While the mitzvah of hadlakas neiros Shabbos may often appear to be straightforward, there are actually quite a number of common and complicated sheilos that arise. For example:
- If I am a guest at a simcha and sleep in an empty apartment and eat the seudos in a hall, where should I light?
- If I go out of town for Shabbos and sleep with one family and eat Friday night with a different one, where should I light?
- Where and how should a bachur in yeshiva or a girl in seminary light Shabbos candles?
- Today that our houses are well lit with electric lights, why is there any obligation to light Shabbos licht and does this create any halachic issues?
- If one is a guest in a hotel or a patient in a hospital over Shabbos, where should Shabbos candles be lit?
Before we directly address the specific answers to each of these questions, we must first introduce the concepts behind this mitzvah.
There are two primary reasons for the Rabbinic requirement to light Shabbos candles:
- One is required to insure that one’s house is well lit on Shabbos to prevent people from tripping or stumbling and to create a happy atmosphere; this is included in the concept of oneg Shabbos and is also referred to as shalom bayis, since if family members would collide with obstacles it would lead to discomfort and discord. This is a general, passive obligation that the house should be illuminated and not exclusively the location of the seuda; any source of illumination would be adequate to fulfil this aspect of the mitzvah, even a street light shining through the window from outside.
- Each family is obligated to kindle lights on erev Shabbos as part of one’s Shabbos preparations, as a candle-lit table is more formal; and this is considered kavod Shabbos, honoring Shabbos. This aspect of hadlakas neiros is a specific action one is required to perform shortly prior to the onset of Shabbos, however unlike most personal obligations it is not necessary for each individual member of the family to kindle their own candles, rather any member of the family—traditionally the wife—who does so exempts the entire household. If fact, even a family member who is not home for Shabbos fulfils his personal obligation when his wife lights at home (provided they are in the same time-zone).
It should be noted that the obligation to kindle Shabbos candles applies when EITHER of these two reasons applies, even if the other one does not.
It is unanimously accepted that one may recite the beracha on hadlakas neiros in circumstances where the first reason of shalom bayis and oneg Shabbos applies even when there is no personal obligation; a classic example of this would be a husband who is away from home on Shabbos and is sleeping in a private room. Even though his wife lights at home, which exempts him from his personal requirement to kindle candles, since he is required to insure that his room is adequately lit he may recite a beracha on this light.
However in the opposite situation where one has a personal obligation but is not responsible for the illumination of their quarters, there is discussion in the Poskim whether a beracha may be recited or not. An example of these circumstances would be the inverse of the previous case; an unmarried individual who is a guest in someone else’s home and does NOT have a private room. Since his bedroom is not exclusively his, the obligation to insure its illumination is incumbent upon the host and not the guest. Nevertheless, since no one in his family is kindling Shabbos candles on his behalf, the personal obligation is incumbent upon him. The Shulchan Aruch brings this case in Orach Chaim 263:7 and rules that the guest should give a coin to the host to partner in his candles, and accordingly fulfil his personal obligation through the host’s Shabbos candles. The sefer Chovas Ha’dar states that this solution is exclusive and the guest is not permitted to light his own candles with a beracha, and this is also the implication of Igros Moshe (OC vol. 5, 20:30). However, other Poskim interpret the ruling of the Shulchan Aruch as merely offering an option of partnering with the host’s candles instead of obligating the guest to light his own, but they understand that the option of lighting personally remains.
The Rishonim address the question of whether two individuals may kindle their Shabbos candles in the same room, since once the first has ignited her licht the room no longer requires the illumination of the second person’s candles and they are superfluous. One opinion in the Rishonim accepts that there is indeed no reason for the second individual to light since both kavod Shabbos as well as shalom bayis have already been fulfilled and any beracha recited would be a beracha le’vatala. A second opinion suggests that since the second individual’s candles make the room somewhat brighter and more festive, this minor enhancement is sufficient to be considered a fulfilment of kavod Shabbos and a beracha may be recited.
In practice, the Mechaber rules that a beracha should not be recited under these circumstances since we do not say questionable berachos, while the Rema observes that the accepted minhag is for both individuals to light with a beracha and that this is acceptable.
The Magen Avraham (s.k. 16) draws a significant distinction is a similar case; supplementary lighting is only sufficient in the location where the seuda is consumed, but not in other rooms which will be used on Shabbos. The implication of this distinction is that when the sole obligation to light is due to shalom bayis, one only fulfils one’s obligation to the point where a beracha may be recited when prior to lighting the room was dark enough that there was a reasonable concern that one could stumble on unseen obstacles. However, when kavod Shabbos is a factor and one is enhancing the atmosphere of the Shabbos seuda, any increase in the quantity of candles adds to the ambiance and is sufficient to allow one to recite the beracha.
Similarly, in room lit with electric lights the Shabbos candles do not add any significant illumination, but they certainly do contribute to the atmosphere of the seuda and enhance kavod Shabbos. Accordingly, according to the Rema one would be permitted to light Shabbos candles on or near the dining room table upon which the seuda will be consumed, but not elsewhere.
It should be noted that while the Rema records and accepts that custom to recite a beracha under these circumstances, he does not dispute that there are many Rishonim who challenge this practice and it is less than ideal. When a simple solution is available, it is certainly preferable. For example, if the wife would turn on the electric lights in the dining room immediately prior to kindling the Shabbos licht and have intent that the beracha applies to both the candles as well as to the chandelier, this would be unanimously acceptable.
Addressing our original questions:
- One is certainly obligated to light in the empty apartment due to shalom bayis and should recite the beracha While one who follows the rulings of the Rema would be permitted to light in the hall, provided the candles are in close proximity to the tables; this is not the preferable solution since lighting in a well-lit room is still an issue which is subject to debate.
- If one has private quarters where they are sleeping, one is certainly obligated to insure they are properly lit and could light Shabbos candles there with a beracha provided the candles will still be alight at a time when the rooms are in use on Shabbos and when their light is needed. According to the Rema one could also light with a beracha in the house of the family hosting the evening seuda, but this would not be the preferable solution.
- Bachurim and single girls can fulfil their personal obligation by means of a single student who is designated to light in the dining room with a beracha, since the entire student body of the institution may be considered a single family. The bachur or girl are also obligated to insure that their dormitory room is properly lit to prevent discomfort or mishaps and to provide shalom bayis. This is satisfied even if an electric light in the hall shines through the doorway of the bedroom illuminating it sufficiently. In the absence of such light, they should light Shabbos candles in the room with a beracha.
- Even though today with electric lighting there is little concern that one might stumble, and shalom bayis is provided for even without lighting any candles; one still has a personal obligation to enhance kavod Shabbos by lighting neiros Shabbos near or on the Shabbos table. However, since these licht provide negligible added light to the room, they must be placed in a location where they can be clearly seen during the Friday night seuda, otherwise there is a serious concern that one may transgress a beracha le’vatala. For those who follow the rulings of the Mechaber, even this solution is not satisfactory. Ideally, the beracha should be recited upon significantly illuminating the room, for example by the wife also turning on the electric lights immediately prior to kindling the Shabbos candles.
- If one can light in an otherwise dark bedroom where the candles provide significant illumination, this is ideal and a beracha may be recited there. If this is impractical, one should light in the dining room in a location where the candles are in close proximity to one’s table. If this too is impossible, it is questionable if a beracha should be recited at all.