Sunday, December 7, 2008

Electric Menorah?


I am frequently asked, "May one use an electric Menorah?" After all, many authorities consider electricity a form of fire as far as Shabbat is concerned (some authorities only forbid Shabbat use of electricity because of other issues, not associated with fire); could we consider an electric bulb like a Chanukah candle?

The consensus of many authorities is that an electric Menorah does not fulfill the Mitzvah; I have seen the following reasons:

1. At the time we light the Menorah, there must be enough fuel present for the flame to last until half an hour after the stars emerge. Otherwise, one doesn't fulfill the Mitzvah, because the act of kindling isn't an act sufficient to light that long. Electricity doesn't work that way - it is continuously generated. (Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, in Meorei Esh)

2. Flipping a switch, or pressing a button, may be considered an act of indirect lighting (Grama) when one completes the circuit. We require direct kindling, as takes place when one touches a flame to a wick. (Har Tzvi Orach Chaim 143)

3. The whole point is to commemorate the Temple Menorah, which employed fuel and wick. (Dvar Halachah 36)

4. Each flame is supposed to be a single flame, not a Medurah, a "bonfire," since the Temple Menorah had a single flame for each wick. A filament, which arcs horizontally, is called a Medurah. (Tzitz Eliezer I:20:12)

Have a great day,

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