In the last couple of sections we learned about Havdalah, as we near Chanukah let us try to understand the issues pertaining to the relationship between Havdalah and lighting Chanukah candles on Motzaei Shabat.
It is clear that since lighting candles entails an act of lighting fire, which is prohibited on Shabat, one must first recite Havdalah in Shmoneh Esreh or at the very least say “Baruch hamavdil bein kodesh lechol”. The question that comes up for discussion is whether Havdalah, which is recited with wine, proceeds the lighting of Chanukah candles or should candle lighting take preference? The primary consideration to give preference to Havdalah is the halachik principle of tadir ve-she-eino tadir, tadir kodem, when one is faced with two halachik requirements the more recurrent of the two receives priority over the less common. Using this principle, one would first recite the Havdalah, which is recited weekly, and then light Chanukah candles.
Rav Yosef Karo in his Beit Yosef and in Shulchan Aruch suggests that candle lighting in the Beit Knesset proceed Havdalah since we aspire to delay the departure of Shabat as long as possible. The Rama applies this order to candle lighting and Havdalah at home as well as in the Beit Knesset. The Rama uses a somewhat different reasoning, which may actually contradict the Shulchan Aruch. The reasoning of the Rama is that since one has heard Havdalah in the Beit Knesset precedence should be given to candle lighting.
Both the Shulchan Aruch’s and Rama’s reasoning raise some problems. It is difficult to say that we are extending Shabat when we have declared its’ conclusion in tefila and are doing melacha which is prohibited on Shabat. Furthermore, how can we make use of the fire to light candles and only later, during Havdalah, make a Birkat Nehenim on the fire. The Mishna Berura quotes the Peri Megadim who questions the Rama’s reasoning on the premise that most people do not fulfill the requirement of Havdalah in the Beit Knesset, therefore it is irrelevant that Havdalah has been recited in the Beit Knesset.
The reservations to the Beit Yosef’s and the Rama’s rationale lead many authorities to rule that Havdala should proceed candle lighting. Yet others follow the ruling of the Shulchan Aruch and Rama using different reasons than those presented by the Shulchan Aruch and Rama. (For a broad list of opinions in both directions see the Beiur Halacha OC 681) A third group of halachic authorities feels that in the Beit Knesset Chanukah candles should be lit first and only then should Havdalah be recited. At home the order should be reversed commencing with Havdalah and proceeding on to candle lighting.
As has been previously stated, those who feel that Havdalah should receive priority over candle lighting establish themselves on the principle of tadir ve-sh-eino tadir, tadir kodem. Those who would light before reciting Havdala, but do not accept the reasoning of the Beit Yossef, do so on a principle of pirsumei nissa adifa, the publicizing of the miracle gives candle lighting a priority. This logic is used by the Shulchan Aruch to explain the priority given to purchasing a candle for Chanukah to buying wine for Kidush on Shabat. (See also Rama OC 684\2 and the Mishna Berura section 8 on choice of Haftara)
One possible understanding of the opinion that differentiates between the order in the Beit Knesset and at home is that Havdalah should fundamentally be recited before candle lighting. Non- the- less, in the Beit Knesset they allow lighting before Havdalah since a public custom which has been accepted (lighting candles before Havdalah) should not be changed. On the other hand at home, individually, one should do what is more in accordance with halachic rules. The other possibility is that they are of the opinion, that halachic reasoning calls for giving priority to candle lighting in Beit Knesset and to Havdalah at home.
One explanation for distinguishing between candle lighting in a Beit Knesset and at home is suggested by the Aruch Hashulchan (OC 281\2). In the opinion of the Aruch Hashulchan the primary consideration is giving priority to the more common, even when there is an issue of publicizing a miracle. Therefore, at home we commence with Havdalah and proceed to candle lighting. At the Beit Knesset due to the large public we have a unique situation of a broad publication of the miracle of Chanukah which supersedes the priority of the more common. Therefore we light at the Beit Knesset before reciting Havdalah.
Rav Soloveitchik offers a somewhat different explanation. (see Harerei Kedem section165) In light of a more general understanding that a public lighting of Chanukah candles needs to be in the framework of a Tzibur fit for tefila betzibur, the Rav suggests that Havdalah is the concluding stage of the gathering of a tzibur for tefila on Motzaei Shabat. Therefore candle lighting needs to be preformed before the tzibur disburses, namely before havdalah.
In practice, most authorities agree that in the Beit Knesset the lighting of Chanukah candles should proceed Havdalah and differ as to what should be done at home. Therefore, as the Mishna Berura writes, at home either practice is acceptable in accordance with family or local custom.