Insights into Halacha

For the week ending 14 March 2015 / 23 Adar I 5775

More Mitzvah Use: Of Chanuka Oil and Mishloach Manos

by Rabbi Yehuda Spitz
Shemitta Basics Part IV
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As detailed at length in previous articles, Chazal derived several essential Shemitta halachos pertaining to preserving the sanctity of Kedushas Sheviis produce from several pesukim in Parshas Behar.

The Torah states (Vayikra Ch. 25, 6 & 7) referring to the Shemitta year, “V’haysa Shabbos Ha’aretz Lachem L’achla…V’livhemtacha V’lechaya Asher B’artzecha Tihiyeh Kol Tevuasa Le’echol - And the Resting of the Land should be for you to eat… and for your domesticated animals and the wild animals in your fields, all the produce should be for consumption”.

Personal Uses

One important halacha that is inferred from these pesukim is:

Lachem- for you, lechol tzarcheichem, for all of your needs. (Sukka 40a and Bava Kamma 102a)

According to the Mishna, and duly codified as halacha[1], Kedushas Sheviis produce is not only permitted to be eaten, it is even allowed to be utilized in whichever manner the owner deems it necessary: drinking, anointing, dyeing, and even lighting. However, there is a very important caveat, namely that the owner’s use of it during Shemitta must be that product’s main use year round. Otherwise, it would be considered ‘ruining’ the ‘holy’ fruit and duly prohibited[2].

But what happens when the owner needs it for a purpose that is one that he may not halachically benefit from? For example, there is a well-known Talmudic dictum that ‘Mitzvos lav lehenos nitnu, [utilizing something by] fulfilling a Mitzvah is not considered receiving benefit’ (Eruvin 31a). Although regarded as a ‘need’, a Mitzvah is not deemed an actual personal benefit. If so, may one use Shemitta produce to fulfill such a Mitzvah or obligation?

The previous article discussed several Mitzvos involving actually eating or drinking the Shemitta produce, such as using Kedushas Sheviis wine for Kiddush, Havdallah and the Four Cups at the Pesach Seder, which since involving direct bodily hana’ah, as long as one sticks to the guidelines of not ‘ruining’ the ‘holy wine’, it would be permissible to use for these Mitzvos. But what about Mitzvos containing indirect benefit? Are they included in the ‘personal use leniency’?

Kedusha Kindling?

The most commonly addressed issue by contemporary authorities involves Shemitta oil. We know that it can be used for lighting up a dark room, as that is an actual need and personal use. And according to most poskim one may even light Shabbos and Yom Tov candles with Shemitta oil[3], as the purpose of this Mitzvah is ‘Shalom Bayis[4] and is therefore considered a personal need.

But can it be used for lighting Chanuka candles?

This question is even more complicated, as according to most decisors[5] it is entirely prohibited to get any benefit from Chanuka oil at all. This is one of the reasons why common practice is to have a ‘shamash’ candle, so any potential hana’ah can be assumed to be coming from it, as opposed to the Chanuka lights.

To summarize: If one cannot obtain any actual benefit from the Chanuka candles, how then may one possibly use Kedushas Sheviis oil for this purpose? Additionally, is the prohibition against “ruining”Shemitta produce transgressed by burning the oil, albeit being its natural use?[6]

This halachic dilemma is the reason why many contemporary authorities, including the Ridbaz, the Imrei Yosher, the Chazon Ish, Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, and Rav Chaim Kanievsky rule that one may not use Kedushas Sheviis oil for Chanuka lights[7]. Rav Moshe Sternbuch even writes that if one did so, he would not have fulfilled the Mitzvah of lighting Chanuka candles, even b’dieved[8]!

