You light the Menorah, and sing Haniros Halalu and Maos Tzur with your family. The candles burn steadily as you gaze and them with a feeling of contentment. Then the same question pops into your head, as it does every year: Now what do I do?
There is a widespread practice that when lighting the Neiros Chanukah, one should not merely kindle the menorah and continue with one’s day to day activities, but rather to linger around the menorah and look at the candles. Is this minhag a recent innovation, or does it have early sources? And is this minhag purely based on Kabbalah and Chassidus, or does it have basis within Halacha as well?
While this practice is not mentioned in the Gemara, and is neither referenced in the Shulchan Aruch or its commentaries, there is a relatively early basis for this minhag. R’ Yair Bachrach writes in Mekor Chayim that “Ikkar Hamitzva”, the most important dimension of lighting the menorah, is to remain in the presence of the candles for the first half hour after kindling the menorah and rejoice in recollection of the miracles of Chanukah. The Mekor Chayim bases this on the language of Haneiros Halalu which we sing as we light the candles: “Ein Lanu Reshus Lehishtamesh Bahem, Ela Lirosam Bilvad – We may not use the candles for our own benefit, but rather we should only look at them.” This text, which originates from Meseches Sofrim, seems to suggest that a critical part of the mitzva is for one to look at the candles.
This is not a truly novel idea, as we find that the mitzva of lighting the menorah is for Pirsumei Nissa, to publicize the miracles of Chanukah. As such, it is natural that a component of the mitzva can be to view the candles, and to use that opportunity to appreciate G-d’s miraculous deeds. In fact, the Yesod V’Shoresh Ha’avodah recommends that one should spend a half hour after lighting the menorah singing songs and discussing with one’s family the great miracles of Chanukah.
However, while we find sources for this minhag in classic halachic literature, its contemporary practice is predominantly found among Chassidim. The great R’ Pinchos of Koritz strongly advocated for one to look at the Chanukah candles for the first half hour, as the elusive Ohr Haganuz descends in them and can be perceived during this time. The Kozhnitzer Maggid and later R’ Naftoli of Ropshitz added that through looking at the holy candles one can rectify the spiritual damage one may have inflicted upon one’s eyes. Many other Chassidic seforim as well discuss this minhag and numerous remazim and sodos have been written about it.
I would like to conclude with a the words of R’ Eliyahu Dovid Rabinowitz Teumim, the Aderes, who wrote in his diary, Nefesh Dovid, of his tremendous affection for the mitzva of lighting the Chanukah candles: “The mitzva of Ner Chanukah was tremendously dear to me, and if not for what people would say, I would ensure that the candles burn for as long as possible. I would greatly enjoy to sit in the room where the candles burn to constantly stare at them. I would not leave the room unless necessary to perform my rabbinic duties, and regardless, I would sit near that room to glance at the candles from time to time; and I would be filled with joy and happiness.” I found this description to be an inspiration of how one should relate to the mitzva of lighting the menorah, and I feel that regardless if one’s family or community has the minhag to linger and look at the candles, one should still strive to develop such affection and love for the mitzva.
 The author of Shu”t Chavos Yair and Rav of Worms (d. 1702).
 Orach Chayim Siman 672 Seif 2
 As does his contemporary, the Rav of Frankfurt R’ Yaakov Poppersh, in his Shu”t Shev Yaakov Vol. 1 Orach Chayim Siman 22.
 Of note, there is a special Bracha recited under certain circumstances for one who merely sees the Chanukah candles, see Shulchan Aruch Orach Chayim Siman 676 Seif 3.
 Regarding the halachos of a blind individual lighting a menorah see Mishna Berura Siman 675 S”K 9.
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