Halacha for Sunday 19 Tevet 5784 December 31 2023

Lighting Shabbat Candles When One is a Guest

Question: If a married couple is staying at the home of the wife’s parents for Shabbat, must the wife light Shabbat candles in addition to the candles lit by her mother?

Answer: Maran writes in his Sefer Bet Yosef (Chapter 263): “I have found in an Ashkenazi responsa (which is actually the responsa of the Maharil) that if two individuals are eating together, each one should recite his own blessing on his Shabbat candles. Although the Ohr Zarua disagrees, nevertheless, some follow this custom, for any additional light in the house causes additional peace in the home and this also causes additional joy in the house since there is light in every corner.”

This means that the custom in Ashkenaz (Germany) was that when two people were in the same house and eating on the same table, they would each be permitted to light their own Shabbat candles with a blessing, for the reason behind the rabbinic enactment to light Shabbat candles was so that people should not sit in darkness and in order for there to be peace in the home by not tripping over various objects because of the darkness. Thus, although one person has already lit Shabbat candles in that location, there will still be benefit of additional night through the second lighting, and the second individual may therefore light once his own candles with a blessing.

Nevertheless, in his Shulchan Aruch, Maran rules as follows: “Two individuals who are eating in the same place, some say that each one may recite a blessing upon lighting his own candles and some disagree with this opinion. Thus, it is proper to take care regarding a situation of doubt regarding blessings and only one of them should recite a blessing.”

This means that according to Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch, one should not follow this Ashkenazi custom of several people lighting in one place; rather, one person should recite a blessing and the other person will thus fulfill his obligation to light Shabbat candles.

Based on this, according to Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch, a married woman staying as a guest in her mother’s home may not light Shabbat candles in addition to her mother’s candles; rather, if she wishes to light, she may do so without reciting a blessing since “when in doubt regarding a blessing, do not bless.” However, according to the Ashkenazi custom, the married woman may light additional candles and recite a blessing upon these candles, for they rule in accordance with the Maharil who permits reciting a blessing on additional light. The Rama rules likewise in his notation on the Shulchan Aruch.

Indeed, Hagaon Harav Shalom Mesas zt”l rules in his Sefer Shemesh U’Magen (Volume 2, Chapter 38) that their custom (Moroccan Jews) was to recite a blessing on additional light in accordance with the ruling of the Maharil and Rama since Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch did not oppose this ruling in an absolute fashion and only wrote that “it is proper to take care” regarding this matter and one may therefore rely on the ruling of the Maharil.

Nevertheless, Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l rebuffs his opinion and “since Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch has expressed that this matter constitutes a doubt regarding blessings, one should not do so.”

Nonetheless, Maran zt”l adds that if the married woman wishes, she may light Shabbat candles with a blessing in the designated room where she and her husband will be sleeping, for the candles that her mother has lit do not illuminate that room at all. However, she must take care to light candles that are long enough to remain lit until they return to their room after the Shabbat meal in order that they be able to derive actual benefit from the light of the candles (Chazon Ovadia-Shabbat, Part 1, page 191). Hagaon Rabbeinu Ben-Zion Abba Shaul zt”l rules likewise in his Ohr Le’Zion, Volume 2, Chapter 18, Section 6.

Summary: A married woman staying as a guest at her mother’s house may not recite a blessing upon lighting Shabbat candles along with her mother since she fulfills her obligation through her mother’s lighting. If she wishes, she may light Shabbat candles with a blessing in the room designated for her and her husband to sleep in. In this case, she must make sure that the candles are long enough to remain lit until after the Shabbat meal so that she may derive benefit from the light of the candles in the bedroom.

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