On the other hand, several authorities, including the Maharash Engel, Rav Ezra Alteshuler, Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, and Rav Ben Tzion Abba Shaul, argue that one may indeed use Shemitta oil for Chanuka candles[9]. They explain that kindling for a Devar Mitzvah is certainly considered a proper use[10]. What greater hana’ah is there than being able to fulfill a Mitzvah? Additionally, they counter that even if one may not technically benefit from the light due to a different reason, this should not preclude it from being considered a normal use vis-a-vis its Shemitta status[11]. Moreover, one may indirectly benefit from Chanuka lights[12]. Why, they argue, should this matter be considered any different[13]?

Come what may, we see that there are great authorities on both sides of this debate. The bottom line seems to be that if one has no other oil to light with or in extenuating circumstances, one may rely on using Kedushas Sheviis oil for Chanuka lights. However, due to the strength of arguments of the machmirim, it is certainly preferable to purchase non-Shemitta oil for the Neiros Chanuka[14].

Ish LeRe’eihu…

Another interesting question arises regarding Mishloach Manos on Purim. Since it is a requirement to give two food items to a friend, may one use Kedushas Sheviis produce to fulfill his obligation? This issue is similar to that of Chanuka lights as it is a Rabbinic Mitzvah that one gets indirect benefit by performing. It is also analogous in that it is a dispute among contemporary authorities as well.

Several poskim, including the Ben Ish Chai, Rav Shmuel HaLevi Wosner, Rav Chaim Kanievsky, and the Mishnas Yosef maintain that since the Mitzvah of Mishloach Manos is obligatory, sending Kedushas Sheviis produce for Mishloach Manos is akin to using Shemitta produce to pay a debt[15], an action which should be prohibited under the rule of L’achla- for you to eat, and not for sechora, merchandise or commercial use. This restriction includes paying a debt[16].

On the other hand, it is reported that the Steipler Gaon would send Mishloach Manos consisting of Shemitta produce, as we may perform Mitzvos with Kedushas Sheviis fruits[17]. Other authorities who ruled this way include Rav Elazar Menachem Mann Shach, Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, the Minchas Yitzchak, and Rav Nissim Karelitz[18]. They maintain that the obligation of a Mitzvah, although binding, is nevertheless not considered akin to monetary debt to be excluded from proper Shemitta uses. Hence, ‘Holy Mishloach Manos’ would indeed be permitted.

It is important to note however, that even the machmirim agree that their proscription only applies to the first Mishloach Manos one gives / sends, as one is only truly obligated in giving just one set of foods to one person[19]. After that first package, they allow giving all additional customary Mishloach Manos to others with Shemitta produce, as the actual requirement has already been fulfilled.

It goes without saying that if one chooses to use Shemitta produce as part of one’s Mishloach Manos, one should always notify the recipient that the gift contains ‘holy fruits’ so they will know to treat it accordingly. Certainly while fulfilling a Mitzvah, one would not want to Chas VeShalom be the cause of another’s transgression.

Just another issue to be aware of when meriting sojourning in the King’s Courtyard.

Note: This article is not intended to serve as an exhaustive guide, but rather to showcase certain aspects of the intricate and myriad halachos of produce imbued with Kedushas Sheviis. Many other relevant halachos of Peiros Sheviis and its uses, will IY”H be addressed at length in future articles.

This article was written L'iluy Nishmas the Rosh Yeshiva Rav Chonoh Menachem Mendel ben Yechezkel Shraga, R’ Chaim Baruch Yehuda ben Dovid Tzvi, L’Refuah Sheleimah for R’ Shlomo Yoel ben Chaya Leah, Henna Rasha bas Yitta Ratza and Rochel Miriam bas Dreiza Liba, and Shira Yaffa bas Rochel Miriam v’chol yotzei chalatzeha for a yeshua sheleimah teikif u’miyad!

For any questions, comments or for the full Mareh Mekomos / sources, please email the author:

Rabbi Yehuda Spitz serves as the Sho’el U' Meishiv and Rosh Chabura of the Ohr Lagolah Halacha Kollel at Yeshivas Ohr Somayach in Yerushalayim.

