Question: If one will be away from home as a guest during Chanukah, how should one act regarding lighting Chanukah candles? Similarly, what is the law regarding a soldier who will be at his military base during Chanukah?
Answer: If one is away from home during the holiday of Chanukah and stays as a guest at a friend’s home, we must discuss whether or not this guest must light Chanukah candles. Let us mention though that whether or not there is someone else lighting candles at home or not does make a halachic distinction.
If There is Someone Lighting Candles at Home
If one is travelling during the holiday of Chanukah but one’s wife or other family members are still at home and are lighting Chanukah candles there, one fulfills his obligation with the candles being lit in one’s home and one need not light Chanukah candles in his present location, for when Chanukah candles are lit in one’s home, all of the family members residing in the home fulfill their obligation, wherever they may be. For this reason, our custom is that only the head of the household lights the Chanukah candles at home since by doing so, the entire household fulfills their obligation.
According to the Ashkenazi custom, however, that each member of the household lights his own Chanukah candles, some say that if the head of the household is away from home, he must light on his own while others disagree.
Halachically speaking, the great Rishon Le’Zion, Hagaon Harav Yitzchak Yosef Shlit”a rules (in his Yalkut Yosef–Chanukah, page 486) that as long as there is someone lighting at the individual’s home, one will have fulfilled his obligation with this lighting. One may not have in mind not to fulfill one’s obligation with the lighting in one’s home, for one has already fulfilled his obligation in this way and one may not remove one’s self from this obligation and recite the blessings by himself.
If There is No One Lighting Candles at Home
If one is travelling and knows that there is no one lighting Chanukah candles in his home, for instance, if one’s wife and children are travelling with him, if this individual is staying in the home of a fellow Jew and is paying his host for his expenses, such as lodging, food, and the like, this individual must give his host a small sum of money in order to purchase a share of the host’s oil and wicks for the Chanukah candles. Alternatively, the host may grant his guest some of the oil and wicks as a gift (and in this instance, the host should add some more oil for the guest). In this way, the guest fulfills his obligation with the lighting of the host’s Chanukah candles.
The great Rishon Le’Zion Shlit”a (Yalkut Yosef-ibid, page 475) writes that when one is unsure whether or not someone will be lighting Chanukah candles on his behalf at home, one should light Chanukah candles in one’s current location with a blessing. He proceeds to support this view from the words of the Maharshal.
Soldiers and Yeshiva Students
Sephardic soldiers serving in the army and Yeshiva students studying abroad may rely on their father’s Chanukah candle-lighting at home and they need not light Chanukah candles at all. Regarding soldiers or Yeshiva students of Ashkenazi descent, if they have their own room in the military base or Yeshiva dormitory, they should light Chanukah candles with a blessing in their room similar to the above law of a guest.
Nevertheless, we must point out that Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch (Chapter 677) rules that if one is in a completely non-Jewish town where there are no Chanukah candles to be seen at all, although Chanukah candles are being lit in one’s home, one must nevertheless light Chanukah candles with a blessing in one’s current location in commemoration of the miracle of Chanukah. Thus, even Sephardic soldiers serving on the front must light Chanukah candles with a blessing in their room.
If the soldiers do not have a room for themselves, for instance, because they are encamped on the field or in uncovered trenches, they should make an effort to light in a glass box (which protects the candles from the wind) without reciting a blessing (see Chazon Ovadia-Chanukah, page 152).