Where to Light on Chanuka

  • Rav Shlomo Levy

WHERE TO LIGHT ON CHANUKA

 

Based on a Shiur by Rav Shlomo Levi

Translated by David Strauss

 

 

            This shiur will deal with the place where one should kindle Chanuka lights.  I refer not to the specific spot in one's house where the lighting should happen, but to a case where a person plans to be in more than one place over the course of the evening.  The question then arises: where should one kindle the Chanuka lights?

 

            As a rule, a person is obligated to kindle Chanuka lights in the house in which one finds oneself.

 

            Two issues arise:

 

1)      Must the place of lighting meet the criteria of a "house"?

2)      Must a person kindle Chanuka lights in one's own house, or are there situations in which it is possible to light in a house that is not one's own?

 

As for the first question, Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (author of the Minchat Shlomo) and Rav Eliezer Waldenberg (author of the Tzitz Eliezer) disagree.  Rav Auerbach deals with the place of kindling Chanuka lights in one of his rulings.  He makes two points: first, it should be the house of the one who is lighting; and second, it must meet the halakhic criteria of a house.  Therefore, one who lights in the public domain, or in a place that is walled but has no roof, has not fulfilled his obligation.  This is based on the law (Shabbat 21b) of "ner ish u-veito" ("a light for each man and his house"), the word "house" being understood not only in the sense of "household," but literally: a physical house.

 

Rav Waldenberg (Tzitz Eliezer, Vol. 15, No. 23) disagrees and argues that a person fulfills the obligation even if one lights in an open field.  Of course, even according to Rav Waldenberg, the person must spend the night in that field.  If, however, a person who merely lights in the public domain, or even in a synagogue, but does not remain there, has not fulfilled his obligation.

 

As for the second question, we must examine several situations.  When a person is at home - the place where one eats and sleeps on a permanent basis – the law is clear that one must light there.  But what is the law if a person eats in one place and sleeps elsewhere?

 

The Shulchan Arukh (Orach Chayyim 677:1) rules:

 

An akhsenai (lodger), for whom nobody kindles at home, must give a peruta (small coin) to the host and thereby acquire a share in the oil of [the host's] Chanuka light.  If [the guest] has his own entranceway, he must kindle at his entranceway, even if he uses that area only to sleep but takes his meals at his host's table.

 

            The Shulchan Arukh rules that regarding kindling Chanuka lights, the critical factor is the place where a person sleeps; therefore a person must light in the place where he sleeps, rather than the place where he eats.

 

            In contrast, the Rema writes:

 

Some authorities say that today when we light indoors, one should light in the place where one eats, and this is the common practice.

 

            The Shulchan Arukh and the Rema appear to disagree about the place where a person should kindle Chanuka lights, but the Mishna Berura writes (ibid., no. 11) that, in fact, there is no disagreement:

 

See the Acharonim who write that even the first opinion (the Shulchan Arukh) agrees that today, since we light indoors, there is no concern about the suspicions of passersby, but only of the members of the household, and they know that he kindles in the place where he eats or that he shares in [the lighting of] his host there.

 

            According to the Mishna Berura, even the Shulchan Arukh agrees that in our time one must light in the place where one eats, because that is a person's primary place.  As for the Shulchan Arukh's ruling that a person must kindle in the place where he sleeps – that was merely for a side reason, that those who walk past one side of the house may suspect that one has neglected the mitzva totally, which is no longer relevant in our time.

 

            Does this ruling apply to all people, that is to say, even to a person who eats in somebody else's house but sleeps in his or her own house?  The Mishna Berura continues (No.  12):

 

This applies specifically to the akhsenai mentioned earlier, whose house is not nearby… However, someone who happens to be eating at another person's table, yet his own house is in the same town, must go home to kindle Chanuka lights.

 

            The rule of giving priority to the place where one eats is limited to an akhsenai, regarding whom both the place where he eats and the place where he sleeps are defined as temporary places.  However, if a person eats in a temporary place and sleeps in his permanent house, he must certainly go and kindle in his house.  It is very possible that if such a person lights in the place where he eats, he has not fulfilled his obligation.

 

            Rav Moshe Feinstein deals with this issue in his Iggerot Moshe.  He writes that if a person regularly eats in a particular place, he may kindle his Chanuka lights in that location even if he goes home to sleep, because that dining room is defined as his permanent place.

 

It should be noted that all that has been said thus far refers to a private dining room, but in the case of a public dining room, e.g., in a yeshiva or a hotel, where the dining room belongs neither to the person himself nor to his host, the law is that he should kindle Chanuka lights in his own room.  What is the source of this law?

 

The Gemara (Shabbat 23a) discusses the case of the akhsenai, who must give a peruta to his host and acquire a share in his lighting, unless his wife lights on his behalf at home.  What is the law if an akhsenai wishes to perform the mitzva himself even though his wife lights on his behalf at home?

