Nov 30, 2006

DIY candles

In Israel it is very common for people to light their menoras (in Israel we call them hanukia) with oil, usually of the olive variety, rather than with candles.

Lighting with olive oil is considered a more mehudar way of fulfilling the mitzva of Hanuka. The light is considered nicer, along with the more similar commemoration of the miracle which happened with olive oil and the menora in the Mikdash was lit daily with olive oil.

The problem with using olive oil is that it is very messy. You have to pur the oil into these little cups. You have to prepare the wicks. You have to soak the wicks a bit in oil so the flame will be a nice one. Basically it is a messy job. Oil is sure to spill and it is sure to get all over your hands, table and likely on your shirt as well.

A number of years ago a product came on the market. This product was meant to deal with the messiness of preparing the oil for the menora. This product is a set of 44 prefilled cups of olive oil with wicks already inserted in the cups. All you do is take out the appropriate number of cups per day, put them in the menora and you are ready to go. No mess. And the flame is beautiful because the wick has been soaking (for a long time) in the oil.

I always rejected using this product. It felt special to actually prepare the wicks myself rather (or have my kids do it). Like I was busying myself with doing the mitzva. I always figured there must be something better about doing it yourself rather than buying it pre-made.

But is it better? I do not know. The past couple of years I have not been so sure. It gets pretty messy. the flame is never as nice. It takes a few times attempting to light it before the flame catches decently. When lighting the menora I always say this is the last time we do this - next year we buy the prepared cups and forget this mess.

Thinking about it, I do not know what is better. Is there something to the thought that busying myself with the mitzva is better, even if it does not come out as nice? Maybe it is still considered nicer because I toiled towards the fulfillment of the mitzva?

Or maybe not. Maybe preparing the candles is not a mitzva at all and it does not matter whether you prepare it by hand or just go buy it already prepared. Maybe spending a bit more money so it comes out cleaner and nicer is better than being "cheap", saving the money, doing it myself and it not coming out as nice.

I am still not sure which way to go, but I am more open to buying it this year than I have been in the past, though still undecided.


  1. I think this is an obvious case of "l'fum tzaarah agra." It's alot like shabbos "mishetarach b'erev shabbos, yochal b'shabs" Don't wuss out and use the prepared ones

  2. I also dread dealing with the oil. Fortunately my kids take care of it now. I don't buy the ready-made ones because of expense and because they are wasteful--all those cups go into the garbage, and they probably use a lot more oil than necessary. But they sure are tempting.

  3. The system stands to profit from your Mitzvah. DIY or die!

  4. ed - that is what I always thought, which is why i did it myself. However thinking about it now, I wnoder if there is any mitzva involved in preparing the wicks. I am not so sure there is. At best it might be a "hechsher mitzva". I do not know if hechsher mitzva gets extra reward or hiddur by going an extra mile. As well, maybe if the premade stuff is nice, maybe paying extra for that is an extra hiddur...

    mother in israel - they are very tempting and more so as I get older....

    sholom - the system stads to profit, but any convenience you buy profits off you. If you pay for delivery, you are convenienced and you pay for it. If you pay for faster service (same day laundry, same day shatnez checkiong,same day whatever) you are convenienced and someone makes money off it. that is the way it works in a cpitalist society. You pay extra for the convenience. You pay mroe in the 7-11 for a bottle of Coke then int he supermarket. So here too you pay more for the premade candles, because it is a convenience. Not necessarily a bad thing...

  5. Cooking for shabbos is also "only" a hecsher mitzvah, but chazal say there's still a reward for it!

  6. See Rabbeinu Dovid on Maseches Pesachim Daf vov or Zayin (I don't have one with me right now), who writes that the main Mitzvah of Chanukah is preparing the wicks and oil!!

  7. good point Ed. IFT thanks - I will look it up

  8. Down with child labor!

  9. thats what makes the world go round!!!

  10. Oh yeah? I'll show you this Shabbos! ::wink wink::

  11. Hello.

    In case you haven't found it.

    It's in Chiddushei Rabbeinu Dovid on Maseches Pesachim, Daf Zayin Amud Beis, S.V. Ulchol Hapirushim.

    His main point there is that one shouldn't light with oil and wicks belonging to others, since the main Mitzvah is to prepare the oil and wicks oneself. However, his reasoning would apply here too.

  12. independat - thanks. I have not yet gotten hold of a chiddushei rabbeinu dovid


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