Kosher Oil, Wicks, and Candles for Chanuka
This is the approved revision of this page, as well as being the most recent.
The Oils that are Kosher
- It is preferable to light with olive oil because that was the oil used in the Beit Hamikdash which with the miracle occurred. If one doesn’t have oil, one can use wax. Some specifically use wax candles because they burn brightly.
- If one can’t afford to get olive oil for all of the candles, one should get olive oil for the one of mitzvah and light the rest with other oil. If that’s not affordable, one should light the one of mitzvah with olive oil and the rest with wax. If that’s not affordable one should light all them with wax. It’s preferable to light every night with the number of that night with wax candles than to light one every night with olive oil.
- Where multiple Menoros are being lit, one Menorah may contain oil and the others candles.
- Where necessary, one may use oil one day and candles the next 
- Someone involved in sticking wax candles to the Chanukia and then finds oil, should switch to use oil. If one started the bracha on the wax candles one can’t switch to oil.
- Oils that spoiled that are inedible are unfit, unless it’s inedible because it’s bitter and it’s not spoiled is fit just like wax which is fit even though it’s inedible.
- All wicks and oils are kosher for Chanukah candles even the wicks and oils that are unfit for Shabbat candles such as wicks of cotton, hair or silk, and oils of castor oil or pitch (See Hilchot Shabbat Candles), which the wicks don’t draw well from the oil.
- On Friday afternoon if one puts in the exact measure required, enough oil for a half hour after Tzet, he can use the unfit wicks and oils (wicks and oils unfit for Shabbat candles). However if he puts in a lot of oil to last longer than the half hour after Tzet, he may not use the unfit wicks and oils (wicks and oils unfit for Shabbat candles).The Shamash on Friday afternoon can’t be lit with the unfit wicks and oils.
- Some have the Minhag to add some water to the oil as long as the wick is immersed in the oil so that it’s able to light. 
- One is allowed to light with oil of the Shemittah year. 
- Chanukah oil that was left under a bed should preferably not be used for Chanukah candles but if there’s no other oil available one can use that oil. 
- Oil which is inedible, according to most opinions is totally fit and permissible to be used for Chanukah candles, however, some say that it’s preferable to use edible oil. 
- Some say that using congealed solid olive oil has the added level of using olive oil, while some say it isn't the highest level.
- One can’t use an electric light (because it lacks oil and wick) or a gas flame (because it lacks a wick) for Chanukah candles. If one has nothing else one should turn it on without a bracha (whether one can get benefit from it, see later on).If one later gets a candle he should light with a bracha. According to some Ashkenazic poskim he can even recite a bracha.
The wicks that are Kosher
- All wicks are Kosher for lighting candles and it’s preferable to light with cotton or linen wicks.
- One doesn’t need to replace the wicks until it’s used up. Some specifically don’t because wicks already lit catch faster, but some replace them as a reminder of the wicks in the Bet HaMikdash.
- A candle with two wicks counts for two candles. Nowadays when everyone lights according to the number of the night someone seeing a candle with two wicks will think it’s the second night and so it can’t be used for two people. One can be lenient nowadays to light on two sides of a chanukia for two people.
- One can light oil candles with wicks that are covered with wax and it is considered as though one lit with oil.
Chanukia For Chanukah Candles
- Preferably, one should use a chanukia and not just stick wax candles on top of a counter and light them as such. 
- Yalkut Yosef Hilchot Chanukah (Hebrew 5773)
- Chanukah: Olive Oil, Wax Candles and More by Rabbi Shay Schachter
- There is a dispute in the Gemara (Shabbat 21b) whether the oils that are invalid for Shabbat are also invalid for Chanuka. The Rambam (Chanukah 4:6), Tur and Shulchan Aruch O.C. 673:1 rule that they are Kosher for Chanuka, even if not for Shabbat. Tosfot (Shabbat 23a, s.v. MeReish Hava), Orchot Chaim (Chanukah 7), Roke’ach 226, Kol Bo 44, Manhig, Hagahot Maimon (Chanukah 4:5), Meiri (Shabbat 21a,23a), and Mordechai 268 in name of Maharam hold that all oils are Kosher for Chanukah and olive oil is the best. The Rama 673:1 codifies the opinion of Tosfot.