[1] Mishnayos Sheviis (Ch. 8, Mishna 2), Tosefta Sheviis (Ch. 7, 2), Rambam (Hilchos Shemitta V’Yovel Ch. 5, 1 - 5), Rash (on Mishnayos Sheviis ibid.), Aruch Hashulchan HaAsid (Hilchos Shemitta V’Yovel 24, 3; however he classifies this as a separate issur and not that of ‘ruining), Chazon Ish (Sheviis 10, 4), Shu”t Minchas Yitzchak (vol. 8, 102).

[2] As delineated at length in a previous article ‘ShemittaBasics Part II: Kedushas SheviisProduce’.

[3] Shu”t Mishnas Yosef (vol. 1, 26), Toras HaAretz (vol. 1, Ch. 8, 47), Derech Emunah (vol. 4, Hilchos Shemitta V’Yovel Ch. 5, 49), Mishpetei Aretz (Ch. 24, 8), Yalkut Yosef (Sheviis, Ch. 15, 62), Sefer Dinei Sheviis Hashalem (Ch. 16 Shimushei Mitzvah 7 and Ch. 32 Shabbos 1), and Mishmeres HaSheviis (Ch. 16, 44). However, Rav Moshe Sternbuch (Shemitta Kehilchasa Ch. 3, footnote 12) advises not to rely on using Shemitta oil for Neiros Shabbos. He maintains that with the advent of electricity we do not really depend on the Shabbos Licht as an actual source of light. Therefore, he maintains that it possibly may be no longer considered a true ‘use’ to allow using Kedushas Sheviis oil.

[4] Gemara Shabbos 23b & 25a, Rambam (Hilchos Shabbos Ch. 5, 1), Tur and Shulchan Aruch (O.C. 263, 3).

[5] See Tur, Shulchan Aruch and Rema (O.C. 673, 1) and relevant commentaries. This is essentially a machlokes Rishonim. The Rosh (Shabbos Ch. 1, 3 & 6) and Ran (Shabbos 9a s.v. halachos; in the Rif’s pages) maintain that since the Chanuka neis occurred with a Menorah, we are not allowed to benefit at all from our Menorahs. However, the Baal HaItur (vol. 2 pg. 115a; cited by the Tur) and Shibolei Leket (185) maintain that nevertheless a Tashmish shel Kedusha with the Chanuka lights would indeed be permitted. [See Biur Halacha as loc. s.v. v’yesh for a machlokes Acharonim as to whether the Baal HaItur meant to permit exclusively a tashmish ara’ei or even a tashmish keva.] Either way, we conclusively see that all non-Mitzvah uses of Chanuka lights are certainly forbidden.

[6] Especially as the Gemara in Bechoros (12b) teaches regarding a Shemitta animal (ostensibly one that was redeemed with Shemitta produce, thus transferring the Kedushas Sheviis to the animal as well; this will IY”H be addressed in a future article) that it is exempt from being brought as a Korban. The Gemara derives this rule from the pasuk:“L’achla velo L’sreifa, to eat and not to be burned”. This implies that one may not perform a Mitzvah that involves burning, with an item imbued with Kedushas Sheviis. This would seemingly prohibit using Shemitta oil for Chanuka lights as well.

