Re: Ritual Purity of Menorahs

Eliezer C Abrahamson (
Thu, 26 Dec 1996 14:40:55 EST

Elliot Gordon wrote:
>The ninth candle [of the Chanukah Menorah] should be higher than the others.

To which I responded:
>I'm not aware of any source for this statement that the shamash should
>be specifically higher, to my knowledge it merely has to be kept
>separate so that it won't be confused with the primary candles.

I have to apologize to Elliot (even though, strictly speaking, what I
said was accurate, I did not know of any source, but this was a result of
ignorance on MY part, not because there wasn't one!). Since the time I
made my T-F post on this subject I have learnt that there definitely IS a
source for placing the shamash higher than the other candles.

In Shulchan Aruch 673:1 the Mechaber (lit. author- refering to R' Yosef
Karo author of the Shulchan Aruch) says that an additional light should
be lit (Note: As the MB (Mishnah Berurah) points out, "additional" is not
refering to the menorah lights, but to the ordinary lights one has in the
house. This is in contrast to the custom mentioned by the Rema'h which
I'll get to in a second.) The Mechaber continues that this additional
candle should be placed at a slight distance (rachok ktzas) from the
menorah. The Rema'h says, "In these countries we do not have the custom
of adding [a candle], rather, we leave the shamash with which we lit the
candles next to them [the mitzvah candles- i.e. the menorah] and this
[practice] is better. And it [the shamash] should be made "longer" (yoser
aruch) than the other candles so that if one comes to use the light he
will will use [the light of] that candle." The MB says regarding the
words "yoser aruch" that since it is *larger* the primary usage is from
it "and so too if it is placed slightly higher than the other candles,
this is also good." While it is obvious that the MB feels that the Rema'h
was not talking about height but size, nevertheless, it is clear that
some distinction is necessary and height is a valid method of making
that distinction. Indeed, the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 139:14 simply says,
"...and is necessary to place it [the shamash] slightly higher than the
other candles..." and does not mention any other option!

So it is fairly obvious that the standard practice of placing the shamash
higher is firmly based in the sources, though making the shamash larger
should be equally good (possibly better since it is mentioned in the
Rema'h whereas height is not, though we'd still have to explain why the
KSA only mentions the height option).

Again, I apologize to Elliot for implying that he was incorrect and I
will try to avoid such errors in the future.

Eliezer C. Abrahamson
176 East 9th St., Lakewood, NJ 08701
(908) 905-6877 e-mail: