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Shabbat Parashat Bo| 5766
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Question: When a woman lights candles and thereby accepts Shabbat, are her children also bound by that acceptance?
Answer: Let us start with your assumption that a woman accepts Shabbat with her lighting candles and move on from there. The primary source for that approach is the Bahag (over 1,000 years ago) in the context of the laws of Chanuka. The Bahag says that one must light Chanuka candles on Friday before Shabbat candles, because if Shabbat candles were lit first, it would then be forbidden to do melacha (actions forbidden on Shabbat) including lighting Chanuka candles. Many Rishonim (including the Ramban and Rashba) argue on this assumption and cite a gemara that implies that one accepts Shabbat only by davening Maariv of Shabbat. However, many accept the Bahag’s view. The Ran (Shabbat 10b) for one says that the final warning of the shofar blasts before Shabbat instructed people to light Shabbat candles. He explains that since this is preferably and usually the last melacha done before Shabbat and it is done in Shabbat’s honor, the lighting also serves to accept Shabbat.
The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 263:10) brings both opinions, but the Rama says that the minhag is basically like the Bahag’s stringency. Another well-known halacha that emanates from this approach relates to the order of lighting. The (Rama 263:5) says that one lights before making the beracha on the candles, because making the beracha would be accepting Shabbat, making it forbidden to subsequently light the candles (see Mishna Berura, ad loc.: 27). Rav Ovadia Yosef (see Yechave Daat II, 33) says that the Shulchan Aruch rejects both assumptions and, therefore, a woman should make the beracha before lighting and does not necessarily accept the laws of Shabbat with the lighting. Although he tried to unite the Sephardic communities behind this practice, especially regarding the order of lighting, different customs still exist among Sephardim. In contrast, Ashkenazim accept the Rama’s ruling and basically do not do melacha after the beracha after lighting the Shabbat candles.
Why do we say that the Rama basically forbids melacha like the Bahag? The Bahag’s terse statement implies that once Shabbat candles are lit, no more melacha can be done at all, and, therefore, there is no choice but to light Chanuka candles first. However, others accept his basic approach that lighting ushers in Shabbat but not in an absolute form. Rishonim (see Beit Yosef, OC 263) cite the Maharam that one can light candles on the condition that the restrictions of Shabbat not take hold immediately, and the Rama accepts this opinion. Others claim that only women who light accept Shabbat with lighting, whereas men do not do so when they are the ones to light (Mishna Berura, ad loc.: 42). Furthermore, to answer your question, only the woman who lights accepts Shabbat, and this does not affect the rest of the household (Rama, ibid.). In general, when one person has accepted Shabbat and others have not, the person who accepted Shabbat can ask the others to do work on his behalf and can receive direct benefit from it (Shulchan Aruch 263:17).
Let us conclude by pointing out that a few issues remain in applying the leniencies cited in the previous paragraph. The Magen Avraham (263:20) says that since not all agree that a condition not to accept Shabbat by lighting works, a woman should use the condition only in a case of need. (What is included in “a case of need” is a matter of significant debate and requires a separate discussion.) His proof is interesting. If it were so simple to delay the acceptance of Shabbat, why wouldn’t we make the beracha before lighting (as the rule is that berachot precede mitzvot)? Another not so simple question is whether when a father/husband accepts Shabbat in shul on an “early Shabbat,” the family must also finish doing melacha, including lighting candles, by that time or not. (That too must wait for another discussion).
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