Question: I’m helping to organize a concert on Chanuka and have been asked to light the menora. Should I do so with a beracha?
Answer: R’ Moshe Sternbuch (Teshuvos Vehanhagos 1:398) writes that even though the minhag is to light the menora in Shul, one should not do so elsewhere with a beracha. Thus, if one davens in a minyan outside a Shul, or attends a wedding, there is no need to light a menora. If one chooses to do so, they must do so without saying a beracha.
R’ Yitzchak Yaakov Weiss (Minchas Yitzchak 6:65:3) and R’ Eliezer Waldenberg (Tzitz Eliezer 15:30) explain that the mitzva of lighting the menora only applies to lighting in one’s home. Nowadays, we have a minhag to light in Shul with a beracha, too, though that wasn’t unanimous among the poskim. Thus, we cannot extend this minhag to light at parties, etc. with a beracha.
R’ Shmuel Wosner (Shevet Halevi 4:65) points out that as the mitzva is to light at home, one wouldn’t fulfil one’s obligation at such a lighting. The minhag to light in Shul is reminiscent of lighting the menora in the Beis Hamikdash. Thus, even if one knows that there will be someone present who won’t be lighting at home, it doesn’t help to recite a beracha on their behalf (See Az Nidberu 6:75).
Nonetheless, others disagree. The Rivash (111) writes that the mitzva to light the menora includes lighting it at the entrance to one’s home for pirsumei nisa, to publicize the miracle. As we generally light indoors nowadays, it is important that we also participate in a public lighting. Thus, R’ Binyamin Zilber (Az Nidberu 5:37) writes that lighting in shuls nowadays ensures that we are fulfilling the mitzva properly. Lighting in a public place where others may not have lit is even more important than lighting at shul and one who does so should light the menora with a beracha.
R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yabia Omer 7 OC 57:6) writes that while most poskim write that one should light in public locations without reciting a beracha, one may do so with a beracha if they want to. Ideally, they should daven maariv with a minyan and light beforehand, as one would in Shul.