There are 4 opinions about using wax candles: 1) Sefer Minhagim of Rav Yitzchak Tirna 144, Darkei Moshe 673:1 in name of Rabbi Avraham of Prag, Levush 673:2 and Mateh Moshe 990 writes the wax is equal to olive oil 2) Chaye Adam 154:8 and Pri Megadim A"A 676:5 seem to equate wax with other oils. 3) Meiri 21a (s.v. Mimah), Mahari MeBruna 39, Maharshal 85, Sh”t Chacham Tzvi 45, and Mishna Brurah 673:4 say any oil is preferable to wax. 4) Mor Ukesiah 673 and Maharal (Ner Mitzvah (pg 97) quoted referenced by Shaar Hatziyun 773:4 disqualifies wax altogether.
Concerning propane see Torat HaMoadim 5:1
- Sh”t Shevut Yacov 2:31, Ba'er Hetev 673:1, Moed LiKol Chai 27:55 allow one to light one candle of olive oil and the rest of other oils. Sh”t Shaar Efraim 39, Eliyah Raba 673:2, Yad Aharon (Hagahot bet Yosef), and Yeshuot Yacov 673:2 say not to light with one candle olive oil and the rest wax. However this implies that one can light with one candle of olive oil and the rest other oils (so says the Mishna Brurah (Shaar Tzion 673:1, Kol Sinai (Kislev 5725), Rav Moshe Feinstein (quoted in Moadei Yeshurun, pg. 9)). However Bear Hetev, Shaarei Teshuva (673:1), Siddur Bet Ovad 27, and Moed Kol Chai understand the Shaar Efraim that even that’s forbidden. Birkei Yosef 673:2, Mateh Yehuda (Shevet Yehuda 35d) and Pri Megadim A”A 676e rule leniently allowing oil with wax. Thus, Torat HaMoadim 5:2 rules to use oil with wax only if oil with oil is not possible. Chaye Adam 154:24, Sh”t Binyan Olam O”C 34, Mishna Brurah 671:7, and Torat HaMoadim 5:2 rule that it’s better to light according to the number of the night than to use olive oil.
- MB 673:2.
- Sefer Hilchos Chanukah pg. 12
- Sh”t Shevut Yacov 1:37 says once one sticks the wax candles to the Chanukia one began the mitzvah and shouldn’t change to oil. Sh”t Chacham Tzvi 45 argues that that isn’t called starting the mitzvah. Sh”t Shevut Yacov defends himself in teshuva 2:30 and agrees even though one started the mitzvah one doesn’t have to change to oil but can if he wants to be strict. Most of the Achronim hold like the Chacham Tzvi including:Sh”t Shaar Yosef 8, Birkei Yosef 673:3, Sh”t Yad Eliyahu Melublin 42, Sh”t Tiferet Yosef O”C 36, Sh”t Nachalat Binyamin O”C 132, Sh”t Shelat Shalom (Kama 113), and Kol Sinai (Kislev 5725). Shaarei Teshuva 673:1 and Aruch HaShulchan 673:6 say that once one begins the bracha one can’t change to oil at all.
- S”A 154:12 if a mouse is found in the oil and it makes it spoiled it can’t be used to light in the Shul. Knesset Hagedolah extends this halacha to all candles of mitzvah. Pri Megadim A”A 154:19, M”Z 154:10, Erech Hashulchan Y”D 104:10, Mishna Brurah 673:3 say this law explicitly by Chanukah. By lighting in a shul, Magen Avraham 154:15, Olot Tamid 154:15, Ben Ish Chai (Vayeshev 12) say that spoiling that makes it inedible is unfit but if it’s just bitter it’s fit.
