By Rav Avrohom Dovid Waxman
The mitzvah of hadlokas neiros Chanukah is typically fulfilled in the most preferred form- mehadrin min ha’mehadrin– with each obligated individual lighting the amount of neiros corresponding to that particular night of Chanukah. This method provides the individual with a kiyum of mitzvas neiros Chanukah and a kiyum of the inyan to enhance the mitzvah– hiddur mitzvah. The basic requirement of the mitzvah, however, is fulfilled by merely lighting one ner for the household on each night of Chanukah.
The poskim discuss the correct procedure li’halacha of how many neiros to light each night of Chanukah in the following scenario: If an individual has exactly enough oil to fulfill the mitzvah in the preferred, mehadrin min hamehadrin form, while his friend does not have oil to fulfill the mitzvah of ner Chanukah in even its most basic form, should the individual forego fulfilling the mitzvah in the mehadrin min hamehadrin form, and give his friend some oil in order to facilitate his friend’s ability to be yotze the basic chiyuv? Or perhaps the individual’s mehadrin min ha’mehadrin mitzvah performance takes precedence, and he should use the oil to be mekayem the mitzvah in the preferred form, despite his friend’s bittul mitzvah di’rabanan?
The Magen Avrohom (Orach Chayim, siman 671 s”1) writes that it is better to light one ner each night, and be mezakeh his friend with oil to be mekayem the mitzvah. This psak is quoted by the Mishnah Berurah (Orach Chayim 671:6), who points out (quoting the Chayei Adam)that if the person in need of oil is from the individual’s household, the oil should not be shared. This is because a member of the household is yotze the basic chiyuv through the ba’al habayis, and foregoing your personal mehadrin mitzvah for someone else’s mehadrin mitzvah, is unnecessary.
The Magen Avrohom’s psak requires further analyzation: Can we deduce from the Magen Avrohom that in any circumstance of mitzvah performance, a person should give up his hiddur mitzvah for his friend to fulfill the basic requirement of the mitzvah? And if this is indeed so, what is the reason that one is responsible for another’s kiyum mitzvah to the extent that he must forego his own hiddur mitzvah?
A similar psak is found in the Magen Avrohom (Orach Chayim, siman 658, s”k 12 in the name of the Mateh Moshe), regarding the Daled Minim. If an individual lives in a town that has a set of the Daled minim available for the entire community, but purchases his own personal set to fulfill the mitzvah in a more mehudar fashion, while another town is entirely deficient of Daled Minim, the Magen Avrohom writes that it is better that he should give away his personal set to a town that is completely lacking Daled Minim, and forego his hiddur mitzvah so that the others will be able to be mekayem the mitzvah.
Indeed, the Shu”t Ksav Sofer (Orach Chayim, siman 134) understands the Magen Avrohom to be giving a rule that applies to all mitzvos: Your friend’s kiyum mitzvah takes precedence to your fulfillment of hiddur mitzvah. The reason for this, explains the Ksav Sofer, is because of the klal “kol Yisroel Areivim zeh la’zeh,” each member of Klal Yisroel is responsible that his fellow Yid fulfill the mitzvos. Therefore, “arvus” obligates a person to sacrifice hiddur mitzvah, which is an added enhancement of the mitzvah, for his friend’s kiyum mitzvah.
However, the Elyah Rabba (Orach Chayim, siman 671:2) asks on the Magen Avrohom’s psak regarding neiros Chanukah from a seemingly contradictory ruling in Hilchos Tziitzis. The Shu”t Beis Yakov (siman 117) rules that a person is not required to give away his personal tallis, and fulfill the mitzvah with the communal tallis, even if a neighboring town does not have a tallis at all. It seems that a person is not required to sacrifice performing the mitzvah in a mehudar form for his friend to fulfill the basic requirement of a mitzvah?
Due to this difficulty, the Chasan Sofer (Shaar Hatotafos, siman 18) offers an alternative explanation of the Magen Avrohom. Although the Magen Avrohom writes that a person should sacrifice performing the mitzvah of neiros Chanukah in a mehudar form in order that his friend fulfill the minimum requirement to light one ner each night, this psak is specific to the mitzvah of ner Chanukah. Since the mitzvah of neiros Chanukah contains a unique pirsumei nisa element- a chiyuv to publicize the miracle Hashem performed for us, a person must ensure that this mitzvah is performed by others- even at the cost of losing the opportunity to perform the mitzvah in the mehadrin min ha’mehadrin form. In general, however, a person is not required to give up his hiddur mitzvah for another’s kiyum mitzvah– as evident from the Beis Yakov’s psak regarding giving away a personal tallis.
