By Rabbi Chaim Chazzan
A person who is employed and would find it difficult to get home in time to light the menorah at the proper time, may he continue working after nightfall?
There are various activities that one is prohibited from initiating, beginning from half an hour prior to tzeis hakochavim (nightfall) when it becomes time to light the menorah. The reason is because the chachomim were concerned lest a person become engrossed and forget to light the menorah.
It is forbidden to sleep or to eat more than a kebeitza (egg size) of bread or cake. However, drinking non-alcoholic beverages and snacking on fruit and the like is permitted. Likewise, it is forbidden to begin “working” during this time (this includes any form of activity which may cause him to lose sight of the mitzvah at hand, including any form of business, manual labor, or paperwork which can extend into the time for lighting).
However, if one began before a half an hour prior to nightfall, he may continue until it becomes time to light the menorah, at which point it is then preferable to stop and light. Once night falls and it becomes time to light, it is prohibited to learn Torah until lighting.
Lechatchila, a person should endeavor to light on time, but waiting for all the family to be present takes precedent over lighting on time. One who is employed and cannot leave work early enough to light on time, need not interrupt working if he had begun when it was still permissible to work. The reason being that nowadays when we light inside, the main persumei nisa is to our families, thus the allowance for a longer time frame in which one may light, i.e. as long as the family is awake.
It should be noted that while the abovementioned issur begins half an hour before tzeis, the minhag Chabad is to light the menorah subsequent to shkiah.
ב”ח סי’ תרע”ב ד”ה פסק, רמ”א שם סעי’ ב ומ”ב ס”ק י’, ומ”ב סי’ תרצ”ג ס”ק יד, שו”ת מהרש”ל סי’ פה, ספר מאי חנוכה עמ’ ג.
Reprinted with permission from Lmaan Yishmeu – a project of Mercaz Anash. To see more articles visit Mercazanash.com