Halacha for Sunday 28 Tishrei 5780 October 27 2019

Stipulating to Move Candles on Shabbat

In the previous Halacha we have discussed that it is absolutely forbidden to move a flame that is burning on top of a wick on Shabbat. As a result of the flame, anything else that serves as a base for the flame, such as the glasses it rest in or the tray under them, is likewise forbidden to be moved on Shabbat. It is forbidden to move the vessels under the flame even after the flame has been extinguished, for the time that establishes an object’s Muktzeh status on Shabbat is “Ben Ha’Shemashot” or twilight of Friday evening. Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch (Chapter 279) rules likewise.

Let us now discuss the law regarding one who makes a specific condition before the onset of Shabbat, as follows: “I hereby stipulate that after the flames extinguish, it shall be permissible for me to move the vessels under the flames.” Is this condition halachically sound or not?

Indeed, the Rishonim disagree about this matter, for the Ramban, Rashba, and Ran maintain that if one stipulated explicitly before Shabbat that one should be permitted to move the “bases” of the candles, such as the glasses or tray, once the flames are extinguished, these objects may be moved immediately after the flames are extinguished. Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch (Chapter 279, Section 4) rules likewise.

On the other hand, the Tosafot and Ohr Zarua rule that such a stipulation is invalid. The Rama rules likewise in his gloss on the Shulchan Aruch (ibid). (The reasons for the rulings of the Rishonim can be found in their texts.)

Halachically speaking, Sephardic and Middle Eastern Jews who follow the rulings of Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch rule leniently on this matter and they may move the above objects as long as they have made an explicit condition to do so before the onset of Shabbat. However, according to the Ashkenazi custom which is to follow the rulings of the Rama, one should not act leniently. Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l rules likewise in his Chazon Ovadia-Shabbat, Part 1, page 259.

Nevertheless, even according to the Ashkenazi custom, if one stipulated that he should be permitted to move these objects later on, one may move these objects if one requires these very objects for a permissible purpose or because one requires the space they are occupying. Only when there is no such necessity should Ashkenazim rule stringently. (See Chazon Ovadia, ibid, page 261)

It is sufficient to make this condition once a year and have in mind for it to take effect for all of the Shabbatot of the year. The Responsa Peleh Yo’etz (Chapter 12) states that the custom of his household was to make this condition on “Shabbat Teshuva,” the Shabbat preceding Yom Kippur.

Summary: If one stipulates explicitly that one should be permitted to move the vessels under the candles after the flames are extinguished, this stipulation is halachically valid. The Ashkenazi custom is not to rely on such a stipulation unless there is a need to move these objects because one requires them for another permissible usage or because one requires the space they are occupying. It is sufficient to make this condition once a year for all of the Shabbatot of the year.

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