[7] Ridbaz (glosses to Pe’as HaShulchan, Sheviis Ch. 5, 9), Shu”t Imrei Yosher (vol. 1, 100; also cited l’maaseh by the Shu”t Levushei Mordechai, Telita’ei O.C. 53, and later by the Shaarim Metzuyanim B’Halacha, 139, 3 s.v. uv’inyan), the Chazon Ish (cited in Orchos Rabbeinu vol. 2, pg. 334, 52; citing proof from a Tosefta in Menachos, end Ch. 8, regarding that one may not bring Menachos or Nesachim from Shemitta produce; the same should apply to Chanuka candles as well), Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv (in his ma’amar in Kovetz Halichos Sadeh vol. 122, pg. 11 s.v. kal [and not as quoted in Kovetz Halichos Sadeh vol. 50, pg. 80 footnote 34]; he does however give dispensation to allow it according to the Baal HaItur’s opinion, but concludes that if one lights Chanuka Licht outside, it would be prohibited since that is not way people are generally meshtamesh from light), and Rav Chaim Kanievsky (Derech Emunah vol. 4, Hilchos Shemitta V’Yovel Ch. 5, 49). Other poskim who ruled this way include the Shaarei Deah (Shu”t vol. 2, 9; cited l’maaseh by the Piskei Teshuva, vol. 1, 94), Pischei Shaarim (on Gemara Shabbos 21a; although he concludes that according to the Baal HaMaor who holds that ‘Mitzvos Derabbanan lehenos nitnu’, lechoirah he would allow lighting Chanuka candles with Kedushas Sheviis oil), the Mishnas Yosef (Shu”t vol. 1, 26; and in Kovetz Tenuvas Sadeh vol. 15; however, he later allowed some leniency, see footnote 14), Rav Moshe Sternbuch (Shemitta Kehilchasa Ch. 3, 12; see also next footnote), Toras HaAretz (vol. 1, Ch. 8, 47), Mishpetei Aretz (Ch. 24, 8), and Mishmeres HaSheviis (Ch. 16, 44).

[8] Shu”t Moadim U’Zmanim (vol. 2, 145 s.v. amnam).

[9] Shu”t Maharash Engel (vol. 2, Y”D 4), Rav Ezra Alteshuler (cited in Kerem Tzion, Sheviis pg. 52, Gidulei Tzion 6 and Halichos Shlomo, Moadim vol. 1, Chanuka Ch. 15, 7, footnote 20; from 5698), Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Shu”t Minchas Shlomo, Kamma vol. 1, 42 and Halichos Shlomo ibid.), and Rav Ben Tzion Abba Shaul (Ohr L’Tzion on Sheviis, Ch. 2, 7, pg. 42). Other poskim who ruled leniently were the Strasbourger Rav (Shu”t Kinyan Torah B’Halacha vol. 3, 17, 2) and Rav Shlomo Amar (Shu”t Shama Shlomo (vol. 3, Inyanei Zeraim 23 and 24 at length, and in Kovetz Tenuvas Sadeh vol. 3). Rav Shmuel HaLevi Wosner (Shu”t Shevet HaLevi, vol. 1, 184, 1) writes several reasons why it should theoretically be permitted as well. See also footnote 14.

[10] There is precedent to this as well, regarding lighting candles on Yom Tov, even though any melacha on Yom Tom is only permitted ‘Lachem’. See Gemara Beitzah (19 - 20), Rambam (Hilchos Shevisas Yom Tov Ch. 1), Tur and Shulchan Aruch (O.C. 495, 1). However, it is important to note that said fire cannot actually be lit, just transferred from a pre-existing flame [see Shulchan Aruch (O.C. 502, 1)].

[11] In the words of Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, although one may not use Shemitta produce for medicinal purposes (see previous articles), still, if one wants to use Shemitta oil to light a candle to be able to see in order to put on a bandage, to learn Torah, or even to smash all of his dishes, does that mean that that lighting was in fact prohibited, as these are not proper enough uses? He concludes definitely not. He maintains that it is sufficient that one has a need to enable the use of Kedushas Sheviis produce. What the actual need is should be irrelevant. See however footnote 13.

[12] See Mishna Berura (673, 11) and Shaar HaTziyun (ad loc. 11), quoting the Shaarei Teshuva (ad loc. 3), who cites the Pri Chodosh (ad loc.), Maharikash (Erech Lechem ad loc.), and Shu”t Pnei Aryeh (47), that one is allowed to sit in his house when Chanuka lights are lit, as just basic seeing (without iyun) is not considered an actual tangible prohibited benefit.

