The following is a discussion of Halachic topics related to the Parsha of the week.
For final rulings, consult your Rav.
LIGHTING THE SHABBOS CANDLES: WHOSE OBLIGATION IS IT?
The obligation to light Shabbos Candles rests equally on all
members of a household. Chazal established, nevertheless, that
it is the wife's responsibility to do the actual lighting. One
of the reasons given (1) is that candle-lighting atones for
Chava's part in the sin of the Eitz Ha'daas. Chava caused Adam
to eat of the forbidden fruit for which mankind was punished by
losing its immortality. Thus Chava "extinguished the light of
the world" and the woman sets aright Chava's misdeed by assuming
the obligation of lighting candles for her household (2).
Consequently, even if a husband demands to light candles, the wife has the right to protest and prevent him from doing so (3). It is recommended, nevertheless, that the husband take part in the mitzvah too, by lighting and quickly extinguishing the candle wicks, thus making the candles easier to light (4). The husband should also light candles (5) in other rooms of the house where
the wife does not light them (6).
If one has no wife, or if he sees that his wife is running late
and will be unable to light on time, then he should light the
candles with the blessing (7).
If one's wife is not home for Shabbos, it is preferable that
the husband himself light candles and not one of the
daughters (8). If, however, a daughter who is over 12 years old
lit for him, he fulfills the Mitzvah through her lighting. One
cannot, however, fulfill his obligation by having a daughter
under 12 light candles for him (9).
In the event that a brother and sister are at home without
their parents, it is preferable that the sister light the
Years ago, it was customary for a woman who gave birth not to
light candles on the first Friday night after giving birth. For
that one Shabbos, candles were lit by the husband (11). There are
various reasons given for this custom (12). In view of conditions
prevalent nowadays, however, many Poskim agree that the custom
is no longer valid and the wife should light candles as she does
every Friday night (13).
In regard to Shabbos candle-lighting, whose customs
should a woman follow, her husband's or her mother's?
There is a general rule that once a woman gets married, she must follow her husband's customs. This applies to all customs, both leniencies and stringencies. Since, through marriage, the woman enters into her husband's domain, she must follow his customs as well (14).
It is possible, though, that there may an exception to this
rule in regard to Shabbos candle lighting. Many women follow the
example set by their mothers when it comes to issues such as the
number of candles to light, the appropriate time to light
candles on Yom Tov, and other custom-related matters or
practices. Often, their husbands do not object, even though
their own mothers followed a different custom. Is this contrary
to the aforementioned rule?
It seems that there is a Halachic source for this practice. It is customary for many women to recite the blessing of Shehechiyanu when they light candles for Yom Tov. Although this custom has no source or basis in Halacha, and may even be Halachically objectionable (15), it has nevertheless become almost universally accepted.
Rav Yaakov Emden (16) reports that he personally objects to this
custom. Indeed, he rules that if a woman does not have a
specific custom to recite a Shehechiyanu at candle-lighting
time, she should not do so. Nevertheless, he says, his wife--
who saw/learned this custom in her parents' home--does so, and
he does not object. Since it is not clearly wrong, he does not
feel compelled to reject her Minhag, which she witnessed at her
Surely, Rav Yaakov Emden was well aware that upon marriage, a
woman ought to change her customs to follow her husband's.
Still, he did not insist that his wife abandon her parents'
custom and adopt his own. As long as the custom did not
contradict the Halacha, he allowed her to maintain the custom of
her parents' home.
A possible explanation is that Rav Yaakov Emden held that the
customs pertaining to candle-lighting are an exception to the
general rule. Since, as mentioned above, Chazal made it the
woman's responsibility to light candles, it becomes "her"
Mitzvah, to be followed according to her customs (17).
Apparently, it is not incumbent upon the husband to insist that
his wife alter all the customs which she learned from her
mother. Although she may do so if she likes, she is not required
to do so (18).
1 Tur OC 263.
2 Some families have the custom that all the womenfolk light
candles and make a blessing over them--Aruch Hashulchan 263:7.
This was also the custom at the home of the Brisker Rov--Harav
Dovid Soloveitchik (quoted in Az Nidberu 6:68).
3 Aruch Hashulchan 263:7.
4 Mishnah Berurah 263:12; 264:28
5 Or electric lights--see Halacha Discussion to Parashas
Shoftim for clarification.
6 Shulchan Aruch Harav 263:5; Ktzos Hashulchan 74 (Badei
Hashulchan 11). See also Biur Halacha 263:6
7 Mishnah Berurah 262:11.
8 Oral ruling by Harav M. Feinstein (quoted in The Radiance of
Shabbos pg. 7); Shmiras Shabbos K'hilchasa 43:fn46.
9 Shmiras Shabbos K'hilchasa 43:7.
10 Harav S.Z. Auerbach (quoted in Shmiras Shabbos K'hilchasa
17 See Igros Moshe EH 2:12 (concerning a husband who held that a
wig is not enough of a hair cover) that the wife does not need
to listen to him since this is "her" Halacha. See also Igros
Moshe EH 4:100-4.
18 According to Harav S.Z. Auerbach (ibid) a husband may allow
his wife to keep her former customs in all cases. For instance,
she does not have to change her Nusach of Davening after her