Question: I am eating out on Friday night and won’t be back until very late and I don’t want to leave my menora burning all that time. Does it matter if I won’t be there for half an hour with the lights?
Answer: As we light the candles earlier than usual on Friday, we must ensure that there is enough oil or candles to burn for at least half an hour after tzeis hakochavim. The Chaye Adam (154:18) writes that if there isn’t enough to last this long, then one hasn’t fulfilled the mitzva.
The Mekor Chaim (672) writes that remaining with the menora for half an hour is an integral part of the mitzva of lighting the menora.
Likewise, the Aruch Hashulchan (OC 673:3) writes that one can’t light one’s menora with fuel that gives off an odour as it will cause people to leave the room. R’ Ephraim Greenblatt (Rivevos Ephraim 8:266:4) writes that based on this, we see that it is important for people to try and stay in the room with the menora for half an hour while the menora is alight (See Yalkut Yosef 677:2).
Nonetheless, R’ Moshe Sternbuch (Teshuvos Vehanhagos 1:394) writes that this is a nice minhag and not part of the mitzva itself. Nor is this aspect of the halacha mentioned by most of the poskim.In conclusion, providing that one ensured that the lights could stay alight for half an hour after tzeis, one doesn’t need to stay with the lights.