A discussion of Halachic topics related to the Parsha of the
week. For final rulings, consult your Rav.
SELECTED HALACHOS RELATING TO PARSHAS NOACH
LIGHTING THE SHABBOS CANDLES: WHOSE OBLIGATION IS IT?
The obligation to light Shabbos candles rests equally on all members of a
household. Nevertheless, our Sages established that it is the wife's
responsibility to do the actual lighting. One of the reasons given(1) is
that candle-lighting atones for Chavah's part in the sin of the eitz
ha-da'as (Tree of Knowledge). Chavah caused Adam to eat of the forbidden
fruit for which mankind was punished by losing its immortality. Since Chavah
"extinguished the candle of the world,(2)" it is the woman who sets aright
Chavah's misdeed by assuming the obligation of lighting candles for her
Even if a husband demands that he lights the candles, the wife has the
right to protest and prevent him from doing so(4). It is recommended,
though, that the husband take part in the mitzvah by lighting and quickly
extinguishing the candle wicks, which makes them easier to light(5). If
candles are lit in other rooms in addition to the eating area(6), it is the
husband who lights them(7).
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
If one's wife is not home for Shabbos, it is preferable that the husband
himself light candles and not one of the daughters(9). If, however, a
daughter who is over twelve years old lights for him, he fulfills the
mitzvah through her lighting. One cannot, however, fulfill his obligation by
having a daughter under twelve light candles for him(10).
In the event that a brother and sister are at home without their parents,
it is preferable that the sister light the candles(11).
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(12). Several reasons are offered in explanation of
this custom, but apparently the main concern was that women were too weak
after childbirth to get out of bed and light candles(13). In view of the
improved health conditions prevalent nowadays, many poskim agree that the
custom is no longer valid and the wife should light candles as she does
every Friday night(14).
ELECTRIC SHABBOS CANDLES: ARE THEY PERMITTED?
QUESTION: How has electrical lighting affected the traditional way of
lighting Shabbos candles?
DISCUSSION: The universal use of electric lights has had a twofold effect on
the mitzvah of Shabbos candles. On the one hand, it has made it easier to
perform. On the other hand, it has introduced several halachic questions.
Let us explain:
At the time that electricity became commonplace, the poskim debated whether
the mitzvah of lighting Shabbos candles could be fulfilled by turning on
electric lights. There were three different opinions: 1) It is permissible
to use electricity for Shabbos candles and the proper blessing may be
recited(15); 2) It is not proper to use electric lights for this
mitzvah(16); 3) It is permissible to use electrical lights, but the blessing
should not be recited over them(17). Since there is no final and definitive
ruling on this issue, we must look at the prevailing custom, which - upon
reflection - is a compromise among the three views:
Although the blessing is recited over the traditional candles or oil-based
lights that are lit in the area where the Friday night meal will be eaten,
we nevertheless rely on electricity for the other part of the mitzvah of
Shabbos candles. The halachah clearly states that one is obligated to have
light in any room that will be used on Friday night(18). Our Sages
instituted this so that household members would be able to safely navigate
in the house without fear of injury that would disrupt the harmony of
Shabbos. Today, most homes rely on some electrical source (night-light,
bathroom-light, etc.) to illuminate the areas in which they will find
themselves on Friday night. Thus, they fulfill this part of the mitzvah(19).
The appropriate procedure, then, is as follows. When the wife is ready to
light candles in the dining room, all the electrical lights which will be
used on Friday night should be shut off. The lights which are going to be
used on Shabbos should then be turned on, with the intention that they are
being turned on for the sake of the mitzvah of Shabbos candles. The candles
should then be lit and the blessing recited over all the lights in the
house, both electrical and otherwise. In this manner, one fulfills the
mitzvah according to all views.
In a situation where using candles would be difficult or dangerous, such as
in a hospital, the poskim agree that one should rely on the electric lights
for Shabbos candles. They should be turned off and then turned on again for
the sake of the mitzvah(20). Whether a blessing is recited depends on views
1 and 3 quoted above(21). No clear-cut custom exists and one should follow
his rav's directives.
