Ask the Rov: Do I need to have a menorah, or can I just light separate lights on a surface? And is a silver menorah better?
By Rabbi Chaim Hillel Raskin – Rov of Anash, Petach Tikvah
Chazal learn from the posuk “zeh keili v’anveihu – this is my G-d and I will beautify Him,” that one should beautify mitzvos by buying beautiful mitzva items such as tzitzis, lulav, and the like. The Gemara says this even calls for wrapping a sefer Torah in beautiful silk fabric.1
One should be mehader to the best ability to have a nice menorah, as this beautifies the mitzva and displays one’s cherishment for it.2 Poskim write that it is optimal to have a gold or silver menorah, and then the order of preference is metal, glass, or wood.3
But is it necessary to have a menorah at all? Or is it possible to place candles or cups of oil and light them?
According to some, there must be a freestanding base to the menorah—and if you attach the candles to the wall, or carve receptacles in a potato, this does not fulfill the obligation.4 However, the majority of poskim make no mention of the need for a base, and the implication is that it’s not needed.5
When using a silver menorah, some insist on putting the oil in the silver and not in glass cups. They argue that if one uses cups, the menorah is not a part of the mitzvah and is not a hiddur.
However, others argue that according to the opinion that a base is necessary, the silver menorah serves an important and primary role. This is especially true when the glass cups have a protrusion on the bottom and are incapable of standing on their own at all. Moreover, even according to the view that a base isn’t needed, a receptacle isn’t halachically necessary either (e.g. with candles), and the glass cups are no more a part of the mitzva than the silver base.
In practice, while some are mehader to light in the silver, there is no problem to use glass cups as they are nullified to the menorah that they service,6 their entire purpose is to be in the menorah,7 and they provide a better view of the oil and flame to the onlooker.8
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