[13] However, Rav Chaim Kanievsky (Derech Emunah ibid, Biur Hahalacha s.v. shemadlik) argues on Rav Shlomo Zalman’s logic, countering that although one may certainly learn Torah by Shemitta oil light, even though we hold ‘Mitzvos lav lehenos nitnu’, that is because ‘the use’ involved is using the light to see. What one wishes to see or read are indeed irrelevant. However, regarding Neiros Chanuka, which are assur to receive benefit from their light, except from the performance of the actual Mitzvah itself in a manner that is fitting for Persumei Nissa, the Mitzvah is for seeing the candles lit, but not utilizing the actual light of the candles. As such, that is not considered receiving hana’ah from the lighting, as opposed to the other cases Rav Shlomo Zalman cited, and in his estimation, any other use would still be deemed prohibited. However, see Halichos Shlomo (Moadim vol. 1, Chanuka Ch. 15, 7, in the footnotes) how the authors attempt to defend Rav Shlomo Zalman’s position against Rav Chaim Kanievsky’s challenge.

[14] See Shu”t Shevet HaLevi (vol. 1, 184, 1), who although writing that m’sevarah it should be permitted, nevertheless l’maaseh concludes that since Gedolei Hora’ah of the previous generation (Imrei Yosher, Shaarei Deah, and Ridbaz) prohibited it, one should follow their ruling. A similar assessment is given by the Mishnas Yosef in his later teshuva on topic printed in Shu”t Shama Shlomo (vol. 3, Inyanei Zeraim 24), as well as the Yalkut Yosef (Sheviis Ch. 15, 62), who after citing both sides of the machlokes, concludes that if one has no other oil with which to light, he may use Kedushas Sheviis oil.

[15] Shu”t Torah Leshma (193; cited in Sefer Dinei Sheviis Hashalem Ch. 17, 9), Shu”t Shevet HaLevi (vol. 7, 183), Kovetz M’Bais Levi (vol. 16, pg. 49), Derech Emunah (vol. 4, Hilchos Shemitta V’Yovel Ch. 6, 10, Tziyunei Hahalacha 121), and Shu”t Mishnas Yosef (vol. 1, 27). See also Mishpetei Aretz (pg. 160) and Sefer Chag B’Chag (Purim; Ch. 13, 22).

[16] Avodah Zarah (62a); see also Mishnayos Sheviis (Ch. 8, Mishna 3 and 4), Tosefta (Ch. 7, 6), Rambam (Hilchos Shemitta V’Yovel Ch. 6, 1 & 10), and Bartenura’s commentary on the Mishna (ad loc.). This was touched upon in a previous article ‘ShemittaBasics Part II: Kedushas SheviisProduce’,and will IY”H be discussed thoroughly in a future article.

[17] Orchos Rabbeinu (vol. 2, pg. 334, 51).

[18] Sefer Dinei Sheviis Hashalem (Ch. 17, 9), Shalmei Toda (Purim; quoting Rav Shach; cited in Rabbi Avraham Wiesenfeld’s Shmittah in the Kitchen Q & A, pg. 57 footnote 141), Shu”t Minchas Shlomo (vol. 1, 26, pg. 165), Halichos Shlomo (Moadim vol. 1, Purim Ch. 19, 10), Kovetz Mevakshei Torah (Adar 2, pg. 187; quoting Rav Elyashiv; cited in Shmittah in the Kitchen Q and A above), Shu”t Minchas Yitzchak (vol. 10, 57), Chut Shani (Shemitta, pg. 298).

[19] Gemara Megillah 7a, Rambam (Hilchos Megillah Ch. 2, 15), Tur & Shulchan Aruch (O.C. 695, 4) and relevant commentaries.

Disclaimer: This is not a comprehensive guide, rather a brief summary to raise awareness of the issues. In any real case one should ask a competent Halachic authority.

L'iluy Nishmas the Rosh HaYeshiva - Rav Chonoh Menachem Mendel ben R' Yechezkel Shraga, Rav Yaakov Yeshaya ben R' Boruch Yehuda.

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