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Shabbat Parashat Miketz 5772

Ask the Rabbi: Lighting Chanuka Candles in a Travelers Home

Rav Daniel Mann

Question:  We live in Jerusalem but will be visiting in NY. Our return flight is scheduled to leave NY 1:15 PM on the day before Chanuka and arrive in Israel on Chanuka morning. How can we fulfill the mitzva of Chanuka candles? (Requested background information – all our kids live out of the house; we live on a secluded street.)


Answer:  In general, when one is away for a night of Chanuka and is unable to light in an alternative place (for technical or halachic reasons beyond our scope), he can fulfill the mitzva if someone else lights in his house. Ideally, a spouse can light, as the two of them form one unit (see Shabbat 23a; Eliya Rabba 671:3), but any member of the household suffices (Taz 677:1) as does a valid shaliach (agent) (see this column, Sukkot 5769). Since you will be unable to light anywhere, you should look for a shaliach to light at your home.

However, time-zone issues present a halachic issue. At the time for lighting candles in Jerusalem it will be morning in New York, before Chanuka and its mitzva of lighting begin. Is it possible to fulfill a mitzva of Chanuka before Chanuka? (Subsequent days would not be much better, as although it would be Chanuka, Jersualem would have an obligation of a new day that had not come to NY.)

Some poskim (see Mishneh Halachot VI, 119) feel that this depends on the nature of the mitzva to light Chanuka candles. Is it the personal mitzva of every Jew, just that in the family framework, one may actively light on behalf of every household member, who are then credited with the mitzva? Or, alternatively, is it that there is a mitzva devolving on the home that the house have the lights, and all are credited for their connection to that home? If it is the former, a traveler certainly cannot fulfill the mitzva when someone lights at a time that the mitzva does not yet apply to the traveler. If the latter is true, then one can argue that as long as the household had the required lighting, it does not matter if it was the wrong time for a household member, as it was the right time regarding the house. Ta’arich Yisrael (Taplin, siman 22), discusses the matter at length, citing many opinions on either side from the Rishonim (on the conceptual question) until contemporary poskim (some discussing our time-zone question). While it is hard to resolve the dilemma, we tend to agree with the Minchat Yitzchak (VII, 46) who thinks that even if it is a mitzva on the household, the household mitzva cannot count for a member whose time of obligation still hasn’t come. Furthermore, the contemporary poskim discussed cases where one spouse was still at home so that there was a proper household lighting for part of the household. It is a more difficult stretch to say that a shaliach can create a household lighting for you when your entire household is in pre-Chanuka New York. Therefore we do not think getting a shaliach to light at the regular time will suffice.

However, your northeasterly first leg of the flight should bring you to nightfall by around 3 PM New York time. So, if you are able to find someone to light at around 10:30 PM Israel time, it will be at the correct time for you. Although at that time people do not sufficiently frequent your quiet street, we assume that the mitzva can be fulfilled by the exposure to the light of the person who lights (see Sha’arei Tziyun 672:17). Have the shaliach stay in the house for a half hour before extinguishing the lights (see Mishna Berura 672:6).

The shaliach should not make a beracha on the lighting due to a few doubts: many rule that a shaliach does not makes a beracha when a member of the household is not present; not all agree to make a beracha when just the person lighting sees it; your flight may be delayed (even if you find someone willing to wait until nightfall in NY, we would suggest that he not make the beracha.) You will miss that night’s beracha on seeing the candles (She’asa Nissim), as well as Shehecheyanu. (Recite Shehecheyanu upon lighting on the second night of Chanuka).

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