Another resolution to the Elya Raba’s kashya can be found in the Shu”t Machaneh Chayim (chelek 1, siman 29), who explains the Magen Avrohom’s psak regarding neiros Chanukah in a different way. The Machaneh Chayim explains that a person is obligated to sacrifice an enhancement of a mitzvah for his friend’s kiyum mitzvah only when the “guf ha’mitzvah”- the actual mitzvah performance remains intact and unaffected. In a situation such as giving away oil to a friend, the person’s basic mitzvah fulfillment of lighting a single oil ner (the guf ha’mitzvah) remains complete and untouched, while the additional neiros– the additional hiddur mitzvah– should be given for a friend to fulfill the basic requirement. However, a person is not required to give away anything that minimizes his performance of the guf ha’mitzvah. For example, giving away a personal tallis would result in the guf hamitzvah– wearing the tallis– being performed in a less enhanced manner, as the communal tallis is not as mehudar. Only when the hiddur is an exterior addition to the actual mitzvah performance should the hiddur be sacrificed for a friend. In the case of a tallis, the hiddur is not an exterior addition, but an enhancement in the quality of the performance of the actual mitzvah, and this should not be altered even for someone else’s kiyum mitzvah.
This discussion of how to understand the Magen Avrohom’s psak and when to apply it has Halachic ramifications. One such nafka mina would be in the following situation: If an individual has exactly enough oil to light one ner of olive oil on each night of Chanukah, while his friend does not have any means of fulfilling the mitzvah, is the individual obligated to light with a cheaper candle, which would not be as mehudar as shemen zayis, in order that his friend fulfill the mitzvah? According the Ksav Sofer that the Magen Avrohom is issuing a psak that applies to all situations of hiddur mitzvah, the individual should give away his hiddur mitzvah for his friend’s kiyum mitzvah in this situation as well. Similarly, the Chasan Sofer that explains that a person must ensure his friend is yotze the chiyuv of ner Chanukah since mitzvas ner Chanukah has a pirsumei nisa element, would agree that the same obligation applies in this situation of ner Chanukah. However, the Machaneh Chayim in his teshuva maintains that the person should not give up the hiddur of shemen zayis for his friend to fulfill the mitzvah. The Machaneh Chayim explains that only when the hiddur is an external addition to the mitzvah should his friend’s kiyum mitzvah take precedence. However, lighting a ner of olive oil is a situation of a hiddur mitzvah that enhances the guf hamitzvah, as the guf hamitzvah of lighting one ner on each night would be performed in compromised, less- mehudar manner. Therefore, the Machaneh Chayim instructs the individual to perform the mitzvah with oil despite his friend’s predicament.
What remains to be addressed is the above- mentioned psak of the Magen Avrohom (Orach Chayim, siman 658, s”k 12 in the name of the Mateh Moshe), requiring an individual to give away his personal Daled Minim to a neighboring town that is lacking a set. According to the Ksav Sofer that the Magen Avrohom’s ruling applies to all situations of hiddur mitzvah this psak, too, is well understood. But according to the other explanations of the Magen Avrohom, this psak seems difficult as Arba Minim is neither a situation of pirsumei nisa nor an external form of hiddur. Why is the individual obligated to forego fulfilling the guf hamitzvah with the hiddur of his personal set of Daled Minim?
Perhaps the reason that the individual must give his Daled Minim to the neighboring town despite the loss of the hiddur mitzvah is because this situation is mitzvah of a rabim– the kiyum mitzvas Arba Minim of the entire town. Although these shitos maintain that a person is not obligated to forego his hiddur mitzvah for the kiyum mitzvah of a yachid, in a situation that involves the kiyum mitzvah of a rabim, there is indeed an obligation to ensure the tzibbur fulfills the basic requirement of the mitzvah despite the individual’s loss of hiddur mitzvah. This resolution, that the mitzvah of a rabbim is different, is implicit in the words of the Mateh Moshe, who is the source of this psak.
Additionally, this can explain the apparent contradiction in the Mishnah Berurah’s psakim on this subject. In addition to quoting this psak of the Magen Avrohom requiring the individual to forego his personal set of Daled Minim for the neighboring town, the Mishnah Berurah (Biyur Halacha, siman 14 D”h muttar) also quotes the above- mentioned psak of the Shu”t Beis Yakov, that an individual should not give away his personal tallis and rely on the tzibbur’s tallis in order that his friend who resides in an area where no tallis is available fulfill the mitzvah. This latter psak seems to indicate that the Mishna Berurah maintains that a person should not forego his hiddur mitzvah for his friend’s kiyum mitzvah. According to this understanding that a situation of tzibbur’s kiyum mitzvah is more stringent, and the hiddur mitzvah should be sacrificed for a tzibbur, there is no difficulty from the Mishnah Berurah’s psak regarding a tallis, as this is a situation of a yachid– one individual, and the hiddur mitzvah should be performed. As mentioned, the Mishnah Berurah quotes the Magen Avrohom’s psak regarding neiros Chanukah as well, requiring a person to give away his mehadrin min hamehadrin mitzvah for his friend’s kiyum mitzvah. This difference between this case and the tallis situation can be explained either according to the Chasan Sofer– Chanukah has a unique pirsumei nisa element-or the Machaneh Chayim-a person should give away external forms of hiddur mitzvah.
It should be noted that the Ben Ish Chai (Shu”t Torah Lishama, siman 182) maintains that an individual is not obligated to forego his hiddur mitzvah in order that his friend fulfill the basic requirement of the mitzvah, because such an obligation is not mistaver.
Adapted from a shiur by Rav Avrohom Dovid Waxman, Shlit”a, R”M B’Yeshivas Mishkan HaTorah, Lakewood and Mechaber Seforim “Minchas Levi”