16. Women are obligated to fulfill the mitzvah of kindling Chanukah
lights, for they also had a share in the miracle (1). Thus, a woman may
light on behalf of her entire household (2). A child who has reached the
age when he is being trained in the performance of mitzvos ("Higiyah
Le'chinuch") is also obligated [to kindle the Chanukah lights].
It is preferable for a blind man [to fulfill the mitzvah of lighting
candles by purchasing] a share in a colleague's mitzvah for a "prutah" (3).
If he is married, his wife should light for him. If he is not married and
lives in an apartment without anyone with whom to share [in the mitzvah],
he should light the candles himself, with the help of another person.
(1) A woman is usually exempt from a positive mitzvah that has to be
performed at a specific time ("Mitzvas Aseh She'haz'man Grama"), Regarding
Chanukah, however, women in particular benefited from the miracle, because
the [Greek's] had decreed that any Jewish virgin who was getting married,
must first have sexual relations with the Greek governor. Furthermore, a
miracle during that period was brought about through a woman. Yehudis, the
daughter of Yochanan, the High Priest, was very beautiful, and the enemy
ruler proposed that she cohabit with him. She told him that she would
accede to his wish. When she came to him she fed him dishes of cheese so
that he would become very thirsty, drink a large quantity of wine, and fall
asleep. Her plan worked, and while he was asleep she cut off his head and
brought it to Jerusalem. When the leader of the Greek army saw that their
ruler had been slain, he and his army fled. To commemorate this miracle,
there are some who follow the custom of eating dairy dishes on Chanukah
(See HY 139:3).
(2) That is, a woman may light the candles and recite the blessings on
behalf of the males in her family. If her husband is present, the wife
should preferably not light on his behalf. Even though nowadays all members
of the household light their own menorah, a wife need not light herself if
her husband is lighting, because a husband and wife are considered to be
one individual ("Ishto Gegufoh"). However, if a wife desires to light
separate to her husband, she may do so and recite the blessings.
(3) A "perutah" was the coin of lowest value in times of the Talmud. By
contributing a minimal amount of money, the blind man acquires a share in
the oil or candles (it is not necessary to contribute half the value). His
friend will then light and say the blessings on his behalf (the blind man
must be present to answer "amen").