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Do I need to light my own candles while in quarantine in my parent’s house?

Rabbanit Rachel Weinstein

Kislev 5781 | December 2020
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She'ela

I am returning from travelling abroad two days before Chanukah, and will be in isolation in a room in my parents' house for two weeks. Do I have to light my own Chanukah candles, or is my father's lighting in the house sufficient, even if I can't see them, since he is lighting in another room?

Teshuva

Dear Questioner,

Welcome home!

Strictly speaking, you are exempt from lighting if your father is lighting in the same house.

The basic obligation of Chanukah candles is to have “a light for a person and his household,” as the Gemara explains (Shabbat 21b):

The Sages taught: The mitzva of Chanukah is a candle for a person and his household. And the mehadrin light a candle for each and every one. As for the mehadrin min hamehadrin [who are even more meticulous], Beit Shammai say, they light eight on the first day and from then onward gradually decrease, and Beit Hillel say, they light one on the first day, and from then onward, gradually increase.

We see here that the basic obligation is lighting one candle for one household each day of Chanukah.

The mehadrin – those who want to pursue a more elevated performance of the mitzvah – light not just one candle for the household, but rather one candle for each member of the household (for example, a household of five would light five candles each night of Chanukah).

As for the mehadrin min hamehadrin – those seeking yet a more elevated way to perform the mitzvah – the practical application is dependent on a controversy between Tosfot and the Rambam.

The Rambam believed mehadrin min hamehadrin means lighting the number of candles representing the number of days of Chanukah, for each one of the household members: “A person who is even more conscientious in his performance of the mitzvah than this and observes the mitzvah in the most desirable manner should light candles for every member of his household, a candle for each individual, whether male or female, on the first night. On each subsequent night, he should add a candle [for each of the members of the household]” (Rambam, Hilkhot Megillah ve-Chanukah 4:1).

According to Tosfot, only one member of the household should light the number of candles representing the number of days that have elapsed (for example, on the third day of Chanukah, one menorah should be lit with three candles). The number of days that have elapsed should be clear from the number of candles that are lit (BT Shabbat 21b, s.v. ve’ha-mehadrin).

The Shulhan Arukh rules according to Tosfot, that mehadrin min hamehadrin means one member of the household should light the number of candles that represents the current day of Chanukah: “How many candles should one light? On the first night, he lights one candle. From here on in, one adds one candle every night, so on the last day there will be eight candles. And even if there are more people in the household, no more candles should be lit” (Shulhan Arukh, Orah Haim 671:2).

According to the Rema, all members of the household should light the number of candles that represent the number of days, as per the Rambam’s approach: “and some say that each member of the household should light, and this is the common custom” (ibid.).

The Arukh Hashulhan (Orah Haim 671:9) cites the common custom in his time for boys over the age of Bar Mitzvah to avoid lighting candles themselves, instead relying on their father’s lighting; it later becomes apparent that he is referring to a situation in which the boys can see the candles (ibid. 17).

In practice, if it is generally your custom light your own menorah (as per the Rema’s position), you should do so while in isolation as well, and make a bracha as usual, as long as you are able to light safely. If possible, you should place the menorah in a window that is facing the street, in order to publicize the miracle. If there is no window, you can light by the door and ask another family member to come see the candles.

If your isolation conditions do not allow you to light on your own, you can rely on your father’s lighting. In this case, you should open the door to your room while your father is lighting to hear his bracha and answer Amen. If you are able to see the menorah from your room, that is preferable; otherwise, you should try to see the lit candles at some point, when other people are not around.

Wishing you a Happy and healthy Chanukah!

Rabbanit Rachel Weinstein

is a graduate of Hilkhata, Matan's Advanced Halakhic Institute and is a certified Meshivat Halakha. She studied in Migdal Oz, and Nishmat. Rachel teaches in her community and is a Yoetzet Halakha. She gives classes for women, teaches Kallot and runs the Matan Beit Shemesh Kallah teachers certification course. She lives in Tekoa and is the mother of 8 children.