Halacha Date: 26 Elul 5778 September 6 2018
Lighting Candles on Erev Rosh Hashanah
On the first night of Rosh Hashanah, it is customary to light candles in honor of the holiday before sunset as we do on Erev Shabbat. If candles were not lit before sunset, candles may be lit on Yom Tov as well in the permissible manner, i.e. by transferring a flame from a pre-existent fire, such as from a flame on gas stove or Yahrzeit candle lit before the onset of Yom Tov and use this to light the Yom Tov candles, for it is forbidden to create a new flame on Yom Tov.
The “Shehecheyanu” Blessing While Lighting the Candles
There is a custom among some women that when lighting the candles on Erev Rosh Hashanah or any other Erev Yom Tov for that matter, they recite the “Shehecheyanu” blessing at the same time as well. Nevertheless, it is preferable not to observe this custom, for it is clear from the Poskim that our Sages did not institute the recitation of the “Shehecheyanu” blessing while lighting candles. Indeed, the great Gaon, She’elat Ya’abetz (Chapter 107) writes, “The custom that some have to recite the ‘Shehecheyanu’ blessing while lighting the candles in honor of Yom Tov is baseless, for this is not mentioned by any of the Poskim.” Women should therefore fulfill their obligation to hear the “Shehecheyanu” blessing within the Kiddush of the night of Yom Tov along with the men present (Chazon Ovadia-Yamim Nora’im, page 62). If a woman, nevertheless, has recited the “Shehecheyanu” blessing while lighting candles, she must take care not to answer “Amen” to the “Shehecheyanu” blessing recited during the Kiddush.
Lighting Candles on the Second Night of Rosh Hashanah
Candles are lit on the second night of Yom Tov as well in honor of the holiday. Some women have the custom to light candles before sunset of the first day of Yom Tov while others light the candles after nightfall of the second night of Yom Tov, once the first day of Yom Tov has already passed. Halachically speaking, the candles may be lit on the first day of Yom Tov before sunset in order for the candles to remain lit in honor of the second night of Yom Tov and this does not constitute the prohibition of “preparing on one day of Yom Tov for the next” since these same candles illuminate on the first day of Rosh Hashanah as well, when they are lit. (See Tosafot Betzah 22a and Chazon Ovadia-ibid. page 182)
Summary: Candles should be lit on Erev Rosh before sunset. It is preferable not to recite the “Shehecheyanu” blessing during candle-lighting. Candles should likewise be lit in honor of the second day of Rosh Hashanah as well. These candles may be lit before sunset of the first day of Yom Tov.