On Motza’ei Shabbat Chanukah, in the synagogue, Chanukah candles are lit first and only following this is Havdala recited in order to delay the departure of Shabbat as much as possible. Although the one lighting the Chanukah candles removes the sanctity of Shabbat from himself, nevertheless, the rest of the members of the congregation who have not yet lit still retain the sanctity of Shabbat. Also, the Chanukah candles are lit first in order to publicize the miracle, for if Havdala were to be recited first, most of the congregation would have gone home before Chanukah candle-lighting and not witnessed the lighting in the synagogue.
When one returns home from synagogue, since the act of lighting a fire will in any case remove the sanctity of Shabbat, one should first recite Havdala and only then light Chanukah candles, for the more frequent Mitzvah should be performed first. (Havdala is indeed more frequent, for it is recited every week.)
Nightfall in Accordance with the Opinion of Rabbeinu Tam
Those who follow the righteous custom not to perform work on Motza’ei Shabbat until nightfall according to the opinion of Rabbeinu Tam should also abstain from lighting the Chanukah candles on Motza’ei Shabbat Chanukah until nightfall according to Rabbeinu Tam, for this is not merely “another good custom”; rather, it is correct and proper for everyone to follow the opinion of Rabbeinu Tam in this matter, especially since this is the opinion of Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch as well. This was indeed the custom of Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l who spoke about this topic constantly throughout his entire life; he indeed encouraged us at Halacha Yomit to address this topic as well. Many have heeded Maran’s call and they are certainly praiseworthy.
The “Boreh Me’orei Ha’esh” Blessing
One may not recite the blessing of “Boreh Me’orei Ha’esh” on the Chanukah candles (for instance, in the synagogue where Chanukah candles are lit before Havdala or if a person mistakenly lit the Chanukah candles at home before Havdala), for one may not recite this blessing until one benefits from the flame and it is forbidden to benefit from the light of the Chanukah candles. However, one may recite this blessing on the “Shamash” (additional) candle, for benefitting from the Shamash is permissible.
Lighting Electric Chanukah Candles
Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l writes that one does not fulfill his obligation by lighting electric Chanukah lights since an electric Menorah contains neither oil nor wicks and the miracle that occurred in the Menorah of the Holy Temple manifested itself in the oil which lasted for eight days. Therefore, even though one may light Chanukah candles filled with kerosene or paraffin oil, this is because they are somewhat similar to olive oil, unlike electricity which is in no way similar to olive oil. This is in addition to other reasons to prohibit lighting electric Chanukah candles. Maran zt”l writes, however, that if one is in a situation where one cannot light Chanukah candles with either oil or wax candles, one may, in fact, light an electric Menorah without reciting a blessing. Additionally, the electric bulbs must be laid in a place where it is not usually placed the rest of the year for it to be noticeable that these are Chanukah candles.
We have already mentioned within the laws of lighting Shabbat candles that regarding the blessing of “Boreh Me’orei Ha’esh” on Motza’ei Shabbat that one must specifically use an open flame as opposed to electric light which is invalid for this blessing. We have also previously mentioned the Halacha regarding lighting Shabbat candles with electric bulbs.