BET MIDRASH VIRTUALI
of the Rabbinical Assembly in Israel



HALAKHAH STUDY GROUP


Bet Midrash Virtuali

SHULĤAN ARUKH, ORAĤ ĤAYYIM: The Rules of Shabbat

263:6-9


Young people who go to study away from home must light the Shabbat light in their room and recite over it the blessing. But if someone is together with his wife need not light in his room and recite over it the blessing because his wife does this for him.

Guests [in someone else's home] who do not have a [bed]room of their own and also have no one lighting for them in their home must contribute a small sum [to the cost of the candles being lit].

Two or three people [neighbours, relatives etc] may eat in one place [together]. There are [halakhic] authorities who say that each should light their own lights; others are not clear about this; it is best to be careful regarding the recitation of a blessing unnecessarily and only one of them should make the benediction. Note: But we do not follow this custom..

People who light [the Shabbat candles] in the angle of the house and eat in the yard are reciting a blessing to no purpose if the candles are not long enough to last until it is dark.

EXPLANATIONS:

1:
I have brought these four paragraphs of Section 263 together because they are quite straightforward and need very little explanation.

2:
Paragraph 6: As we have seen several time, everyone is required to have a light burning on Shabbat "in their room" - that is to say, at least in the room where they will sleep (or eat). Therefore people who are spending Shabbat away from home cannot rely on the candles being lit back home but must light their own and recite the blessing: the whole purpose of the Shabbat candles is Shalom Bayit - so that we will be safe and comfortable where we are staying and not endanger ourselves by bumping into things or falling over things in the dark. However, if a husband and wife are both away from home it is still the wife who gets preference in lighting the Shabbat candles in the place where they are staying.

3:
Paragraph 7: In earlier times it was quite possible that guests would not have a room of their own, but would have to sleep in the dining room or some such arrangement. Rabbi Karo says that in such circumstances they do not light candles of their own but should make a contribution to the cost of the candles which are light by the house-owners. However, there are poskim [halakhic authorities] who make a distinction: if the guest is going to eat all by himself he must make the contribution, but if he will be eating with the family he is to be considered as one of them and has fulfilled his duty in the candles that the woman of the house has lit on behalf of them all. I would imagine that this distinction is now almost meaningless, since we are wont to consider our guests as "part of the family" sitting at the same table.

4:
Paragraph 8: It is possible that several households might wish to band together to celebrate Shabbat in one place. The question then arises as to whether just one set of candles should be lit on behalf of all of them or whether each family should light their own candles. We are always very careful not to recite a blessing when not necessary (so as not to "take God's name in vain"); therefore, says Rabbi Karo, only one person should light the candles with a blessing and all the others will be considered as having fulfilled their duty with that blessing. However, Rabbi Isserles says that Ashkenazi Jews do not accept his ruling. The woman of each household lights her own lights and says the blessing: the more lights that are lit the greater the radiance and thus the greater the Shalom Bayit and all the greater the joyous atmosphere that is created. (In the days before electricity it would have been sensible for each set of lights to be light in a different part of the house or room, so that the light would be spread.)

5:
Paragraph 9: In earlier times, it seems, people were sometimes wont to eat their Shabbat meal in the courtyard and not inside the house. This may have been prompted by extreme heat inside or even an excess of flies and other insects. They would light their candles in an angle of the building so that the angle would shield the candles from wind etc, and set their table where the candles could shed their light. The regulation that is given in this paragraph is valid not only for such a situation but also in all circumstances: the candles must be of sufficient size when they are lit for them to continue shedding their light until the complete onset of darkness at the very least.

DISCUSSION:

In Shabbat 019 we mentioned the Maĥloket [difference of halakhic opinion] regarding the manner in which the Shabbat candles are to be lit. Ze'ev Orzech writes:

About reciting the blessing after lighting the candles, but covering them so as not to derive any benefit from them before the berakhah is said: why engage in this pious artifice and not say the berakhah first? I always believed that we couldn't do this because once the blessing is said, shabbat has come in and we can't light the candles any longer. And yet, this can't be the reason since, as you show, there is a mahloket one side of which holds that the berakhah should precede the lighting.

I respond:

There certainly are many pious Jews who do not use this "pious artifice", as this message from Elro'i Sadeh clearly shows:

With respect to your comments on the nowadays accepted practice of lightening the Sabbath candles I would like to mention that you noticed here the common Minhag of Ashkenazy Jewry. However Sephardic and Oriental Jewry in majority still hold by the custom mentioned by the Rambam in the Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Shabbath 5:1 [whereby the blessing is first said and then the candles lit - SR]. This opinion is also cited by Maran haRav Ovadiah Josef in Yalqut Josef, Hilchot Shabbat, Birkat Hahadlaqah, page 56 (pocket edition). Though many of the readers may not hold by this opinion, however those who go by the Sephardic or Oriental Minhag do, and for that reason I thought it very essential to mention this difference in custom.

I comment:

I agree that it was remiss of me not to have pointed out the difference of custom here more clearly. However, I permit myself one small correction: Yalkut Yosef is not by Rabbi Ovadya Yosef, but by his son Rabbi Yitzĥak Yosef - but it's all in the family.