Students residing in a dormitory or guests staying at a hotel are obligated
to light Shabbos candles. Even if they light candles in the dining hall,
they are still required to light in the area where they sleep. Since it is
considered unsafe, however, to allow candles to burn in a dormitory or in a
hotel room, we must rely on the electric lights to fulfill that part of the
mitzvah. A small light should, therefore, be turned off and on in honor of
Shabbos before the arrival of the Shabbos. A blessing, however, should not
be made, since the blessing is recited over the candles which are lit in the
main dining room.
Shabbos guests staying at another person's home can technically fulfill the
mitzvah through the lighting of their hosts. Even though they do not need to
light a special candle of their own, it has nevertheless become customary
that everyone lights their own candles. Since the guests are required to
have some light in their sleeping area, however, the proper procedure for
them is as follows: Light an electric light in or near their sleeping
quarters, proceed quickly to the dining room and light candles, and allow
the blessing to apply to both acts of lighting(22).
An additional issue concerning electricity and Shabbos candles is the
concern of some poskim(23) whether it is permitted to light candles with a
blessing when the electric lights are on, since in reality one is not adding
any light to the room. Although some poskim defend our practice(24), it is
best to shut off the lights in the room before the candles are lit. They
should then be turned on by the husband after the candles have been lit by
the wife but before she recites the blessing(25). Alternatively, the wife
can do both, but she must turn the lights on first and then light the
1 Tur O.C. 263.
2 This is how the Midrash (Tanchumah, Metzora 9) refers to Adam.
3 Some families have the custom that all the women in the household light
candles and recite a blessing over them --Aruch ha-Shulchan 263:7. This was
also the custom in the home of the Brisker Rav, as reported by his son Harav
D. Soloveitchik (quoted in Az Nidberu 6:68).
4 Aruch ha-Shulchan 263:7.
5 Mishnah Berurah 263:12; 264:28.
6 See follow-up discussion for explanation of why candles [or electric
lights] need to be lit in other rooms.
7 Shulchan Aruch Harav 263:5; Ketzos ha-Shulchan 74 (Badei ha-Shulchan 11).
See also Beiur Halachah 263:6
8 Mishnah Berurah 262:11.
9 Oral ruling by Harav M. Feinstein (quoted in The Radiance of Shabbos, pg.
7); Shemiras Shabbos K'hilchasah 43 note 46.
17 Har Tzvi 2:114 quoting the Rogatchover Gaon; Mishpatei Uziel O.C. 1:7;
Harav M. Feinstein (oral ruling quoted in The Radiance of Shabbos, 2, note
26); Harav S.Z. Auerbach (quoted in Shemiras Shabbos K'hilchasah 43 note 22)
maintains that a blessing could be made over a flashlight but not over other
20 Rama O.C. 263:4 concerning candles; Harav M. Feinstein (quoted in
Teshuvos v'Hanhagos 2:157) concerning electricity.
21 Harav A. Kotler (quoted in Kochvei Yitzchak 1:2) ruled that a woman who
gave birth in the hospital may light electric candles with a blessing. Harav
M. Feinstein (ibid.) rules that no blessing should be recited.
22 Harav Y. Kamenetsky recommended this procedure for hotel guests as
well--see Ko Somar l'Beis Yaakov pg. 50.
24 See responsum of Harav Y. Halberstam (Kloizenberger Rebbe) in Pnei
25 Custom at the home of Harav Y. Kamenetsky (Ko Somar l'Beis Yaakov pg.
50). Harav S.Z. Auerbach (after his wife's passing) turned off the lights,
lit the candles and then turned on the lights, so that the blessing is said
on both sources of energy (reported by his grandson in Kol ha-Torah vol. 40,
26 Custom at the home of Harav M. Feinstein (The Radiance of Shabbos pg.
THIS ISSUE IS SPONSORED IN HONOR of the wedding of YITZIE NEWMAN OF
BROOKLYN, NEW YORK to SHOSHANA GROSS OF CLEVELAND, OHIO Oct.17, 2001/1
Marcheshvan, 5762 by their parents DR. AND MRS. JEFFREY GROSS