- Shabbat 21a brings a dispute in the Amoraim. We hold that these wicks and oils are permitted for Chanukah. It’s only a potential issue on Friday afternoon and even then it’s permitted since we are not afraid that on Shabbat you’ll fix the wick (to draw better) because the Chanukah candles are forbidden to benefit from their light and if they go out one doesn't have to relight them. Rambam (Chanukah 4:6), Tur and S”A 673:1.
- Meiri(Shabbat 21b), Sh”t Rashba 1:170, Bet Yosef 673, Rama 673:1 say this difference by Friday afternoon. S”A 672:2 rules that if the oil lasts longer than the required half hour it’s permitted for benefit. Therefore, the Bach 673, Pri Chadash 673, Eliyah Raba 673:5, Pri Megadim M”Z 673:2, and Mishna Brurah 673:6 write that there’s a concern that one will fix the wick to draw better and violate Shabbat. Similarly the Bach 673, Shaarei Knesset Hagedolah 673:5, Magen Avraham 673:1, Eliyah Raba 673:3, and Pri Chadash 673 write that the Shamash can’t be lit with unfit wicks and oils because it’s permitted for benefit and there’s an issue of fixing it to improve it.
- Yafeh Lelev 2, 671:2.
- Rav Mordechai Eliyahu in Techumin (Vol 21 pg 11-15). Hacham Ovadia permits as well, however, he cites the dispute (Hazon Ovaida, Page 86).
- Piskei Teshuvot 663:5
- Piskei Teshuvot 673:5, Shevut Yitzchak (vol 5) in name of Rav Elyashiv
- Piskei Shemuot 673:1 p. 103 quotes Rav Wosner as holding that congealed olive oil is perfectly acceptable for chanuka candles and is like olive oil. However, he quotes Rav Nissim Karelitz that it isn't considered the added level of olive oil since it might not be valid for oil in the beit hamikdash and chanuka candles are to remember the candles in the beit hamikdash.
- Rav Ovadyah Yosef in Sh”t Yacheve Daat 4:38, Yabia Omer O”C 2:17(12),3:35, 10:54(19), Chazon Ovadyah (Chanukah pg 93), Sh”t Bet Yitzchak Y”D 120, doesn’t allow electric or gas lights. Yalkut Yosef Chanuka 673:6 p. 289 agrees. Rav Nissim Karelitz (cited by Piskei Shemuot p. 107) holds that one can light electric candles without a bracha. Rav Shlomo Zalman Aurbach in Halichot Shlomo (Moadim 283), and Rav Elyashiv in Kovetz Teshuvot 3:103 say if there’s nothing else available if the lights are set up so it’s recognizable that it’s Chanukah candles one can light with a bracha.
- Gas: Pitchei Sharim (Shabbat 21a) and Sh”t Yad HaLevi O”C 116 forbid the use of gas bulbs. Sh”t Yam Hagadol 32 allows gas but not electric lights.[Atret Zekenim 673 quotes Maharal of Prague who forbids even wax because the miracle happened with oil.]
- Electric: Ashel Avrham Nemark (Shabbat 22a), Sh”t Mayim Chaim Mashash 279, Or Chadash 5665 pg 36, Sh”t Ohel Yitzchak Posek in name of Rabbi Yachanon Fershel, and Sh”t Kochavei Yitzchak 5-8 allow electric lights. However, Sh”t Levushei Mordechai Winkler (Tallita O”C 59, Mehudra Batra 19), Sh”t Har Tzvi O”C 2:114, Sh”t Bear Moshe 6:59, Sh”t Ohel Yitzchak Posek 3, Sh”t Darkei Shalom Leiter 63(5), Pedukat Elazar 23, Sh”t Eliyahu Kalsakin 63, Sh”t Dvar Eliyahu 63, Sh”t Mishpatei Uziel O”C 1:7(2), Sh”t Mahargash 2:107, Kaf HaChaim 673:19, Sh”t Mishnat Sachir 2:203, Even Yisrael 9 pg 127b, Sh”t Yashkil Avdi O”C 2:9(8), 3:17, Sh”t Tzitz Eliezer 1:20(12), Az Nidabru 3:1, and Sh”t Shevet Hakehati 3:199 forbid the use of electric lights for Chanuka candles for numerous reasons. Rav Willig (Pre-Chanuka Q&A min 18-20) holds that one doesn't fulfill one's obligation and one shouldn't be strict for the other opinion to lit without a a bracha because it is a symbol of the conservative movement.