 

The Terumat Ha-deshen (Chap. 101) argues that such a person may kindle his own Chanuka lights based on the law of the mehadrin, namely, that each person kindles his own Chanuka light and that we do not suffice with a single light for the entire household (Shabbat 21b).  While it is true that the akhsenai can fulfill his obligation through his wife's lighting, he may fulfill that obligation in the preferred manner of the mehadrin and light on his own.  The Beit Yosef (Tur OC 677:3b) disagrees and says that an akhsenai is not permitted to kindle his own lights, since he has already fulfilled his obligation, and he rules in Orach Chayyim (677:3) that a lodger whose wife lights at home should light only if he is in a place where there are no other Jews, since he needs to see the Chanuka lights. 

 

On the other hand, the Rema cites the ruling of the Terumat Ha-deshen.  Interestingly, the Mishna Berura (no. 16) writes that some authorities rule in accordance with the Beit Yosef that an akhsenai is not permitted to kindle his own lights.  What is their rationale?  We can understand the rationale of the Sephardic authorities, for they maintain (see OC 671:2) that even according to the mehadrin, only the head of the house lights – one light for each member of the household.  However, according to the Ashkenazic authorities, who maintain that each member of the household kindles his own lights, what reason is there to say that since the akhsenai's wife lights on his behalf at home, he is not permitted to kindle a light of his own?

 

It might be suggested that the law of the mehadrin only applies when a person is at home, but when he is a guest in another person's home, it is preferable that he fulfill his obligation through his wife's lighting in his permanent home rather than that he light in the home of his host.  This indeed is the ruling of the Mishna Berura (ibid.):

 

Some authorities maintain that since our sages, of blessed memory, exempted him through his wife's lighting, he cannot say that he does not want to fulfill his obligation through his wife, and [therefore] he should kindle without reciting a blessing.  Now, while we certainly do not object to those who are accustomed to recite the blessing, since many Acharonim agree that he should recite a blessing, nevertheless it is better that he hear the blessings from another person and answer "Amen" and then kindle his lights…

 

IN PRACTICE:

 

If both the place where a person eats and the place where he sleeps are temporary, it is preferable that he light in the place where he eats. If a person is invited out just to eat, and afterwards he will go home and sleep in his own house, he should certainly light at home.

 

 

STUDENTS AND SOLDIERS:

 

For a student, his room in the dormitory can be defined as his permanent home, inasmuch as he has user’s rights to the room.  Therefore, if a yeshiva student is invited out for a meal, it is preferable that he should kindle in his room and not in the place where he will eat, for his room is regarded as his permanent home.  Obviously, when this is possible, he should kindle in his room at the proper lighting time, before he goes out to the other person's house.

 

For a student, his parents' house is also regarded as his permanent home, so that essentially he has two permanent homes.  Therefore, if he goes to eat in his parents' house, then even if he plans to return to the yeshiva to sleep, he may light in his parents' home.  Similarly, in the reverse case, if he is in the yeshiva at lighting time, and he plans to go to his parents' house later that evening, he can light in the yeshiva.  Obviously, if he will only arrive at his parents' house late at night, it is preferable that he should kindle at lighting time in the yeshiva.

 

            A soldier has the same status as a student, inasmuch as his base is regarded as his permanent home, since it supplies him with food, clothing, and the like, despite the fact that he has another permanent home: his parents' house.

 

            If a yeshiva student goes away for Shabbat, and plans to return to the yeshiva on Motzaei Shabbat, he will essentially be leaving his temporary place and returning to his permanent place.  Therefore, if he will arrive in the yeshiva before "she-tikhleh regel min ha-shuk," that is to say, while people are still out on the street, it is better that he should light in the yeshiva.  However, if he will not make it back in time, it is preferable that he should light in his host's house.

 

To summarize: le-khatchila (initially), the mitzva is to kindle lights in one's home, even if that home is defined as temporary.  If a person has the choice of lighting in his temporary home or in his permanent home, he should light in his permanent home.  All this applies if he will be in his permanent home at lighting time.

 

Let us conclude with a novel ruling of Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach: if a person kindles Chanuka lights in a temporary place, he must remain there for the length of time that the lights must burn.  Were he to leave immediately after lighting, the lights would burn in a place that has no connection to the person who kindled them, and therefore he will not have fulfilled his obligation.  This would be similar to the case of a person who kindles lights that are immediately extinguished.  While the law has been decided in accordance with the position that if the lights go out, a person is not required to re-kindle them, this is all be-di'eved (after the fact).  Le-khatchila, the lights must be kindled in a place where they will not go out.  In a similar fashion, if a person kindles lights in a place that is not his permanent home, he must remain there for the length of time that the lights must burn.