By Rabbi Yair Hoffman
It happens pretty often. We have a Chanukah party or a wedding to attend. Or even a dinner date with our spouse. And the question arises: Is one permitted to extinguish the Chanukah candles after they have been lit for thirty minutes?
The Shulchan Aruch (672:2) rules that it is permissible to do so. The Mogain Avrohom, however, writes that one should avoid doing so. This is also the view of some other authorities as well (Bach, Chayei Odom, and Eliyahu Rabbah). Indeed, the Bach’s opinion is that one is also not permitted to benefit from the leftover oil, since it was used for a Mitzvah.
The Chayei Odom also writes that if he had just filled up the lamp with oil without thinking about it the tacit assumption should be that the oil should not be used afterward for other purposes, since it was used for a Mitzvah and he did not anticipate it being put out on account of his love for Mitzvos.
However, it is cited in the name of both the Chofetz Chaim (Meir Einei Yisroel Vol. I p. 62) as well as the Chazon Ish (Orchos Rabbeinu Vol. III Chanukah #45 both cited in Sukkas Chaim p. 112) that they did put out the Chanukah candles after 30 minutes. The Aruch HaShulchan also writes that the general custom is to allow extinguishing the flame, but if one’s minhag is not to do so, then one should follow his own Minhag.
Certainly, if one must leave, then one should extinguish it on account of the danger involved in leaving burning candles as well as the Torah Mitzvah of taking safety precautions. The Torah mitzvah one fulfills is “V’nishmartem me’od l’nafshoseichem” (Devarim 4:15) which stipulates that one must take safety precautions and protect oneself and others.
Fire is extremely dangerous and many people have been injured or killed, R”l, when proper safety measures were not taken regarding Chanukah flames. The other mitzvos of Chanukah are d’Rabbanan.