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Weekly Halacha


By Rabbi Doniel Neustadt

The following is a discussion of Halachic topics related to the Parsha of the week. For final rulings, consult your Rav.


The obligation to light Shabbos Candles rests equally on all members of a household. Chazal established, nevertheless, that it is the wife's responsibility to do the actual lighting. One of the reasons given (1) is that candle-lighting atones for Chava's part in the sin of the Eitz Ha'daas. Chava caused Adam to eat of the forbidden fruit for which mankind was punished by losing its immortality. Thus Chava "extinguished the light of the world" and the woman sets aright Chava's misdeed by assuming the obligation of lighting candles for her household (2).

Consequently, even if a husband demands to light candles, the wife has the right to protest and prevent him from doing so (3). It is recommended, nevertheless, that the husband take part in the mitzvah too, by lighting and quickly extinguishing the candle wicks, thus making the candles easier to light (4). The husband should also light candles (5) in other rooms of the house where the wife does not light them (6).

If one has no wife, or if he sees that his wife is running late and will be unable to light on time, then he should light the candles with the blessing (7).

If one's wife is not home for Shabbos, it is preferable that the husband himself light candles and not one of the daughters (8). If, however, a daughter who is over 12 years old lit for him, he fulfills the Mitzvah through her lighting. One cannot, however, fulfill his obligation by having a daughter under 12 light candles for him (9).

In the event that a brother and sister are at home without their parents, it is preferable that the sister light the candles (10).

Years ago, it was customary for a woman who gave birth not to light candles on the first Friday night after giving birth. For that one Shabbos, candles were lit by the husband (11). There are various reasons given for this custom (12). In view of conditions prevalent nowadays, however, many Poskim agree that the custom is no longer valid and the wife should light candles as she does every Friday night (13).

QUESTION: In regard to Shabbos candle-lighting, whose customs should a woman follow, her husband's or her mother's?

ANSWER There is a general rule that once a woman gets married, she must follow her husband's customs. This applies to all customs, both leniencies and stringencies. Since, through marriage, the woman enters into her husband's domain, she must follow his customs as well (14).

It is possible, though, that there may an exception to this rule in regard to Shabbos candle lighting. Many women follow the example set by their mothers when it comes to issues such as the number of candles to light, the appropriate time to light candles on Yom Tov, and other custom-related matters or practices. Often, their husbands do not object, even though their own mothers followed a different custom. Is this contrary to the aforementioned rule?

It seems that there is a Halachic source for this practice. It is customary for many women to recite the blessing of Shehechiyanu when they light candles for Yom Tov. Although this custom has no source or basis in Halacha, and may even be Halachically objectionable (15), it has nevertheless become almost universally accepted.

Rav Yaakov Emden (16) reports that he personally objects to this custom. Indeed, he rules that if a woman does not have a specific custom to recite a Shehechiyanu at candle-lighting time, she should not do so. Nevertheless, he says, his wife-- who saw/learned this custom in her parents' home--does so, and he does not object. Since it is not clearly wrong, he does not feel compelled to reject her Minhag, which she witnessed at her home.

Surely, Rav Yaakov Emden was well aware that upon marriage, a woman ought to change her customs to follow her husband's. Still, he did not insist that his wife abandon her parents' custom and adopt his own. As long as the custom did not contradict the Halacha, he allowed her to maintain the custom of her parents' home.

A possible explanation is that Rav Yaakov Emden held that the customs pertaining to candle-lighting are an exception to the general rule. Since, as mentioned above, Chazal made it the woman's responsibility to light candles, it becomes "her" Mitzvah, to be followed according to her customs (17). Apparently, it is not incumbent upon the husband to insist that his wife alter all the customs which she learned from her mother. Although she may do so if she likes, she is not required to do so (18).


1 Tur OC 263.

2 Some families have the custom that all the womenfolk light candles and make a blessing over them--Aruch Hashulchan 263:7. This was also the custom at the home of the Brisker Rov--Harav Dovid Soloveitchik (quoted in Az Nidberu 6:68).

3 Aruch Hashulchan 263:7.

4 Mishnah Berurah 263:12; 264:28

5 Or electric lights--see Halacha Discussion to Parashas Shoftim for clarification.

6 Shulchan Aruch Harav 263:5; Ktzos Hashulchan 74 (Badei Hashulchan 11). See also Biur Halacha 263:6

7 Mishnah Berurah 262:11.

8 Oral ruling by Harav M. Feinstein (quoted in The Radiance of Shabbos pg. 7); Shmiras Shabbos K'hilchasa 43:fn46.

9 Shmiras Shabbos K'hilchasa 43:7.

10 Harav S.Z. Auerbach (quoted in Shmiras Shabbos K'hilchasa 45:fn34).

11 Mishna Berura 263:11.

12 See Toras Shabbos 263:4; Tehilla L'Dovid 88:3; Aruch Hashulchan 263:7; Hagahos Imrei Baruch 263:6.

13 Oral ruling by Harav M. Feinstein (quoted in The Radiance of Shabbos pg. 7) Shmiras Shabbos K'hilchasa 43:9.

14 Igros Moshe OC 1:158; EH 1:59; Minchas Yitzchok 4:83; Harav S.Z. Auerbach (quoted in Yom Tov Sheini Khilchaso pg. 187).

15 See Halacha Discussion on Parshas Bamidbar.

16 Shu"t Yaavetz 107.

17 See Igros Moshe EH 2:12 (concerning a husband who held that a wig is not enough of a hair cover) that the wife does not need to listen to him since this is "her" Halacha. See also Igros Moshe EH 4:100-4.

18 According to Harav S.Z. Auerbach (ibid) a husband may allow his wife to keep her former customs in all cases. For instance, she does not have to change her Nusach of Davening after her marriage.

Weekly-Halacha, Copyright © 1996 by Rabbi Neustadt, Dr. Jeffrey Gross and Project Genesis, Inc.

Rabbi Neustadt is the principal of Yavne Teachers' College in Cleveland, Ohio. He is also the Magid Shiur of a daily Mishna Berurah class at Congregation Shomre Shabbos.

The Weekly-Halacha Series is distributed L'zchus Hayeled Doniel Meir ben Hinda. Weekly sponsorships are available--please send email to the moderator, Dr. Jeffrey Gross

The series is distributed by the Harbotzas Torah Division of Congregation Shomre Shabbos, 1801 South Taylor Road, Cleveland Heights, Ohio 44118--HaRav Yisroel Grumer, Marah D'Asra



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