April 22, 2024
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April 22, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Lighting Candles When Staying at Another’s House

I am traveling to the United States on Chanukah; my wife will be staying home. When I will be staying with family and/or friends, can/should I light there regularly?

The Gemara (Shabbat 23a) states that an achsenai (guest) is obligated in Chanukah lighting. It then tells of Rav Zeira as a guest, who as a single man, would pay a small sum toward the homeowner’s oil/lighting to be included in his lighting, and, as a married man, would fulfill the mitzvah with his wife’s lighting at home. This ostensibly gives you two valid options: (1.) Fulfill your mitzvah with your wife’s lighting in your house; (2.) Give money to your host so that his lighting counts for you. We add the option you suggest: (3.) Light yourself at your host’s house. We will investigate each before summarizing.

Wife lighting: The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 677:1) confirms that a traveler can fulfill the mitzvah with his wife’s lighting, but does not say if this is best. The Terumat Hadeshen (I:101) recommended, based on the idea of mehadrin, i.e., it is proper that everyone lights their own candles, that the traveling husband also lights where he is with a bracha. The Maharshal (Shut 85) says that if one knows his wife is lighting at home and he, thereby, fulfills his mitzvah, he cannot choose to light with a bracha. Although we allow — based on mehadrin — the children of the house to light after their father already lit, which can fulfill their mitzvah, many posit that mehadrin does not apply to a husband and a wife, because they form a more cohesive unit (Eliya Rabba 671:3). On the other hand, some say that this cohesiveness is only when they are together (see Terumat Hadeshen ibid.; Am Mordechai, Moed 24).

A major factor — which was once rare and not discussed by early poskim — is the matter of time zones. When your wife lights, it will be the previous daytime for you, when you are not obligated in lighting. When your obligation comes along, can you say that you already fulfilled the mitzvah, before the mitzvah applied where you were, because it was the right time for your house (and for your wife)? In “Living the Halachic Process VI, D-8,” we referred to a major machloket on the matter, and leaned toward the opinion that it does not work (see Minchat Yitzchak VII:46).

Contributing toward the hosts: The aforementioned Gemara and Shulchan Aruch confirm that this works when he joins up with the household of the home in which he is presently staying. Most say that the money is to acquire a part in the oil that will be lit, and therefore if he is given permission to lift it up (a kinyan) and acquire some, it suffices without paying (Mishna Berura 677:3).

Lighting yourself: There are opinions that it is better if the guest lights on his own than to rely on his part with the homeowner (ibid.). In Sha’ar Hatziyun (ad loc. 10), he explains that it is in deference to the opinion that, given that nowadays everyone lights, if the guest does not light separately, it looks as if he is not taking part in the lighting. However, it is far from clear that such a technical rationale for a separate lighting would justify a bracha. It is true that when all the members of the household light, all make a bracha — even though they could be yotzei (fulfil the mitzvah) with the head of the household, but this might be because they have kavana not to be yotzei with those who lit before them (Shut Rav Akiva Eiger II:13). While you could do this, also, having in mind not to be yotzei would be risky. Not all agree that you can fulfill the mitzvah yourself, since you are not a member of the household (see Am Mordechai ibid. in the name of Rav Soloveitchik).

Recommendation: Give the peruta (coin) to your hosts and have in mind to be yotzei with the lighting and brachot done there. Light again — using the brachot to which you answered “amen” as the brachot for your lighting (without speaking between the brachot and your lighting) — in case such a lighting is a worthwhile additional act of Chanukah lighting (see Mishna Berura 677:16).


Rabbi Mann is a dayan for Eretz Hemdah and a staff member of Yeshiva University’s Gruss Kollel in Israel. He is a senior member of the Eretz Hemdah responder staff, editor of Hemdat Yamim and the author of “Living the Halachic Process Volumes 1 and 2” and “A Glimpse of Greatness.”

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