adding a candle each night, only the head of the house should light the menorah – not the entire household. Tosafos explains that if the entire household lights their own menorahs, an outsider will not be able to determine what day it is, since too many lit candles may confuse the outsider as to how many people are actually in the house. Therefore, when performing on the mehadrin min hamehadrin level, one does not light a separate menorah for each member of his household.
Regarding this machlokes the Ramah (Orach Chaim 671:2) rules in a similar way to Rambam's ruling – with one variation. The Rambam said that the head of the household lights a separate menorah for each member of his household. The Ramah says that every member should light their own menorah.
The Brisker Rav, in his sefer on the Rambam (Hilchos Chanukah 4:1), explains that the point on which the Rambam and the Ramah disagree is based on a different machlokes. In order to perform a bris milah one must remove a certain amount of the skin. Although one can fulfill the mitzvah by removing the minimal amount, it is preferable (mehadrin) to remove the entire foreskin. If one finished performing the bris having removed the minimal amount of foreskin, there is a machlokes regarding whether he can return to remove more of the foreskin. The Beis Halevi explains that the Rishonim who opine that one cannot revisit to remove more of the foreskin believe that mehadrin can only be performed in the action of the mitzvah. Once the mitzvah is fulfilled, any further actions are not considered part of the mitzvah. Thus one cannot return to remove more of the foreskin, since he has already fulfilled his obligation of the mitzvah.
The Brisker Rav explains that the Rambam is of the opinion that one cannot return to remove more of the foreskin. Therefore, we can assume that he believes that mehadrin can only be performed while one is performing the mitzvah, not after he has fulfilled his obligation. Thus the Rambam rules that in order to fulfill mehadrin, the head of the household must light the candles on behalf of his household. The reason is that if each member would light the menorah individually, once the head of the household lights he has fulfilled the mitzvah and can no longer perform mehadrin. Hence the head of the household should light for each member in order for it to be considered one action of lighting.
The Ramah (Yoreh De'ah 264:5) sides with the Rishonim who say that one can return to remove more of the foreskin. He therefore rules that each member of the household can light individually since even once the mitzvah is fulfilled, one can still perform mehadrin. Alternatively we can explain that the Ramah disagrees with the Rambam regarding the issue that when each individual member lights his own candle, it is considered one action of the mitzvah. So even according to other Rishonim, one can still perform mehadrin.
Reb Shach, in his sefer on the Rambam (Hilchos Chanukah), takes issue with the comparison that the Brisker Rav drew from bris milah. The mehadrin that is associated with the mitzvah of bris milah, and most other mitzvos, is to beautify the mitzvah. For example, regarding the mitzvah of lulav, in order to fulfill mehadrin one must have a nice lulav. It is regarding this form of mehadrin that the Rishonim have a disagreement as to whether it can be performed after one has fulfilled the mitzvah. However, the mehadrin that is associated with the mitzvah of Chanukah is completely different. It is not to perform the same action in a more beautiful manner, but rather it is to do a completely separate action – namely to add more candles. Regarding this form of mehadrin we do not find that any of the Rishonim suggest that one cannot perform mehadrin after the basic mitzvah is fulfilled, since the mehadrin requires a separate action.
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Posted By KH to KollelH blog at 12/23/2011 12:14:00 AM