- Or Letzion 4:44:2 writes that you can fulfill your obligation of chanuka candles with electric lights if it is battery run and not plugged into an outlet.
- S”A 673:1 says all wicks are kosher based on Shabbat 21b, Rambam (Chanukah 4:6), and Tur 673. Chaye Adam 154:8, Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 139:4, Mishna Brurah 673:2 and Kaf HaChaim 673:3 say that it’s preferable to use cotton or linen wicks.
- Masechet Soferim 20:4, Orchot Chaim (Chanukah 6), Shibolei HaLeket 185, Rabbi David Avudraham in name of Rashi (Seder Tefilat Chanukah), Tur 677 and S”A 673:4 say that wicks can be reused until they’re used up. Orchot Chaim 5, Kol Bo 44, Ohel Moed (Chanukah 2), Meiri (Shabbat 21a says that it’s just a Hidur), Leket Yosher (Chanukah pg 152), Darkei Moshe 673:6 says that it’s the practice to use new wicks. Levush 673 and Mishna Brurah 673:31 say that reusing the wicks is better because it lights faster.
- Shabbat 23b says that a candle with two wicks can count for two people. Magen Avraham 673:2 says it’s not used nowadays for 2 people because everyone lights according to the number of the night. Chaye Adam 154:11 and Mishna Brurah 673:12 are lenient by two sides of a Chanukia. [The cases to which it applies: Rashi explains that it applies to those who do the Mehadrin and light per person in the house. So explains the Rabbenu Chananel, Ritva, Ravyah 3:843, Itur 2 Chanukah pg 116d, Or Zaruh 2:326, and Shibolei HaLeket 185.However Tosfot (Shabbat 21b s.v. Mitzvah) explains that it refers to 2 people with a common front courtyard. So explains Rabbenu Yerucham 9:1, and Ran. Maggid Mishna (Chanukah 4:4) quotes the case of Rashi, Tosfot and adds also the cases of 2 people who live in one house who split their funds for food, and 2 houses with doorways within a Tefach. Tur 673:3 writes that it can count for 2 candles on the second night and on. Bet Yosef explains that the Tur was excluding the case of Rashi because he holds that Mahadrin Min Mahadrin is done with one per house independent on the number of people in the house. Eliyah Raba 673:2 infers from the Tur that lighting for two people with one candle won’t work.]
- Rav Shlomo Zalman (Halichot Shlomo ch. 15, Piskei Shemuot p. 107) and Rav Wosner (Piskei Shemuot p. 107) hold that one can use wicks wrapped with wax since the wax is considered one unit with the wick. Also, it burns off momentarily.
- Chacham Tzvi 45 holds that sticking wax candles without a chanukia is fine. Mishna Brurah 671:18 clearly implies this way as well. Yalkut Yosef 671:15 writes that one should be strict to use a chanukia because some hold that it is absolutely necessary. Avnei Nezer OC 2:500 quotes that the Chessed L’avraham who says that this is a requirement. Rav Hershel Schachter (“Bava Metsia Shiur 35” min. 17-9) strongly recommended using a chanukia, but mentioned that on occasion Rav Soloveitchik would light wax candles directly on a window sill.